One of the hottest topics in modern veterinary medicine revolves around the issue of vaccinations, especially with cats. As with any issue regarding a medical procedure, the question always starts with an assessment of the risks and benefits of the procedure, when it comes to making decisions on this very important topic. Each pet should be assessed for its individual risk, in terms of morbidity and mortality for a particular infectious disease, based on the lifestyle of the pet, as well as the safety and efficacy of the available vaccination products.
According to Ron Schultz, PhD, renowned veterinary immunologist, most veterinarians are not taught adequately in veterinary school about basic immunologic principles when it comes to making vaccination recommendations, as well as interpreting whether vaccination reactions have occurred. In spite of what veterinarians may have told animal guardians, vaccination reactions not only may occur within minutes of a vaccination, with what is known as an immediate type hypersensitivity reactions, but can occur in the days, weeks and even months ahead in a delayed type hypersensitivity reaction. Because of these known immunologic principles, vaccination reactions are widely unrecognized and unreported, both in the human and veterinary fields–an issue which is deeply tragic.
Given all of these various factors, after 23 plus years of active clinical veterinary experience, I must say that most vaccinations given to especially indoor adult and senior cats are mostly unnecessary, and are likely contributing to an epidemic of chronic immune-mediated diseases and even cancers in susceptible pets. We also know through both vaccine challenge and blood antibody measurements, that immunity to most core feline viruses lasts for many years, if not the life of the pet. According to veterinary immunology experts, the feline panleukopenia vaccination (for feline parvo virus), when given at 16 weeks of age, imparts such long lasting immunity; therefore only one vaccination at this age will suffice in most cats.
Efficacy of other core viral vaccinations, including feline calici and herpes virus is at best partially effective, when given through injectable means, and given the increased risk of actual respiratory signs seen in vaccinated animals, I don’t find these vaccinations necessary, when given in the injectable forms.
Feline rabies vaccination may be required by law in most states, typically every 3 years for adult cats. Given the association of this vaccination with malignant sarcoma tumors at the site of vaccination, as well as certain other immune-mediated diseases, I don’t recommend vaccinating for rabies more than is legally required.
Other vaccinations, including feline leukemia virus (FeLV), feline infectious peritonitis virus (FIP), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and chlamydia virus, have either been not shown to be effective through independent studies, or carry excessive risk to reactions in many pets, so I can’t recommend them in good conscience. Interestingly, most adult cats who are exposed to feline leukemia virus are already innately immune, with the vaccination offering little additional protection.
I stress to the 1800petmeds audience that I base my recommendations on feline vaccinations from a more minimalistic holistic perspective, and from my highly effective track record on utilizing such a minimal protocol in active traditional veterinary practice for over 23 years.