Whoever coined the expression “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” was truly a wise person. Vaccination or immunization is how we can prevent some contagious diseases amongst cats.
Today we classify vaccines as core and non-core vaccines meaning vaccines that are deemed essential (core) for all cats and non-core vaccines that are recommended only for special situations.
Feline Distemper or Panleukopenia used to be a very common and highly contagious viral disease of young kittens. Today it is an easily preventable disease because of our current vaccines. Feline Distemper is a completely different disease from Canine Distemper. Kittens with Distemper become acutely ill with fever, loss of appetite, vomiting and dehydration. Since it is a viral disease we have no cure for it. However with good supportive care probably about two thirds of the kittens/cats survive the disease.
Feline Rhinotracheitis is a Herpes virus infection that produces cold like symptoms of sneezing and runny eyes most often in kittens. This virus is highly contagious amongst cats. Sometimes complications of this viral infection will recur periodically in the form of sinusitis and/or conjunctivitis for the life of your cat. Once again prevention (i.e. vaccination) is the name of the game.
Feline Calicivirus is another very common cold virus affecting cats. Like Rhinotracheitis, it causes sneezing, runny eyes and sometimes painful ulcers on the tip of the tongue. The vaccine for Calicivirus is highly effective in preventing this disease.
What is commonly known as the three-in-one vaccine is designed to protect your cat against Distemper, Rhinotracheitis and Calicivirus, all combined into one injection. We recommend that all kittens be vaccinated monthly beginning at 6 weeks of age until they reach 4 months of age. Then adult cats are vaccinated yearly for two consecutive years to help establish long lasting immunity. Finally adult cats are vaccinated with the three-in-one vaccine every 3 years for the remainder of their nine lives.
Rabies vaccine is mandated by law in New York City for all cats and dogs. In our neighborhood, Queens and in New York City in general, the main vectors for transmission of Rabies are raccoons and bats. We are currently using non adjuvanted Rabies vaccines of one year duration. Adjuvants are agents added to vaccines to stimulate a large immune response from the body. However, they also appear to raise the risks of side effects from vaccines. Therefore we recommend only the one year non adjuvanted Rabies vaccine to minimize the risks to our feline patients. The Rabies vaccine and the three-in-one vaccine (Distemper, Rhinotracheitis and Calicivirus) are considered to be core vaccines, that is vaccines that are essential for all cats.