Q. When should my kitten receive his first vaccination?
Primary Vaccination: For the first few weeks of life, kittens are usually protected against disease by the immunity they receive in their mother´s milk. Gradually this protection decreases until the animal is no longer protected.
Your veterinary surgeon will suggest a programme of vaccinations to fit in with your pet´s particular needs and the local disease pattern.
Q. People are not vaccinated every year, so why does my cat need annual boosters?
Annual Booster Vaccination: People in the UK are not vaccinated every year because the risk of disease is relatively low, and because large numbers of people are vaccinated at the same time, e.g. at school. Unfortunately, only about 50% of dogs and cats are properly vaccinated, and therefore the risk of disease outbreaks in pets is much higher. Dogs can also become infected from the urine and faeces of rats and foxes.
In some countries of the world where killer diseases are still common, human vaccinations are given much more frequently than in the UK.
Revaccination stimulates the immune response so that protection is maintained for another year. Without these yearly vaccinations, your pet´s immune system may not be able to protect it from serious, often fatal disease.
In addition, an annual health check is an important opportunity to have your pet thoroughly examined, and to discuss any concerns and questions with your vet. In this way any emerging problems can be identified early, and often treated more effectively.
Q. What is in the vaccine?
There are four important viruses of cats for which vaccines are available.
Feline Leukaemia Virus
Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) is the biggest killer of cats in the UK apart from car accidents. It is easily spread in saliva and blood, so cats are infected when grooming each other, sharing food bowls and litter trays and when fighting. Infected animals may not show any signs for months or even years, so many more cats may be infected before the warning signs are seen.
One in three cats that catch the virus will develop the disease. Early vaccination and regular boosters can help protect your cat from the virus.
Feline Infectious Enteritis
Feline infectious enteritis (also known as panleucopaenia or parvovirus) is usually seen as bloody diarrhoea in young animals, with a characteristic offensive odour and severe dehydration. Many will die within hours of the onset of signs.
Feline Upper Respiratory Disease
This is caused by two important viruses and may be complicated by secondary bacteria. The two viruses are called feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus, and together they form the disease commonly called "cat ‘flu".
Q. Is vaccination safe?
In a word, YES: a number of scare stories have been written about pets developing problems such as anaemia following vaccination. Several large and independent surveys have been conducted in the last few years, and all have shown that vaccinated animals are at no greater risk of developing such diseases than unvaccinated animals. As with any product, including food, a tiny proportion of animals may have a reaction to the vaccine, but this must always be balanced against the much greater risk of fatal disease.
Even as we enter the new millennium children in Europe are dying of measles, a disease that should have been eradicated long ago, because parents have been put off routine vaccinations. Protect your pets as you would your children.