Sorry this post is going to be very long, but here are some things some experts say about this.
Feline Chronic Renal Failure (CRF)
It has long been known that chronic renal failure (CRF) in cats has an inflammatory component. Chronic low-grade inflammation causes gradual destruction and scarring of the kidney, eventually resulting in loss of function and failure of the organ. However, what was not known was what caused the inflammation in the first place. Recent research from Colorado State University suggests a link between vaccination for feline distemper (panleukopenia) and the development of chronic renal failure. The distemper virus is grown in a feline kidney cell culture to make the vaccine.
There has been much controversy about vaccinations when it comes to our FD cats – your vet will want to give them, typically as part of an annual checkup. This sticky is intended to provide you with expert opinions so you can make the best decision possible when it comes to your cat.
Most experts in the field of vaccinations agree on one point, vaccinations should be avoided in unhealthy companion animals which include those with FD. While laws vary by country, state, province and municipalities, it is important to know what the laws are, and what options you have available to you when dealing with an FD cat.
Most areas do allow for exemptions from vaccines when the form is completed by a vet. You can ask your vet to fill out a CERTIFICATE OF EXEMPTION FROM RABIES VACCINATION form,
similar to the one located here.
The following are excerpts and links from various sources, on the topic of vaccinations and why after the first courses of kitten vaccines, vaccinations should be avoided, especially for FD cats because of their compromised immune systems.
From Dr. Hodgkins’ Pearls Gleaned:
DO NOT vaccinate your indoor kitties or those that go outside under supervision for FELV. FELV is transmitted from an infected cat to an uninfected cat after very close and long-term contact. It is not airborne or transmitted via feces or urine. It is transmitted mostly through an exchange of a great deal of saliva. FELV vaccine, along with the 3 year rabies vaccine, is most implicated in vaccine associate fibrosarcoma.
FIP vaccine is a complete and utter waste of time and I must say that any vet that uses this routinely on their patients isn't even thinking. I mean it, if your vet asks to vaccinate your cat for FIP you must ask why. If he/she isn't able to give anything more than "that's what we do" you might want to change vets. I know many of you have vets you like and trust, and that is a good thing, I mean it. But even the American Association of Vet Practitioners and other "authorities" do not recommend this vaccine. It has a very poor testing history for even preventing FIP and is nothing more than another shot to give and charge for in vet practice. It has value in my eyes only for identifying doctors who don't care enough about patients to even examine vaccine protocols to make sure they are sane.
Rabies is tougher. I happily live in a county where rabies vaccination is not required, and I do not vaccinate my patients for rabies at al l(I only use the 1 year when I have to give it, as when a cat is going to travel internationally). I board at my clinic so my clients don't have a problem boarding their cats with no rabies vaccinations. I know Texas and a few other places are thornier about this, but never let your cat have the 3 year vaccine. This does not mean your cat needs to be given the 1 year every year, unless some authority is forcing the issue. The duration of immunity for virtually all vaccines that work at all is much longer than a year, so if your cat gets out and tangles with a skunk, or bites someone, and has had the 1 year within the last few years, it is not going to get, or give, rabies. The 1 year vaccine has that rating because the manufacturer only tested it for 9- 12 months and then stopped testing. Why would they test longer? It costs money to conduct long-term tests and long term tests will just reduce sales. It is lose-lose for them, right?
Anyway, there are reasons to avoid vaccination as much as possible beyond sarcomas. Other, probably more common, health problems come from over-vaccination. The cat's immune system is very reactive, and annual vaccines can trigger autoimmune diseases of many kinds. I would not give FRVCP more than every 3 years and do not give even this in cats that are 6 years or more in age. We do not see the diseases this vaccine protects against in adult indoor cats, but we sure do see the side effects.
As far as the annual vet visit, I think it makes sense to see the vet once a year (there is currently a campaign to recommend wellness exams every 6 months with which I do not agree) especially to examine the oral cavity and, in older cats, to make sure there is nothing else afoot that is not causing signs that the owner notices. During such exams, I weigh the patient (this is the cheapest, least invasive, and most important "diagnostic test" in the world and will show early onset of many diseases). Few owners have scales sensitive enough to disclose low-grade gradual weight loss and I have diagnosed so many early hyperthyroidism cases this way, I can't even tell you. I pick up most of my hyperthyroid patients while their thyroid hormone levels are still in the so-called "normal" range, while the prognosis for cure is still excellent.
Each cat has a different need for routine vaccines and exams. If your vet isn't applying a risk-benefit kind of evaluation to YOUR cat, but instead is just doing the same thing, every year, for every cat, you MUST ask why. This is NOT appropriate medicine today, and every owner and every cat deserves better.
The recommendation that cats receive vaccinations at frequent intervals throughout life totally ignores basics of immunity, not surprising when you consider that government, which oversees human health issues like vaccine reactions and the risk/benefit analysis for vaccination in humans, doesn't give a wit for pet health per se. Pets, like people, derive quite solid immunity from the vaccinations that actually work, like the FRVCP, from the first few vaccine administrations, and revaccinating at frequent intervals in later life may actually reduce the effective immunity in the animal with this pre-existing protection. Now, this is a well understood phenomenon in biological systems and is the basis for not vaccinating humans on an annual basis for anything (when was the last time you received any kind of vaccine?...I haven't gotten anything for decades and even my 19 year old son hasn't received any kind of vaccine for years).
The reason we vaccinate pets every year for EVERYTHING has nothing to do with health imperatives, it has to do with the fact that vaccine manufacturers want it, vets have stopped thinking about the science of these protocols and just do it, and the government couldn't care less if pets die as a result. Federal and state governments figure they have bigger fish to fry than whether a few thousand cats die of vaccine reactions. And none of the involved industries are self-regulating. Sad but true.
The reason those of us who have actually thought about rational rabies vaccination recommend only the 1 year vaccine is because it does not have adjuvants. Adjuvants cause a hyper reaction to the vaccine, thus allowing the longer duration of immunity claims. But, adjuvants are strongly implicated in vaccine reactions, and not worth the risk. As I said in the earlier post, however, just because a vaccine only has a 1 year manufacturer's test behind it does NOT mean it lasts only that long.
Dr. Elizabeth, DOCTOR H - DVM Posted - 05/11/2007
Annual FeLV for cats that do not spend time in very close contact with FeLV infected cats is silly, and dangerous. As a matter of fact, I would not even vaccinate a cat that was living with a FeLV infected cat annually. When was the last time YOU got a vaccine??? We humans roam freely, shake hands with people, get coughed on, breathe air almost directly from others lungs (indoors and close spaces like airplanes, elevators etc) and WE don't go running to our MDs for annual vaccines for anything. Wonder why? I will tell you. Because repeated annual vaccinations are DANGEROUS, and the health risks from all of this exposure to other humans with unknown health status is LESS than that danger for normal humans. Why do we vaccinate cats and dogs every year? Not because they are more immune incompetent than humans, but because they are dogs and cats, and considered by society very dispensable compared to humans. It would be malpractice to over vaccinate humans as we do pets, but pets are property...if you give one a fatal disease by vaccinating annually when it isn't remotely necessary, what's going to happen to you? Nothing, that's what.
So, the decision about giving non-legally-required vaccines to each pet is the responsibility of the owner, no one else, because no one else is stepping up to that responsibility, because no one else cares about your pet the way you do. Our society in general HATES to lose even one human being (and rightly so). Our society in general really doesn't care about losing cats and dogs (only individual owners do). If it did, we'd be doing lots of things very differently....
Dr. Elizabeth, DOCTOR H - DVM Posted - 05/11/2007
ALL vaccines last many years. FeLV is implicated in many serious diseases which vets don't even recognize as vaccine related (most immune mediated diseases can be and likely ARE related to annual vaccination). I don't have to vaccinate for rabies in my area, and I don't vaccinate indoor cats in OC for this. I don't vaccinate any cats for FeLV unless the owner insists, and even then, I give them a LONG talk and document that I did so in their record. I have seen LOTS of vaccine reactions, but so far (sound of wood knocking) I am unaware of any in my own patients....I also have not seen any vaccinate-able disease in my own patients. FeLV is actually a very rare disease today.
Dr. Elizabeth, DOCTOR H - DVM Posted - 05/11/2007
It IS possible to have a rabies titer done on any cat to tell if they need revaccination. Although it costs about $125 at my clinic to have this done (I have to send it to Kansas State), and in the short term is a tad more expensive than just giving the shot, it is NOT more expensive than treating any of the vaccine reactions that can happen (not to mention having your pet die of one!). I think more owners should opt for having a titer rather than just automatically getting the vaccine regularly. If I was in an area where rabies was required and/or I had a lot of outdoor cats in my practice (in my area, outdoor cats don't get rabies, they get eaten by coyotes!), I'd be pushing rabies titers big time! I am quite certain that a nice titer would satisfy local authorities in lieu of a rabies vaccination certificate, but this just hasn't caught on so most of them don't have to confront the situation....
From Other Sources
Ronald D. Schultz, Ph.D
. "Annual revaccination provides no benefit and may increase the risk for adverse reactions. The percentage of vaccinated animals (those vaccinated only as puppies) protected from clinical disease after challenge with canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus and canine adenovirus in the study was greater than 95%." Current and Future Canine and Feline Vaccination Programs. Dr. Ronald Schultz is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the School of Veterinary Medicine, UW-Madison. Schultz, R.D. - Current and Future Canine and Feline Vaccination Programs. Vet Med 3: No. 3, 233-254 -1998
Dr. Charles E Loops DVM
- "The first thing that must change with routine vaccinations is the myth that vaccines are not harmful. Veterinarians and animal guardians have to come to realise that they are not protecting animals from disease by annual vaccinations, but in fact, are destroying the health and immune systems of these same animals they love and care for Homeopathic veterinarians and other holistic practitioners have maintained for some time that vaccinations do more harm than they provide benefits. Vaccinations represent a major assault on the body's immune system.... Vaccine induced chronic diseases range from life-threatening conditions such as auto-immune crises to conditions destroying the quality of life of an animal as in chronic skin allergies."
Dr. Dee Blanco, D.V.M
- "You take healthy animals and often very quickly after you vaccinate, you can see simple things like itching of the skin or excessive licking of the paws, sometimes even with no eruptions and licking of the air. We see a lot of epilepsy/seizure, often after a rabies vaccination. Or dogs or cats can become aggressive for several days. Frequently, you'll see urinary tract infections in cats, often within three months after their [annual] vaccination. If you step back, open your mind and heart, you'll start to see patterns of illness post-vaccination."
Links to further reading:
Treating Adverse Vaccine Reactions by Jean Dodds, DVM, world-renowned pet vaccination expert
Feline Vaccination Protocol – Minimal Vaccine Use for Kittens – 2010, Jean Dodds, DVM
Vaccination Guidelines for Cats
Feline Vaccines: Benefits and Risks
Vaccines and Sarcomas: A Concern for Cat Owners
WHAT IS A FIBROSARCOMA & WHY DO WE THINK VACCINATION MIGHT CAUSE IT?
- Sylvia’s Journey of New Hope, Education before Vaccination
Legislation Action Page