For previous posts in this series, click on each title below.
- Part 1 – Why I Questioned
- Part 2 – Safe Practices
- Part 3 – Titer Tests
- Part 4 – Rabies
- Part 5A – Non-Core; Leptospirosis & Bordetella
- Part 5B – Non-Core; Lyme & Canine Influenza
Disclaimer: I want to make one thing clear: I am not against vaccinating your pets, but I am concerned about over-vaccination. I will be sharing our experiences, as well as information I have learned through research and from our own veterinarian. My intent is only to share information that might be important for pet families to know. You should always consult your own trusted vet when it comes to the care and safety of your own pets’ health.
In the first part of this series, I shared that many years ago our cat Concha died not long after receiving a rabies vaccination. Concha hadn’t been to the vet much in her life, so this had been her first vaccine in many years and she was 18 years old when she got it (there was a rabies scare in our area). It’s probably not likely the two things were related, but I’ve never been able to forget that coincidence. However, we still had all cats since her vaccinated yearly (then every 3 years) at our vets’ advice. We have never had another issue.
It wasn’t until Samantha and her sister Katie came along that all of our cats became indoor cats, and we discovered that meant less vaccinations needed, and everything became 3 years. For a while we only brought them to the vet every three years, but as they got older they had annual exams even if they didn’t need vaccinations. I realize now that annual visits are important no matter the age of your pet.
Vaccinations for cats can be concerning because they have been known to cause cancer in the form of injection site tumors. It was discovered that these tumors were most likely caused by adjuvants (substances such as aluminum added to vaccines to enhance immune response) which are found in killed (inactivated) vaccines. Vaccines that are attenuated or recombinant (live) are highly recommended to avoid this.
What vaccines are recommended for cats? Only core vaccines (recommended for all cats) are recommended for indoor cats. These are:
- Panleukopenia (feline distemper) – a life threatening illness causing vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and low white blood cell counts.
- Rhinotracheitis (herpesvirus) and Calicivirus – highly contagious but non-life threatening diseases characterized by runny eyes and nose and fever.
- Rabies – required by law at least every 3 years in most states (click here to check your states’ laws)
Dr. Ronald Schultz, a pioneer and expert in the field of vaccines, recommends that because there previously was no 3 year rabies vaccine available for cats that did not have adjuvant, that the yearly vaccine (with no adjuvants) would be safer. However, our friend Raven has let us know that there is now a 3 year vaccine with no adjuvants available from Merial. You may have to ask your vet to special order this vaccine for you, and you can follow this link for more information (thank you to Raven for sharing that link).
Core vaccines should be given starting at 6-7 weeks of age, except for rabies which should be started at 12 weeks. Like canine vaccinations, even though boosters are recommended throughout a cats’ life, these vaccinations may protect against diseases for longer than even the 3 years recommended. The AVMA advises discussing yearly boosters with your vet (in my opinion they should not be given yearly unless required by law). Immunity is believed to possibly even be lifelong, so that is something to be considered for sure.
Non-core vaccines (optional depending on lifestyle) that may be advised for outdoor cats or cats that are in stressful environments include:
- Feline leukemia – causes chronic immune suppression that can lead to cancer.
- FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus) – this disease can go for years with no symptoms but can cause chronic immune suppression leading to the inability to fight off other diseases.
For a more complete list of non-core vaccines you can visit this website.
So what have we done with our cats? Our indoor cats have received the 3 year boosters of core vaccines up until now. As far as I know the combination PCR they get is non-adjuvanted but I do not know for sure so I would question that next time. My vet uses Fort Dodge for rabies every 3 years so I believe that does have adjuvants and I would definitely want to change that. Right now, with Samantha’s health issues I doubt we will get her any more vaccines anyway. She is due for them next year, but we will pass. For all future cats, I will be sure they get only non-adjuvanted vaccines, even if my vet has to special order them, like Raven’s does for her.
I would suggest that you have the same discussions with your vet for your cats as well. A good vet will be willing to answer questions, and ours will always do what we request even if he thinks we are being overly cautious.
For more information here are some of the websites where I did my research:
WebMD Pet: Understanding Vaccinations for Your Cat or Dog
2nd Chance info: How Often Should my Cat Receive Vaccinations?
Today we are joining the Thursday Barks & Bytes blog hop. Thank you to our hosts 2 Brown Dawgs blog, and Heart Like a Dog. Please visit other blogs through the links below!
Raven is due for her annual check-up and vaccinations next month. I need to review her records to see where we’re at with vaccines and ask the vet what he thinks about the Merial 3-year rabies vaccine versus the 1-year. I suspect it might be the same vaccine but now they’ve done the studies showing it’s good for 3 years.
I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case either. Please let me know what you find out!
Sand Spring Chesapeakes says
Well done, and great that you shared the information about Merial’s new 3 year rabies vaccine. I would only use merials rabies on my cats.
Our kitties have never had any reactions, and they get what they need as indoor cats. We try not to over vaccinate anyone around here.
2 Brown Dawgs says
Thanks for the great info. I have had cats all my life and they have lived very long lives. The youngest one passed at 18 and the others in their 20’s. None have ever had a vaccine reaction. It is something to consider though. Thanks for joining the hop.
Since Sam has never had a vaccine reaction, I wouldn’t worry about it with her, if she didn’t have her current health issues. I just think with future cats I’d want to play it safe, especially when getting those first vaccines, because I feel like you just never know if you’ll have one that does react (you know, I’m just gun shy because of Cricket really).
Great post to share on SlimKitty…so I did.
Thank you for sharing!!
M. K. Clinton says
I have enjoyed this series and will be armed with questions when our annuals are due this fall. Thanks so much. ♥
I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed it and that it will inspire you to ask questions, Melissa. Really, I just want people to know that they just shouldn’t always blindly vaccinate their pets without knowing why and if it’s necessary and safe.
Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady says
This is great info! SO much info in this whole series, thanks so much for this!!!
ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
Caren Gittleman says
Thanks for this information which is quite timely.
Cody is due for his Rabies vaccine and I am beyond hesitant. (I checked the chart you provided and Michigan doesn’t require a Rabies shot for cats? Strange)
Last year, Cody became extremely ill, but….he had had TWO shots together (which didn’t bother him when he was younger, but last year he became quite ill). I am assuming that is the reason he became so sick but I am a nervous wreck for him to have his rabies shot this year.
I asked the Vet once if he has to and he said yes, but I am going to ask him again.
You’re welcome, Caren. I don’t blame you for being nervous, because I remember what it was like with our beagle Cricket. Splitting up vaccines only didn’t always work for her, and even though she never got seriously ill it was still scary.
Cody is an indoor cat, correct? My thought is just that if he is, what’s the point of a rabies shot unless it’s required by law? I know there is a chance he could escape outside or get somehow exposed to a rabid animal, but for me it’s been a matter of weighing the odds of that happening against the odds of getting ill from a vaccine. Along with the fact that the vaccines most likely last longer than the manufacturers say they do.
Please let me know how you make out with your vet!
Thanks for joining the blog hop Jan! I have no cats but I’m curious is the rabies vaccines they give the dogs are attenuated? I’d be curious about that. So many people I know insist there is nothing harmful in vaccines, but injecting aluminum seems pretty harmful to me. 🙂
I totally agree. That is a good question – I’m going to guess in the case of my vet’s, if he uses a certain one for the cats that is not attentuated, than the dog one probably is the same brand and is not either.
I can’t help but think that in a case like Cricket’s, where she has reacted to different vaccines, that there has to be a common factor in all of the vaccines and I would think that adjuvants might be it. But I’m not a scientist or a vet, so what do I know? 🙂
The book I have does say that all rabies vaccines are killed vaccines, but that was published in 2012 and since Merial has come out with the non killed for cats it may also be available for dogs. I’m going to try to figure that out before I do my final post (wish me luck).
I DO wish you luck! Sampson and Delilah had their rabies last year, which means they aren’t due again until 2017. I’m hoping the laws change and give you a longer time (five years or more) but if they don’t, I’m hoping my vet will give me a waiver.
Earl Lover says
There is a huge debate about this on dogs, too. There are so many different sides, opinions and experiences, where do new dog owners turn?
I’d like to say they can just turn to their vets, but unfortunately not all vets are on top of the latest protocols here….there are still many that do yearly vaccines on everything.
I think all we can do is educate ourselves as best as possible and ask lots of questions.