Noncore Vaccinations for Cats
The veterinary community has divided vaccines into two main categories, with a smaller third category. Core vaccines are vaccines that every cat should have at some time in his life. Noncore vaccines are vaccines that only some cats need, depending on factors such as geographic location and lifestyle. Other vaccines are also available but are generally not recommended for any cats.
Feline Leukemia Virus (Noncore)
The development of a vaccine against retroviral infection is a long-awaited achievement in veterinary medicine. However, this vaccine is not 100 percent effective. It is possible that some cats vaccinated for FeLV may still become infected.
This vaccine is noncore because of its incomplete effectiveness and because indoor cats who have been tested before coming home should have minimal risk of acquiring FeLV and therefore should not need this vaccine. Kittens born to immune queens acquire protective antibodies in the colostrum of the queen. This protection begins to disappear at 6 to 12 weeks of age, after which kittens are susceptible.
Cats with access to the outdoors or who roam free may need this vaccine. However, since kittens are most susceptible to FeLV and may escape, some veterinarians recommend vaccinating kittens and giving a first booster at 1 year. If the cat is then firmly established as an indoor-only cat, no more boosters are needed.
Testing for FeLV is recommended before vaccination. Vaccination is not effective if the cat is positive and already infected. If the ELISA test is negative, vaccinate kittens at 8 to 12 weeks of age and again at 14 or 16 weeks. The first booster is given one year later.
To be effective, a full course of vaccination must be administered. This involves two vaccinations two to three weeks apart, a booster a year later, and then annual boosters, if needed.
Vaccines available include injectable adjuvanted killed virus, nonadjuvanted recombinant for transdermal use, and, in Europe, a nonadjuvanted recombinant for subcutaneous injection. According to recommendations of the Vaccine-Associated Sarcoma Task Force, FeLV vaccines are administered subcutaneously as distally as possible in the left rear limb.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (Noncore)
The FIV vaccine is an inactivated, killed, injectable vaccine. Unfortunately, vaccination of FIV-negative cats causes the serologic tests that are currently available to read as positive. In addition, previous vaccination does not rule out infection, so the significance of a positive test result in a vaccinated cat cannot be assessed. There is concern that the subtype of virus used in the vaccine may not protect against the more common subtypes of the disease. Therefore, the risks and benefits of the use of this vaccine should be carefully discussed with your veterinarian.
Chlamydophila felis (Noncore)
Chlamydophila felis causes feline pneumonitis in cats. Immunity induced by vaccination is probably of short duration and the vaccine provides only incomplete protection. Vaccinated cats can still come down with pneumonitis but usually have a shorter, milder illness. The use of this vaccine could be considered for a cat entering a population of cats where infection is known to be endemic. However, the vaccine has been associated with adverse reactions in 3 percent of vaccinated cats.
Bordetella bronchiseptica (Noncore)
This is a modified live intranasal vaccine. Bordetella bronchiseptica is primarily a problem of very young kittens, where it can cause severe lower respiratory tract disease. It appears to be uncommon in adult cats and pet cats in general, and should respond readily to antibiotics, so vaccination is generally not recommended.
This article is excerpted from “ Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook” with permission from Wiley Publishing, Inc.
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