I see it all the time on social media: “I took my cat to the vet today because it was time for his annual vaccinations, and my cat was not happy about it!”
It always makes me cringe, and I feel terrible for the cat. I can actually feel my heart start to race, and a sense of anxiety creeps in. The very subject of vaccination creates a pit in my stomach. I know firsthand the damage vaccines can pose to cats who have already been vaccinated at least once in their lifetime. I lost my precious Snowbear due to vaccinosis (damage from a vaccine) a few years ago, and let me tell you, the heartbreak is still there.
Over-vaccination is rampant in today’s society because profits are put before pets. As a cat parent, it’s absolutely critical you educate yourself about vaccinations. I’ve been watching the documentary series, The Truth About Pet Cancer, and an entire episode was dedicated to the truth about vaccines.
Before you cart your cat off to the vet in programmed compliance to the reminder postcard your vet sent you, here’s what you need to know about vaccines for cats.
The Role of Vaccines:
In The Truth About Pet Cancer series Dr. Allen Schoen, DVM, states that vaccines have three purposes:
- Hyper-stimulate the immune system.
- Develop an immune response.
- Respond to a bacteria, virus or infection.
The reality is, vaccines don’t make pets healthy, rather they protect against disease. There is a misconception that if you vaccinate your pet it will be healthy. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, and it’s one of biggest deceptions pet parents fall for.
Which Vaccines Do Cats Need?
Cat health expert Dr. Lisa Pierson, DVM, states that there are 5 viral type diseases that cats are vaccinated for:
- Herpes (rhinotracheitis) – The “R” in FVRCP
- Calici – The “C” in FVRCP
- Panleukopenia (feline distemper) – The “P” in FVRCP
- Feline leukemia – FeLV
The rabies vaccination is the only one required by law. The FVRCP vaccines address upper-respiratory viruses like Herpes and Calici and Panleukopenia, a highly contagious intestinal virus that has a high mortality rate. FeLV is only really recommended for cats under age 1 who go outdoors and/or lives with a FeLV positive cat.
Should You Re-Vaccinate?
The vets and vaccine manufacturers would love for you to re-vaccinate your cat every year, but is it truly in your cat’s best interest? There’s a huge amount of evidence that points to increased risks and dangers of repeated vaccinations as well as the fact that they aren’t necessary. Dr. Pierson doesn’t recommend re-vaccinating a cat for FeLV after age 1 because natural immunity is so strong by that age. Nor does she recommend repeating the FVRCP vaccine in cats after the year booster for several reasons:
- A single, properly-timed, FVRCP vaccine confers life-long immunity to panleukopenia (the most serious disease among the 3 that the FVRCP targets) in the vast majority of cats. Those very few cats that may not be protected are considered to be ‘non-responders’ and giving them more vaccines is unlikely to help.
- Herpes and calici vaccines lack the ability to induce complete protection. At best, they will only reduce the severity of some symptoms but will not prevent infection with these viruses and will not protect the recipient from all symptoms of the disease.
- Herpes and calici viral infections do not have a high mortality rate. Death from these viruses is extremely rare and, if it did occur, it would most likely happen in kittenhood.
- Even though a non-adjuvanted FVRCP vaccine is much less likely to cause a sarcoma, sarcomas have been noted with these vaccines.
- The FVRCP vaccine has been shown to cause kidney inflammation. Given how common chronic kidney disease is in the cat, this fact influences my vaccine decisions.
Dr. Pierson also strongly urges NEVER to use vaccines with adjuvants.
Adjuvants are substances that are added to vaccines to purposely cause inflammation at the vaccine site in order to alert the immune system to its presence. They are used with killed vaccines to stimulate a more robust immune response but can also cause a fatal, aggressive tumor (sarcoma) at the site of vaccine injection.
To be fair, adjuvanted vaccines are not the only substances that can cause sarcomas. Even non-adjuvanted (modified life) vaccines, as well as other injectable drugs, can cause these tumors. This is why the acronym “VAS” (Vaccine Associated Sarcoma) is being dropped in favor of “ISS” (Injection Site Sarcoma).
That said, at this time, it appears that adjuvanted vaccines have a higher risk rate of sarcomas when compared with non-adjuvanted vaccines.
Be sure to check back on June 10th for Part 2 of this short series. We’ll discuss the Rabies vaccine, the topic of vaccines and cancer, along with adverse reactions. You won’t want to miss it!