Tuesday, September 1, 2009 7:10 AM

Vaccinating against Upper Respiratory Disease in Cats

If your cat has been vaccinated at any point in time, chances are that he has received the Feline Calicivirus (FCV) and Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR) shots. These two, always given together (and often combined with other vaccines, as well) are two of the four "biggies", the other two being Feline Panleukopenia (or distemper, as it is inappropriately called) and Rabies.

Both of these infections present as a nasty cold, or influenza. runny nose, sneezing, coughing, eye irritation and discharge and anorexia (no interest in food). There may be fever present, and with FCV there may be joint inflammation and lameness, although this is temporary. These infections are self-limiting and cats generally recover within a week or two, though some cases take up to six weeks to fully resolve. Those cats that tend to develop complications such as pneumonia are usually the very young and very old, as well as those animals with compromised immune systems. Formerly infected cats can shed either or both viruses, since these diseases sometimes occur together, for several months after recovery. Neither are considered fatal diseases.

Despite the fact that these respiratory diseases do not cause high mortality, veterinarians have been routinely immunizing cats against them for decades. Vaccination does not prevent infection or shedding of the virus; some experts claim that it does at least prevent the most serious symptoms of the disease from evolving, although this theory is contentious. In older cats, the vaccine has been known to actually trigger disease; because of this, and the fact that older cats should be kept indoors anyway even if they were previously let outdoors occasionally, vaccination of older cats should not be done. Since these shots are often bundled together with panleukopenia and rabies, increasing the incidence of negative reactions. If you are concerned, immunizing kittens, who also suffer the ravages of this disease due to their immature immune systems, may be useful. If you keep them indoors, however, it is unnecessary (hint: Keep them indoors).

Tomorrow: Panleukopenia and vaccination.
Chat later!

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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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