Introduction and a few comments...


Alarmists are making a big deal these days about the dangers and potential problems caused by vaccines ...   and indeed, we, as a profession are making changes and improvements to both the vaccines themselves and to the protocols we recommend for pet vaccination. 

But remember to keep some perspective; for every pet that experiences the discomfort of minor vaccine side effects, and yes, for the rare pet that experiences a major vaccine complication such as a cancerous reaction at the vaccine site or even allergic death:  hundreds or thousands of pet lives are spared an agonizing death due to distemper, parvo, leukemia, feline AIDs, pneumonia, kidney failure, and rabies.

Several Comments about Vaccine Quality and Why It's Best to have a Vet Examine your pet each year and decide which vaccines are appropriate for your individual pet.

First, let me remind you that even high quality vaccines won't give your pet good protection if your pet is immune suppressed from parasites, certain medications, illness, certain metabolic problems such as diabetes, thyroid problems,  Cushings Disease, excessive stress, or poor nutrtion.

That's the most important reason to have a veterinarian give your pet it's vaccinations; making sure your pet is healthy enough for vaccination.

But there are a number of reasons that vaccination is a job for a good veterinarian as opposed to doing them in some parking lot, feed store, or doing them yourselves:

1.  As just mentioned; the most important part is a good history, wellness examination, and whatever blood, fecal, or heart tests are appropriate to make sure we're vaccinating a healthy pet.  Only a vet working from a well equipped office can do this well.

2.   Vaccine protocols used to be simple; we more or less recommended that all pets should be examined and vaccinated once a year.  This system worked extremely well, all things considered, but now it's recommended that we fine tune this simplistic system and customize a vaccine protocol for each individual pet based on the pet's life stage, risk of exposure, health status, and so forth.  Our goal now is to neither under or over vaccinate your pets.  Using wise judgement on which vaccines to give when requires a veterinarian.

3.   Not all vaccines are equal in safety or effectiveness.  Some older and less expensive brands are not only not as effective as the newer, improved vaccines, but are much more likely to cause local inflammation, irritation, and vaccine reactions.  Some vaccines have been shown to be nearly useless.  Vets are constantly updated on vaccine improvements and vaccine problems and as a rule, use the best and safest vaccines.  This is not always the case if you're getting your vaccines from a mail order catalog, from feed stores, or parking lot clinics.

4.   Vaccines have to be kept refridgerated, something that mail order houses, and feed stores may not be as careful about as veterinarians who tend to be very meticulous about vaccine and medication storage and handling.

5.   While serious side effects and fatal allergic reactions are rare, it's fairly common to have minor inflammatory reactions, post vaccine fevers, and so forth.  Veterinarians know how to deal with such problems.

6.   And finally, reputable vaccine manufactuers bend over backwards by paying vet bills and so forth on those occasions when their products cause trouble.  They take even the smallest reported reaction seriously.  But they only do so if the vaccines were administered under the supervision of a veterinarian.

About the Argument that We may be Vaccinating Pets More Frequetly Than We Need

Basically, this argument is valid.  Vaccines save hundreds of thousands of lives in America each year.  Leukemia cases have been cut in half over the last few decades because of vaccines.  And the only reason leukemia is still a common cause of death in cats is because so many cats are not vaccinated.  Rabies is now a fairly rare disease in developed countries because of vaccination. 

But vaccines, like all potent medications, have potential side effects.  In the case of rabies and leukemia vaccines, the worse possiblities are sudden death due to an allergic reaction (very, very rare...and usually reversible if the reaction occurs in a hospital) and a small possibility of the vaccine causing tissue inflammation that might become cancerous. The chance of this happening is about 0.01%  None the less, several thousand serious cancer cases are reported each year that might have been started with tissue inflammation caused by a vaccine or other injected medicine.  We as a profession are taking these potential side effects very seriously. 

Luckily modern research combined with big pharma (Merial in this case) have developed vaccines that don't cause injection site tumors.  I've written more about the development of modern DNA technology vaccines on my page about leukemia.

At any rate, there are now vaccines (brand name "Purevax") that are both safe and effective and recommended by all the professional cat assoications even though they are about $10 extra.

We're All God's Creatures

On This Page:
About the importance of vaccinating your cat from terrible diseases.

But also the steps our profession and vaccine labs are taking to make our vaccine recommendations better and safer

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Vaccine recommenations 
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Vaccine recommendations for puppies

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Vaccination Information & Recommendations for Cats

What, Why, and When and dealing with the controversy
This cat has a sarcoma ... a very aggressive and often deadly cancer.... at a place where vaccines are commonly given.  The chance of your cat having such a serious problem as the result of a vaccine is statistically tiny.... buy why risk it when much safer vaccines are available for about $10 more?

The vet below is glad that it's now recommended to vaccinate adult cats less often.
A few more comments about the discovery that certain vaccines (most notably rabies and leukemia) were responsible for some cats getting cancer:

It's no small matter if the rare cat that dies because of a vaccine related tumor is your much loved cat, but Stay Cool...

The debate over vaccine frequency began 1991 when a veterinary researcher noted that a tiny percentage of cats were getting fibrosarcoma cancers near vaccination sites.

99.99% of vaccinated cats didn't have problems (and hundreds of cats were spared from death due to disease because of the vaccine), but an estimated 1 cat in 10,000 became afflicted by this serious cancer, probably due to the tissue irritation caused by the vaccine. 

Again, I beg you to stay cool.

1 in 10,000 = 0.0001 = 0.01%:  

Notice that 99.99% did NOT get sarcomas. 
(new information suggests that as many as 0.10% of cats get sarcomas meaning about 10 cats in 10,000) Based on my own experience these numbers sound about right... I've vaccinated about 30,000 cats in my 30 year career and have seen about 5-10 tumors that were probably caused, in hindsight, by injections

I highlight the math in hopes of keeping this "Scare" under proper perspective

What happened was that the non-professional press went wild, all but claiming that vaccines caused cancer and implying that you shouldn't vaccinate your pets and that vets were purposely endangering your pets in their greed for more money.

Such a reaction is nuts, but nonetheless, both the profession and the vaccine companies have taken the issue seriously and have been busy making improvements. 
So have I.  Now that they're available, we now recommend and use the new adjuvant free vaccines that don't cause injection site tumors.

Our profession is also recommending less frequent vaccination for cats over 2 years.   A series of kitten vaccines followed by boosters a year later are still critical but after than we often vaccinate much less frequently.... all based on the risk of exposure ... so more often if outdoors or in a multicat household... less often if always indoors.

Make no mistake; not vaccinating is much more risky than over vaccinating.  What we're trying to do is get it just right:  Prevent common and terrible diseases using the latest in vaccine technology while at the same time preventing possible vaccine complications by

    Making vaccines both longer lasting and less reactive
    Reducing the frequency of vaccination
    Improving vaccination technique such as needless delivery  ... although
    initial attempts at airgun delivery have been abandoned mostly for
    practical reasons.

At present, not all vets are in agreement as to which new vaccine protocols to endorse and recommend to their patients. As with so many important topics, for every study suggesting one conclusion, there are other studies suggesting a different result.  Bear with us for a while as veterinary scientists hash this topic out and understand that you will find differing opinions for a while as to how often to vaccinate your pet.

I, for one, follow the recommendations of the American Association of Feline Practioners.