Cat Vaccines and Vaccination
A Lifetime of Care for your Pet
Why should I vaccinate my pet?
Put simply: -“Vaccination saves lives!”
Your guide to vaccination:
As a trusted and loyal companion, your dog or cat depends on you to keep him healthy. This is your guide to understanding the diseases your pet can be protected against so that he can enjoy the best possible quality of life for the longest possible time.
Vaccinations are one of the most important preventative measures you can take for the health of your dog or cat. Vaccinations help protect your pet from viral and bacterial diseases. At some time in its life, your pet may be exposed to a serious or even fatal infectious disease. Without proper vaccination, it’s left unprotected.
Whether your pet spends time indoors or outdoors, he may be at risk of exposure to infectious diseases. Fortunately, vaccines to prevent many of these diseases are available through your veterinarian. Vaccinating your pet is the best and least costly way of preventing disease.
Prevention helps assure the best quality of life for your pet and is less costly than treating for a serious illness that could have been prevented.
How does vaccination work?
When your dog or cat receives a vaccine, its immune system produces special substances called antibodies. The antibodies work against viruses or bacteria that cause disease and can be regarded as the bodies “fighter pilots”. Later, if your pet is exposed to that same disease, these antibodies will help destroy those viruses or bacteria. It is important to note that vaccines are preventative rather than curative. Vaccinating a sick animal is not going to help and in fact is not advised. A healthy pet and healthy immune system is required in order to build these protective antibodies in response to a vaccine.
In many cases, vaccines which help protect against several diseases are combined, thereby reducing the number of shots your pet receives at one time.
How often should my dog/cat be vaccinated?
The number and frequency of vaccinations, can be determined during a routine examination by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian takes several factors into consideration when making that decision, such as your pet’s lifestyle, life stage and risk of exposure.
Since the protection provided by a vaccine may gradually decline after an animal is vaccinated, periodic revaccination may be necessary. Such booster vaccines are necessary to “remind” the immune system to produce enough protective antibodies or fighter pilots. Routine examinations performed by your veterinarian at vaccination time, will help him/her identify problems in your pet. Early detection of problems allows for early treatment and a better prognosis in general. Your veterinarian will recommend a health care program that includes the diseases and frequency of vaccination required for your specific situation.
How do I know which vaccine my pet needs?
The vaccines your pet needs are dependant upon his lifestyle, life stage and risk of exposure to certain diseases. As a general rule of thumb, pups and kittens typically receive a series of initial vaccinations, followed by boosters. At each wellness exam your veterinarian will recommend which vaccines your pet needs as well as when they should be administered.
Why do pups and kittens require more shots than older pets?
Pups and kittens are as vulnerable as they are adorable and their immature immune systems can’t fight off diseases as well as older dogs and cats. A nursing puppy or kitten receives antibodies from its mother’s milk that protects it during the first months of its life. However, the protection received naturally through maternal antibodies can interfere with early vaccinations, making it difficult to pinpoint when vaccines stimulate immunity. This is why puppies and kittens need vaccinations several times during their first few months of life. That way, if maternal antibodies interfere with early vaccinations, later doses will still stimulate the pup/kitten to produce its own antibodies & protection to the disease.
- Puppies need 3 initial vaccinations for optimal protection and kittens 2 initial vaccinations.
- The best time for vaccination is at 6, 9 and 12 weeks of age for pups and 9 and 12 weeks of age for kittens.
Time to produce protection:
Vaccines do not stimulate immunity immediately after they are administered. Once a vaccine is administered, the antigens (virus particles in the vaccine) must be recognised, responded to, and remembered by the immune system. In most puppies, disease protection does not begin until five days post vaccination. Full protection from a vaccine usually takes up to fourteen days. In some instances, two or more vaccinations several weeks apart must be given to achieve protection. In general, modified live vaccines provide the fastest protection. The amount of antibodies or “fighter pilots “produced by the immune system can be measured and we refer to this measurement or count as the “titer”
Are vaccines dangerous?
Not usually. Unfortunately, a perfect, risk-free vaccine does not exist. Without question, vaccines have saved countless lives, and they continue to be indispensable weapons in the battle against infectious diseases. However, as with any medical procedure, there is a small chance that reactions may develop as a result of vaccination. In most cases, the risks associated with vaccination are much smaller than the risks of disease if vaccines were not given, i.e. the benefits far outweigh the risk of a reaction. In order to minimize the risk of a reaction, please inform your veterinarian of any problems your pet may be experiencing or any medication your dog or cat is receiving prior to your pet being vaccinated.
What possible risks are associated with vaccination?
Mild reactions usually start within several hours to a day after vaccination, and last no more than a day or two: - discomfort at the site where the vaccine was given - mild fever - diminished appetite and activity - development of a small, firm, non-painful swelling under the skin at the site where the vaccine was given. The swelling usually goes away after several weeks, but if you notice such a swelling, contact your veterinarian.
Severe reactions to vaccinations are very uncommon. Your dog/cat is at far greater risk of contracting an infectious disease than of experiencing side effects from a vaccination.
Speak to your veterinarian if you have concerns about vaccinating your pet and to find out more about the risks associated with the vaccination.
We understand the important place canine and feline companions hold in hearts and homes. That’s why we encourage every pet owner to visit a vet regularly to make sure your pet is up to date on vaccinations and in general good physical condition.
Vaccination remains the single most effective method for protecting against infectious disease in healthy animals.
Understanding Vaccination and Immunity in your Kitten better.
How can it be possible that even vaccinated dogs and cats still contract the diseases they were vaccinated against? Some people may refer to it as “vaccine failure”, however it is more likely a failure of the immune system to respond to the vaccine than a problem with the vaccine itself.
Panleukopenia is a good example. Why does it sometimes happen that a kitten can get panleukopenia infection and possibly die, if it was already vaccinated? The answer is likely to be found in the kitten’s immunity. For some reason, unfortunately, it sometimes happen that the vaccine do not stimulate the immune system enough to protect the kitten from the disease, i.e not enough fighter pilots. The reason for this may be one or a combination of the following factors:
- Interfering maternal antibodies.
- The cat's own immune system not responding /compromised by medication.
- Genetics may play a role (Inherited problem with the immune system).
- An overwhelming exposure to the virus causing the disease.
- Issues with the vaccines themselves e.g. when the cold chain was broken.
By far, the most common reason in kittens is: Interfering maternal antibodies.
What does that mean? “Interfering maternal antibodies”
Although the below description refers to puppies, the same principles apply to kittens.
Let’s start off first by discussing maternal antibodies. A newborn puppy is NOT naturally immune to diseases. It does have some protection though, which comes from its mother's blood via the placenta, while it is still in the womb. The next level of immunity is from antibodies derived from the first milk. This is the milk produced from the time of birth and continues for 24-48 hours. This antibody-rich milk is called colostrum and all antibodies derived from the mother, either via her blood or colostrum are called maternal antibodies. Pups receive about 10% of their parvovirus maternally derived antibodies through the placenta before birth and about 90% through the colostrum in the first 24 hours after birth. It must be noted that the puppy will only receive antibodies against diseases for which the mother had been recently vaccinated against or exposed to.
As an example, a mother who had NOT been vaccinated against or exposed to parvo virus (“cat flu”), would not have any antibodies against parvovirus to pass along to her puppies. The puppies then would be susceptible to developing a parvovirus infection.
As this antibody transfer through colostrum does not continue for longer than 2 days, it starts to decline at a predictable rate. A little pup will lose half of its maternal antibodies every 10 days. When the parvo virus antibody titer or count declines to a certain critical level, the puppy will no longer be protected against parvo virus infection.
The age at which a little pup will become susceptible to parvo virus infection, will be determined primarily by the antibody level of the mother. Little pups born from bitches with NO antibody titer will be susceptible from birth. Pups born from bitches with a low level of antibodies may be susceptible from as young as 6 weeks after birth, but those from mothers with a high level of immunity (bitches who received their booster vaccinations annually), may be immune until they reach 12 –16 weeks of age.
Another important factor playing a role in the passive immune status of a little pup is the amount of antibodies it actually ingests and absorbs. Think about the little runt, or even the weaker pup battling to get a chance to suckle at the teats, competing with its bigger brother who dominates from day one. Once 48 hours have past the little runt’s chances of getting any antibodies will have past. This little one will be more susceptible to a wide variety of diseases compared to it’s bigger brother.
Bitches which are too malnourished or who have a heavy parasite burden, will produce less colostrum. Often bitches whelping for the very first time will not have the experience to allow sufficient suckling opportunity to each pup. Puppies who are hypothermic (too cold) shortly after birth will absorb less antibodies than their siblings who are snug and warm. Therefore if the bitch is a GOOD MOTHER she will ensure that each pup gets the best chance for survival. If she’s inexperienced or not a GOOD MOTHER, good supervision from the owner or surrogate mother, is necessary to ensure each pup receives a fair share of the golden milk in the first two days especially the first 24 hours.