Here at Magnolia House we believe that prevention is always better than a cure, and regular vaccination is extremely important in preventing a number of life-threatening diseases. Vaccines have improved a great deal over the last couple of decades – they are safer, and they last longer. As a result, the possibility of side-effects is minimal, and it is no longer necessary to vaccinate against every disease every year – some vaccines last 3 years or more. Depending on your pet’s lifestyle, some vaccines may not be necessary at all.
The core vaccines include diseases which every pet should be vaccinated against, while the non-core vaccines are optional and depend on your pet’s level of risk.
Herpes virus and calici virus (“cat flu”)
Herpes and calici viruses both cause cat flu symptoms – runny eyes. runny nose, high temperature, sneezing, sometimes coughing, loss of appetite. Herpes virus can also cause eye ulcers, and calici virus can cause ulcers in the mouth. They can also cause pneumonia. Both viruses are airborne, so direct contact with an infected cat is not always needed for disease to be transmitted. Cats can become lifelong carriers of the flu viruses. If they encounter the virus before their first vaccination, or if they come across a strain of virus that’s not in the vaccine, the virus may remain in their system for life. Vaccines usually prevent these cats from developing full blown cat flu or pneumonia, but they can still have mild eye or nasal discharge, or a bit of sneezing.
Panleukopaenia virus (“feline enteritis” or “feline parvo”)
Panleukopaenia is a virus that causes vomiting, diarrhoea (often with blood) and anaemia, and can be fatal, especially in kittens. It’s transmitted via contact with infected faeces, and the virus can survive outside in the environment for several years.
Feline leukaemia virus
Leukaemia virus is a fatal disease, transmitted by cat bites or by mating with an infected cat. The virus is present in the cat saliva, so it can also be spread by sharing food/water bowls or being licked/groomed by an infected cat.
Fatal disease which affects people as well as animals, and is transmitted via bites. Not present in the UK, but cats travelling to Europe would be at risk.
Bordetella (kennel cough)
Bordetella is a bacterial infection which causes a cough, and sometimes a runny nose. It is transmitted through the air and does not require physical contact. It is an uncommon infection in cats, but at risk would be cats who spend time in kennels/catteries and at cat shows, or come in contact with a lot of other cats.
Can we/should we test levels of antibodies instead of vaccinating?
There has been a lot of discussion in the last few years about the risk versus benefit of vaccines both for people and animals. One question that always arises is just how long do vaccines last, and how often should we actually re-vaccinate or “booster” the immune response?
Some vaccine manufacturers still recommend yearly boosters for all vaccines. Others have done extensive testing and found that some vaccines do last significantly longer than 1 year. As veterinary surgeons, we are restricted by vaccine licensing laws, so our recommendation has to match the manufacturer’s licence. This means that if a vaccine is licensed to be given every year, we have to advise our clients to booster it every year. An alternative to vaccinating every year is to perform a blood test to check the levels of antibodies, and only vaccinate when the levels drop. This test is available for herpes virus, calico virus and panleukopaenia.
Vaccinating at intervals longer than the manufacturer’s recommendations is considered “off-label” use of the vaccine and if you as an owner wish to go down this route you need to understand all the pros and cons of doing so, as well as sign a consent form. As we have several clients who prefer to do antibody level checks, we do offer vaccine antibody level testing, and if that is something you are interested in please speak to one of our vets to discuss it further.
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