Information regarding vaccinations and the diseases they protect against

All kittens should be vaccinated. This is done twice; the 1st one at around 9 weeks of age, the 2nd at around 12 weeks of age. Good breeders will have these vaccinations carried out on all their kittens before they leave for their new homes. Always walk away from a breeder who sells unvaccinated kittens, it is against GCCF rules.

After these initial 2 vaccinations, cats can be vaccinated annually, within 7 days of the last vaccination. This will ensure the best immunity. These are called "booster" injections and are a simple single injection. 

Indoor only cats don't need to be vaccinated within these strict guidelines, some people don't bother at all with no ill effects, it is up to each individual to decide what is best for their kittens/cats.

Be aware that vets will strongly encourage you to have all available vaccinations carried out, it increases profit for them.  

Kittens are usually vaccinated against 3 diseases, in one injection; Feline Infectious Enteritis (FIE), also called Panleukopenia, feline calicivirus (FCV), and parvovirus (FPV). This injection is sometimes called 'Tricat' and is the minimum acceptable level of vaccination.

There is another disease which can be vaccinated against, it is essential for outdoor cats, and strongly recommended for show & breeding cats. This disease is called Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV). 

Feline infectious enteritis (FIE) is spread by direct faecal-oral contact and also indirectly following contamination of the environment or objects by an infected animal. Cats can become infected by dogs shedding parvovirus. It can spread through the mothers uterus to unborn kittens.Infection in late pregnancy leads to the underdevelopment of the cerebellum, an area of the brain concerned with coordination of movements. 

Kittens that are infected as they are developing in the uterus often appear normal at birth but as they become more active, they show uncoordinated movement, walking with their legs wide apart and with muscle tremors frequently present. In kittens over three or four weeks of age and adults, the virus causes a severe enteritis, following an incubation period of five to nine days. If the immune response is not adequate to protect the cat, the virus will enter the bloodstream and travel to the bone-marrow and lymph glands, leading to a marked decrease in white blood cells. From there, the virus travels to the intestines where it destroys the rapidly dividing cells of the lining of the gut. Infected cats and kittens usually have a fever, are obviously depressed and will not eat. This phase is rapidly followed by severe vomiting and bloody diahorrea. Occasionally kittens will be found dead, having shown no signs of the disease previously. 

No specific treatment is available and it is vital that any suspected cases are nursed in isolation as this is a highly contagious disease. Cats often die from dehydration and massive secondary infection, so fluids and broad spectrum antibiotics are crucial. Severely dehydrated cats will usually require intravenous fluids and veterinary support is essential. Anti-emetics (to stop vomiting) and vitamin supplements can also be helpful. Feeding the cat small meals as soon as the vomiting has resolved is also important. Good nursing care is vital to help sick cats, especially young kittens, recover from the disease. 

Feline Calicivirus (FCV). Feline Calicivirus (FCV) is a strain of the common cold. It is a virus of the family Caliciviridae that causes disease in cats. It is one of the two important viral causes of respiratory infection in cats, the other being feline herpesvirus. 

FCV can be isolated from about 50 percent of cats with upper respiratory infection. There are different strains of FCV that vary in virulence. The prevalence of FCV varies depending on the environment. In private households, FCV is present in about 10 percent of cats (either in active or carrier state), while the prevalence in shelters or catteries is 25 to 40 percent. 

FCV replicates in the oral and respiratory tissues and is secreted in saliva, faeces, urine, and respiratory secretions. It can be transmitted through the air, orally, and on fomites. Infected cats usually shed the virus for two weeks. Following this period, infected cats never shed the virus again or become latently infected and shed the virus continuously or intermittently. Co-infection with either feline herpesvirus or feline immunodeficiency virus causes a more severe disease. 

Symptoms in cats infected with FCV may develop acutely, chronically, or not at all. Latent or subclinical infections often become symptomatic when the cat is stressed, such as at the time of adoption. Acute symptoms of FCV include fever, conjunctivitis, nasal discharge, sneezing, and ulceration of the mouth (stomatitis). Pneumonia may develop with secondary bacterial infections. In addition to stomatitis, some cats may develop a polyarthritis, both probably immune-mediated through immune complex deposition. Stomatitis and polyarthritis can develop without any upper respiratory infection symptoms, but fever and loss of appetite may occur. Less commonly, glomerulonephritis can develop in chronic cases secondary to immune complex deposition. The great variability of symptoms in individual cases of FCV is related to the relative virulence of different strains of the virus.VS-FCV can cause a rapid epidemic with a mortality rate of up to 67 percent.

Initial symptoms include discharge from the eyes and nose, ulceration in the mouth, anorexia, and lethargy, and occur in the first one to five days. Later symptoms include fever, edema of the limbs and face, jaundice, and multiple organ dysfunction syndrome. 

There is no specific treatment for FCV. Antibiotics are used for secondary bacterial infections and immune modulators, such as Lymphocyte T-Cell Immune Modulator has been used for immune support. Nursing care and rehydration are used for dehydrated and anorexic cats. Corticosteroids or azathioprine may be used for polyarthritis. Stomatitis is very difficult to treat. Antibiotics, corticosteroids, and tooth extractions all have been used with varying success. Cats on corticosteroids must be monitored carefully for worsening of any upper respiratory infection. 

Feline Rhinotracheitis (FVR) or Cat Flu. 

Feline Rhinotracheitis (FVR) is an upper respiratory infection of cats caused by feline herpesvirus 1, of the family Herpesviridae. It is also known as feline influenza and feline coryza. 

Viral respiratory diseases in cats can be serious, especially in catteries and kennels. Causing one-half of the respiratory diseases in cats, FVR is the most important of these diseases and is found worldwide. The other important cause of feline respiratory disease is feline calicivirus. FVR is very contagious and can cause severe disease, including death from pneumonia in young kittens. All members of the Felidae family are susceptible to FVR; in fact, FHV-1 has caused a fatal encephalitis in lions in Germany. FVR is transmitted through the air and direct contact. It replicates in the nasal and nasopharyngeal tissues and the tonsils. Viremia (the presence of the virus in the blood) is rare. The virus is shed in saliva and eye and nasal secretions, and can also be spread by fomites. 

FVR has a two to five day incubation period. The virus is shed for one to three weeks postinfection. Latently infected cats (carriers) will shed FHV-1 intermittently for life, with the virus persisting within the trigeminal ganglion. Stress and use of corticosteroids precipitate shedding. 

Initial signs of FVR include coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, and sometimes fever (up to 106) and loss of appetite. These usually resolve within four to seven days, but secondary bacterial infections can cause the persistence of clinical signs for weeks. Frontal sinusitis and empyema can also result. FHV-1 also has a predilection for corneal epithelium, resulting in corneal ulcers, often pinpoint or dendritic in shape. Other ocular signs of FHV-1 infection include conjunctivitis, keratitis, keratoconjunctivitis sicca (decreased tear production), and corneal sequestra. Infection of the nasolacrimal duct can result in chronic epiphora (excess tearing). Ulcerative skin disease can also result from FHV-1 infection. FHV-1 can also cause abortion in pregnant queens, usually at the sixth week of gestation, although this may be due to systemic effects of the infection rather than the virus directly. In chronic nasal and sinus disease of cats, FHV-1 may play more of an initiating role than an ongoing cause. Infection at an early age may permanently damage nasal and sinus tissue, causing a disruption of ciliary clearance of mucus and bacteria, and predispose these cats to chronic bacterial infections. 

Diagnosis of FVR is usually by clinical signs, especially corneal ulceration. Definitive diagnosis can be done by direct immunofluorescence or virus isolation. However, many healthy cats are subclinical carriers of feline herpes virus, so a positive test for FHV-1 does not necessarily indicate that signs of an upper respiratory tract infection are due to FVR. Early in the course of the disease, histological analysis of cells from the tonsils, nasal tissue, or nictitating membrane (third eyelid) may show inclusion bodies (a collection of viral particles) within the nucleus of infected cells. 

Antibiotics are commonly used to prevent secondary bacterial infection. There are no specific antiviral drugs in common use at this time for FVR, although one study has shown that ganciclovir, PMEDAP, and cidofovir hold promise for treatment. More recent research has indicated that systemic famciclovir is effective at treating this infection in cats without the side effects reported with other anti-viral agents. More severe cases may require supportive care such as intravenous fluid therapy, oxygen therapy, or even a feeding tube. Conjunctivitis and corneal ulcers are treated with topical antibiotics for secondary bacterial infection. L-lysine has been recommended anecdotally to suppress viral replication. A more recent study supports the use of L-lysine for treatment of ocular signs of FHV-1 infection. The only way a cat can be immune to these conditions is if it is immunised or has contracted and survived the disease. Essentially, the cat is innoculated with an inert form of these diseases, this trains the immune system to recognise the infection and resist it before it gains a foothold. 

Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)

This disease was discovered in 1964 and belongs to a group of viruses called oncornaviruses, which can cause cancerous tumours. Affected animals can develop a lymphoma (solid tumour of white blood cells), leukaemia (cancer of the bone marrow), and some other tumours. Other major effects of this disease are severe immunoseppression & develop of anaemia. More cats die of these effects than of tumours.

It has been estimated that 80-90% of cats die within 3-4 years of when they were diagnosed.

In a persistently affected cat, large quantities of virus is shed in saliva, but may also be present in faeces, urine and milk. The virus is fragile and cannot survive for long outside of the cat. 

It is thought that it is commonly spread through mutual grooming, as well as shared food & water bowls and litter trays.It can also be transmitted by biting and will spread to unborn kittens if a pregnant queen is bitten.

In general, less than 1-2% of healthy pet cats are affected with this disease, but is more common in sick cats, outdoor cats, and is slightly more common in male cats.

Cats are mostly infected orally, by ingestion of the virus. It then replicates locally in tissues and rapidly spreads to local lymphoid tissue (part of the immune system). It will spread through the body in lymphocytes and monocytes (white blood cells involved in immune responses) and within a few weeks will spread to the bone marrow. if the virus establishes a productive infection in cells of the bone marrow, most cats will remain persistently infected with the virus.

An immune response will develop against the virus, but its not always effective. Several outcomes are possible after infection:

* An effective immune response may completely eliminate virus soon after the cat is exposed. These cats have recovered from infection and are immune, but this may be relatively uncommon.

*Cats may mount a good immune response and contain infection effectively. These cats have so-called 'regressive infections' - the virus may still be present in some cells, but an effective immune response stops widespread replication of the virus. These cats rarely develop any FeLV-related disease and rarely shed the virus.

*Cats may be unable to control replication of the virus within the bone marrow. Cells in the bone marrow used to form new blood cells may be infected and the virus will be present in these cells, in circulating blood cells and other sites such bas the bladder, intestinal tract, salivary glands etc. These cats are classified as having persistent infections or 'persistent virameia' (the virus is constantly present in the blood), or as having 'progressive infections'. These cats are highly likely to develop FeLV-related disease.

*On rare occasions, cats may develop atypical or localised infections, where a partially effective immune response largely prevents productive infection with the virus, but active replication may take place within certain tissues (such as bladder or mammary glands).

The most common effects of progressive FeLV infections (persistent viraemia) are:

*Immunosuppression - Suppression of normal immune responses and development of secondary diseases and infections accounts for around 50% of all FeLV-related disease.

*Anaemia - FeLV-related anaemia can develop in a number of ways, including viral suppression of the red blood cell precursors in the bone marrow. Anaemia accounts for around 25% of all FeLV-related disease. 

*Neoplasia - FeLV infection can adage the DNA of infected cells and can lead to development of tumours. This accounts for around 15% of FeLV-related disease. Although neoplasia is only a part of the disease spectrum caused by FeLV, an FeLV-infected cat has approx a 50 times higher risk of developing lymphoma than a non-infected cat.

*Other diseases - a variety of other diseases including skin disease and reproductive failure develop in some infected cats.

The type of disease that develops in an individual cat infected with FeLV will depend in part on the strain of virus that infected the cat. At least 4 different strains are recognised.

Clinical signs are extremely diverse but include fever, lethargy, poor appetite, weight loss, and persistent or recurrent respiratory, skin & intestinal problems.

Good diagnostic tests are readily available for FeLV, simple blood tests carried out by a vet can detect a protein usually present in the blood of cats persistently infected with the virus.

Re-testing is sometimes required after 12-16 weeks to confirm the status of a cat - if the cat has only recently been exposed it may test negative for the virus. Conversely, if a cat has only recently been infected it can occasionally test positive, and may then be able to eliminate infection.

Any cat that tests positive for FeLV should be isolated from other cats to prevent transmission.

There is no cure for FeLV infection, and management is largely aimed at symptomatic and supportive therapy. This includes:

*Prompt diagnosis and treatment of secondary infections - more prolonged therapy may be needed as the immunosuppression may mean response to therapy is slower

*Maintaining good quality nutritional support and avoidance of raw foods, that may carry a health risk

*Maintaining a good preventive healthcare programme with routine veterinary visits at least twice a year and regular worming, flea treatments and vaccination

*Keeping infected cats indoors to prevent spread of infection to other cats and to reduce the exposure to other infections agents

*In some cases, supportive therapy may include use of blood transfusions and drugs to manage anaemia

*Chemotherapy - may be used to manage FeLV-associated lymphomas. Although the prognosis for cases associated with FeLV infection is always much more guarded, some may still respond to therapy

Although no treatments can cure FeLV infection, some drugs may help to reduce viral replication and improve the condition of infected cats:

*Interferon - recombinant feline interferon omega is available in some countries - studies have suggested it may have some clinical benefit in treating FeLV-infected cats, but the effect (if at all) is likely to be small

*AZT (azidothymidine) - is one of the anti-viral drugs used to treat HIV-infection in humans and may be helpful in some cases of FIV infection. Although it also helps to reduce FeLV replication, there is little evidence that it has any useful clinical effect in cats

*Raltegravir - is a drug used to treat HIV infections in humans and recent experience in cats with FeLV suggests this might be of some help in FeLV-infected cats. Although this drug appears well tolerated and to reduce FeLV replication, its clinical efficacy still needs to be determined.

Efforts should be made to prevent cats being exposed to FeLV. These include:

*Where possible, the FeLV and FIV status of any cat should be known.

*Any FeLV (or FIV) positive cat should be kept apart from other cats and kept indoors to prevent spread of infection to other cats

*FeLV vaccination has been proven to be successful. Several vaccines are available and these generally appear to provide a valuable level of protection against infection. Kittens tend to be more susceptible to FeLV infection, and as the environment a kitten will end up in is usually uncertain, there is good rationale in routinely vaccinating all kittens against FeLV (ideally with a booster at a year of age). Subsequent vaccinations should be based on risk of exposure (e.g., a single housed indoor cat is at no appreciable risk of exposure to FeLV so vaccination may not be warranted, whereas it may be important in an indoor-outdoor cat.

For a persistently infected cat, the prognosis is very guarded. In one study FeLV infected cats survived on average around 2.5 years after their infection was diagnosed, compared with around 6.5 years for similarly aged uninfected cats.

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There has been a lot of controversy surrounding vaccinations, their effectiveness and how necessary they are. I personally recommend that every kitten should be vaccinated, then have their 1st year booster injection. If they are indoor only, then i don't feel it's necessary to keep vaccinating every year, but this is personal choice. 

Some vets will agree with me and say that lifetime immunity is gained from the first course and 1st years' booster, others will insist on annual injections. 

Also be aware that vaccinations should only be carried out on a healthy and 'well' cat or kitten.