Vaccinations carry risks for cats
BY DR. TRACY ACOSTA
Knight Ridder Newspapers
(KRT) - Vaccinations for pets remain one of the
cornerstones of preventative veterinary medicine
today; however, around 1991 veterinarians started to
notice a higher than expected number of injection site
sarcomas (tumors) in vaccinations to cats.
A sarcoma is a malignant tumor that can develop and
spread quickly. Even after surgical removal,
recurrence is a common complication.
In response to this problem, veterinarians,
researchers and manufacturers have explored the
reasons why this happens in anywhere from 1 in 1,000
to 1 in 10,000 cats that receive an injection. It is
important to note that initially only vaccines were
implicated as causing the sarcomas. Now it has been
shown that any type of injection can result in an
injection site sarcoma in cats.
Research has demonstrated that these sarcomas are the
result of an exaggerated response by the cats' immune
systems. Besides the inflammatory response that can be
caused by an injection, the use of adjuvants was also
noted as a possible cause of the sarcomas. Adjuvants
are chemicals that enhance an animal's immune system
response. So, recently the concern has been focused on
the two major potential risks involved with vaccines:
injection site inflammation and the use of adjuvants.
The newest feline leukemia vaccine promises to offer
much hope. Merial's (maker of Frontline and
Heartguard) new non-adjuvanted PUREVAX® Leukemia
Vaccine that is administered with the VET JET(TM)
transdermal system definitely addresses the two major
risk factors of feline vaccinations.
First, it is administered without the use of needles.
It delivers a low-volume dose of vaccine through a
tiny orifice into the cat's skin, subcutaneous tissue
and muscle in less than a second.
Through this method, the vaccine is deposited into the
immune-cell-rich layers of skin and underlying tissue.
Secondly the vaccine does not contain adjuvants.
It is important for all cat owners to remember that
feline leukemia is a highly contagious viral disease
that can drastically impair the immune system. This
deadly virus spreads easily through social grooming,
shared food and water bowls, bite wounds and common
litter boxes (or common potty locations outdoors).
Kittens also can contract feline leukemia from their
mothers while still in the womb as well as through
nursing and by grooming.
Feline leukemia contributes to other infectious
diseases by suppressing the immune system. It can also
cause a deadly anemia by suppressing bone marrow
For cats that contract feline leukemia, 50 percent die
within six months and the others usually within three
years. With these types of facts it is critical to
discuss with your veterinarian your cat's risk factors
and decide if the feline leukemia vaccine should be a
part of your cat's vaccination protocol.
Another critical point for all cat owners to realize
is the importance of knowing your cat's feline
leukemia and FIV (feline immunodeficiency virus)
status. All cats/kittens should be tested through a
simple clinic blood test. Once your cat's status is
known, your veterinarian can recommend when and how
often your cat will need to be retested.
(Dr. Tracy Acosta is a veterinarian at Biloxi (Miss.)
Animal Hospital. Do you have a question about your
pet? Write to the pet doctors at the South Mississippi
Veterinary Medical Association, 20005 Pineville Road,
Long Beach, MS 39560.)
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