Deer Run Animal Hospital

308 E. US Hwy 30
Schererville, IN 46375




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Cornell Feline Health Center Vaccine Information: Risks and Benefits


At Deer Run Animal Hospital we follow the guidelines provided by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) when selecting vaccines for our patients.  The AAFP 2013 Vaccine Guidelines were developed by the nation's leading experts in feline infectious diseases and immunology, and have been published as an extensive document.  A summary of the 2006 guidelines is also available.  Click here for Deer Run's Summary of the 2013 Guidelines


There are some vaccines that the AAFP recommends for ALL feline patients, these are considered Core Vaccines.   Non-core vaccines are vaccines that should be considered in certain situations. There are some vaccines that the AAFP does NOT recommend. The frequency of vaccine boosters is also addressed by the AAFP guidelines.  Not all vaccines need to be given every year.


We also follow the AAFP guidelines on the site of vaccine administrations.  Feline vaccines should never be given in the scruff of the neck.  At Deer Run we also select the manufacturers of our vaccines very carefully, not all vaccines are the same!


We recommend that our clients work with their veterinarian to pick an individualized vaccine protocol for their cat. There are some questions you and your vet will need to consider.  Some of these are listed below.

  1. Age of Cat
  2. General health status, current health problems
  3. Lifestyle, for example, do you travel with your cat, do you keep your cat 100% indoors, or does it go outside occasionally, do you board or groom your pet in a facility with certain vaccine requirements?
  4. Has your pet ever had an adverse reaction to a vaccine?


AAFP Basic (Core) recommendations for all Cats 


All cats in the State of Indiana should be vaccinated for Rabies.

  • Rabies-Pet Owner Info Handout from the Worms & Germs Blog from the University of Guelph
  • Rabies Vaccination is required by Indiana State Law starting at 12 weeks of age to protect both cat and human health.
  • Why Does My Indoor Cat Need Rabies Vaccination?  This handout from Cornell University explains the importance of rabies vaccination even for indoor felines.  
  • Due to the risk of Feline Vaccine Sarcoma (tumor) formation with adjuvanted rabies vaccine products, we only recommend non-adjuvanted Merial PureVax Rabies vaccine in cats. Adjuvanted vaccines contain substances such as aluminum to stimulate an immune response, but this may also stimulate tissue inflammation that may lead to sarcoma formation.
  • Feline Purevax Rabies vaccine is only licensed for one year use.

Currently there is no non-adjuvanted 3 year Rabies vaccine available for cats. For this reason, we still recommend once a year vaccination for rabies in our feline patients. If a non-adjuvanted 3 year rabies product becomes available in the future, we may be able to change this recommendation.

All cats should be vaccinated for Feline Distemper (Panleukopenia) and Feline Respiratory VirusesThe vaccine for these viral diseases are usually combined into a single shot commonly known as the Feline Distemper Vaccine or FVRCP. 

  • FVR- Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, (Also called Herpes Virus), causes upper respiratory symptoms, runny nose, watery eyes, and corneal ulcers.  Once infected, can cause recurrent disease in some cats.
  • C- Calici Virus, also causes upper respiratory symptoms, such as a runny nose, oral ulceration, and less commonly will cause sore joints, and diarrhea. Once infected, can also cause recurrent disease.
  • P- Panleukopenia, a virus similar to Parvo in dogs that causes gastrointestinal disease and severe immunosuppression.

    Young Kittenhood is a very important time for vaccination

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Kittens usually start the FVRCP vaccine series at 6-8 weeks of age.  The FVRCP is repeated every 3-4 weeks until between 16-20 weeks of age. If older kittens start the series, or there is no prior history of vaccination, 2 vaccines should be given at a 3-4 week interval.  

In recent years the need for annual of re-vaccination with this vaccine has been questioned.  After the initial kitten series and first year re-booster, the AAFP recommends  FVRCP re-vaccination every 3rd year in adult and geriatric cats.  

All Kittens should be vaccinated for Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)  with a series of 2 vaccines 3-4 weeks apart their first year and at least one more time a year later.  Kittenhood is the age when cats are most susceptible to this deadly virus, and it is the age where the lifestyle is the least predictable. Therefore the AAFP considers FELV vaccination of kittens and 1 year old cats a core vaccine. FeLV vaccines can be started as early as 9 weeks of age. A series of two vaccines 3-4 weeks apart need to be given, then boostered one year later. FeLV vaccines are considered optional for adult cats and should be considered on an as-needed basis for adult cats. See below.


Optional or Non-Core Vaccines for Adult Cats


Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) causes a complex disease of immunosuppression, and often cancer. Although cats can live for a number of years with this disease, it will eventually be fatal. It is transmitted by close, repeated contact with an infected cat (grooming, biting, sharing food, water, and litter boxes).  Since young cats are the most susceptible to this deadly disease, the AAFP is now recommending that ALL kittens be vaccinated for this virus their first year with at least one further booster repeated one year later.  


In adult cats over 2 yrs of age, vaccination depends on risk and lifestyle.  Vaccination is highly recommended if a cat goes outside for any length of time unattended, or if it lives with a cat already infected with FeLV. It is strongly recommended to test a cat for the FeLV virus before the vaccine is started.


The first year, a series of 2 vaccines are given 3-4 weeks apart. If the cat continues to be at high risk, the vaccine is recommended to be re-boostered on a yearly basis.  The 2012 AAFP guidelines indicate that if risk is low, revaccination may be considered every two years.  As of 2013, every 3 year protocols have not yet been recommended for this vaccine. 


The older adjuvanted forms of this vaccine do have a low chance of causing a Feline Vaccine Sarcoma or tumor. At Deer Run Animal Hospital we use Merial's non-adjuvanted Feline Leukemia  Vaccine.

This non-adjuvanted vaccine has significantly reduced the risk of tumor formation. Since Feline Leukemia Virus is so deadly, if there is ANY chance your cat will be exposed, the vaccine benefit against this deadly disease far outweighs the very low risk of a vaccine side effect.


Other Non-core Feline Vaccines 


FIV Vaccine- Recently a vaccine against Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) was developed. FIV is another immunosuppressive virus similar to HIV but not contagious to humans.  The safety and efficacy of this FIV vaccine is currently under question. The vaccine will also interfere with testing for this virus. Currently this vaccine should only be used in very limited circumstances.  It is not recommended for routine use. It is important to test all cats for the FIV virus. The best method of prevention is isolation of positive cats, and keeping all cats indoors. The FIV virus is primarily transmitted through bite wounds. Cats can also live many years with this virus, but eventually the virus is fatal.


Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) Vaccine- not recommended on a routine basis.

Vaccination of cats living within households in which FIP is known to exist, or for cats that are known to be feline coronavirus antibody positive is not recommended. 

Bordetella and Chlamydophila Vaccines are for bacterial respiratory infections but are not routinely recommended.  They may be of benefit in certain high risk situations such as high density animal shelters.

Ringworm Vaccine- not currently recommended for the treatment or prevention of this infectious skin disease.


Giardia Vaccine- not currently recommended, this vaccine has not been shown to prevent infections.


What about Leptospirosis?  Fortunately cats are extremely resistant to the bacterial infection Leptospirosis.  There is no recommendation for Leptospirosis vaccination for cats.