By: Dr. Samantha Thomas, DVM
Why we’re changing and what this means for you and your feline friend.
In today’s world, vaccines can be a controversial topic for both humans and pets. Sometimes, vaccine-associated fears are unwarranted - based in unsubstantiated reports and unreliable research. Other times, we need to honestly inspect our practices and change for the better. With this in mind, we here at the Clark Fork Veterinary Clinic are changing our feline vaccination protocol.
Based on current research and advisory recommendations, our new protocol will continue to provide appropriate protection, while also reducing side effect risks and avoiding unnecessary over-vaccination. Please read through the following information and allow us to explain the changes we are making, the reasoning behind them, and the differences you may notice when you and your cat come in for a vaccination visit.
A Time For Change
As feline medicine progressed worldwide, veterinarians also began seeing an increase in sarcoma cancers at injection sites. These cancers, termed “feline injection site sarcomas” or FISS have been linked to vaccine administration as well as other injections such as antibiotics. It is a rare occurrence, but when they do develop FISS tumors tend to be very aggressive and difficult to treat and cure.
For this reason, European, American, and World advisory boards (such as the World Small Animal Veterinary Association) have started recommending more limited feline vaccines as well as changing the kinds of vaccines we give.
- The first component of vaccine advocacy in cats (as is true for all pets, really), is limiting over-vaccination. Based on your cat’s vaccine history, lifestyle and disease risk factors, vaccines can be given yearly or every 2-3 years. This is something to be determined after careful discussion with your veterinarian (that’s us!).
- The second component of feline vaccine advocacy is using a safer vaccine type.
- Vaccines can be one of three types: killed/inactivated, modified live/attenuated, or recombinant. Killed or inactivated vaccines contain killed/inactivated bacteria or viruses. Because the virus or bacteria is killed the body is less likely to respond to it alone. As such, killed vaccines contain additives to help boost the body’s response These vaccine additives are called adjuvants and in some studies, these adjuvants appear to be a contributing factor to sarcoma formation.
- As such, advisory boards are recommending changing to modified live or recombinant vaccines. These vaccines are safe and effective and the reduced adjuvant content may help decrease inflammation at the injection site and thereby decrease the risk of sarcoma formation.
Out With The Old, In With The New
Because of the risk of sarcoma formation and the above mentioned recommendations, we took the time to examine and alter our feline vaccine protocol to make it safer, while still effective.
Because of these changes, at your cat’s next vaccination visit, it may seem like we are giving your cat more vaccines, However, they are actually receiving the same vaccines, just separated out from each other. As we always have, we are currently carrying and administering 3 feline vaccines in our hospital: the upper respiratory vaccine (FVRCP), the feline leukemia vaccine (FeLV) and rabies virus vaccine (RV). In previous years, the FVRCP and FeLV vaccines were combined together in one syringe. Therefore, most cats received 2 injections-one RV and one FVRCP/FeLV combination.
Now, the FVRCP and FeLV vaccinations are separate. This allows us to give vaccines at different intervals and to utitlize different and safer vaccines. For example, the upper respiratory vaccine can be given every 3 years and the leukemia every 1-2 years. Using the intranasal upper respiratory vaccine also reduces cancer risk by eliminating some injection site inflammation.
From a financial perspective, using three products instead of two increases the initial cost to you by about $15. We want to emphasize that the reasoning for this change is to increase safety for your cat. The increase in initial cost will be easily recouped as vaccines may now be given every 2-3 years later in life.
Keep an Open Dialogue
We welcome and encourage your questions and feedback on our recent vaccine changes! You may also notice that some of our canine vaccines are now good for three years instead of the previous one year protection - all in keeping with current medical recommendations. We are excited to continue to provide the best care possible to all your pets and consider having safe, up-to-date vaccine protocols to be a cornerstone of this care.
Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions at 846-1925