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  • Writer's pictureBeltsville News

Kitty Post: Important Core Vaccines Protect Your Cat by Sallie Rhodes

Updated: Sep 30, 2022

Important Core Vaccines Protect Your Cat

As children need to get immunized against life-threatening diseases, so do indoor and outdoor cats of all ages. The Rabies vaccine is both recommended and required by law in most states. The FVRCP vaccine is extremely effective in protecting cats against the three highly contagious, life-threatening feline diseases described below.

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR, feline herpesvirus type 1) is believed to be responsible for up to 80-90% of all infectious upper respiratory diseases in cats. This disease can affect your cat's nose and windpipe as well as causing problems during pregnancy. Symptoms of FVR, which may last up to 6 weeks, include fever, sneezing, inflamed eyes and nose, and discharge from the nose and eyes.

In kittens, senior cats, and immune-compromised cats, symptoms of FVR may persist and worsen, leading to depression, loss of appetite, severe weight loss, and sores inside of your cat's mouth. Bacterial infections often occur in cats that are ill with FVR. Even after the symptoms of FVR have cleared up the virus remains dormant in your cat's body and can flare up repeatedly over your kitty's lifetime.

Feline Calicivirus (FCV) is a major cause of upper respiratory infections and oral disease in cats. Symptoms include nasal congestion, sneezing, eye inflammation, and clear or yellow discharge from the infected cat's nose or eyes. Some cats develop painful ulcers on their tongue, palate, lips, or nose. Cats infected with FCV often suffer from loss of appetite, weight loss, fever, enlarged lymph nodes, squinting and lethargy. There are actually a number of different strains of FCV. Some produce fluid buildup in the lungs (pneumonia) and some produce fever, joint pain, and lameness.

Feline Panleukopenia (FPL), an extremely common and serious virus in cats at any age, causes damage to bone marrow, lymph nodes and the cells lining your cat's intestines. Symptoms include depression, loss of appetite, high fever, lethargy, vomiting, severe diarrhea, nasal discharge, and dehydration. Cats infected with FPL frequently develop secondary infections due to the weakened state of their immune systems.

FPL, which can attach cats at any age, is often fatal in kittens. While there are currently no medications available to kill the FPL virus, treating infected cats involves treating symptoms such as dehydration and shock through intravenous fluid therapy and intensive nursing care.

Side effects from vaccines, which may be mild and tend to be rare, include a slight fever and feeling a little “off’ for a day or two. On rare occasions, hives, swelling around the lips and eyes, itchiness, fever, diarrhea, vomiting and breathing difficulties may occur while at the vet or appear up to 48 hours after receiving the vaccination. When a cat displays these more severe symptoms, it should be immediately taken to a vet or an emergency vet.

To provide the best possible protection against these infections in kittens, the first FVRCP vaccine should be given at 6-8 weeks of age with a booster shot given every 3-4 weeks until the kitten is 16-20 weeks old. After that, another booster should be given when the kitten is a year old and then every 3 years.

Although you may believe that your indoor cat is safe from infectious diseases such as those discussed here, these viruses can live for up to a year on surfaces. That means that an indoor cat that sneaks outside, even briefly, is at risk of being infected with one of these viruses and becoming seriously ill if it has not received the FVRCP vaccines.

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