What’s in my cat’s vaccine?

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When you take your cat in for its vaccines, it can seem like a laundry list of mysterious letters being injecting into your pet. Here is a breakdown to help you understand what your veterinarian is protecting your cat against:

FVRCP (Distemper):

The Feline Distemper vaccine actually protects your cat against three different viruses: Rhinotracheitis, Calici and Panleukopenia. These are highly contagious airborne viruses. Even indoor cats are at risk of contracting them, either from other pets who go outside, or from items you bring into the house.

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR) is a widespread upper respiratory virus that can cause fever, difficulty breathing, coughing and severe discharge from the eyes, nose and mouth. It is difficult to treat, and often requires heavy antibiotics to treat secondary infections and force-feeding (cats who can’t smell their food often won’t eat).

Calicivirus is another common upper respiratory virus that can cause pneumonia as well as ulcers on the mouth and tongue. It is difficult to treat, but with fluid therapy, prevention of secondary infection and by making sure the cat eats, chances of survival are good.

Panleukopenia is also known as distemper; it is a virus that is actually related to the parvovirus that is seen in dogs. It is resistant to disinfection and can last up to a year in its environment. It causes vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, anemia and often death. It requires very aggressive treatment in order for the cat to survive.

Rabies Vaccine:

In most areas, rabies vaccines are required by state law for all cats. Even if it is not required, it is recommended. The most common source of rabies for cats is infected bats that get inside the home. Rabies is a virus that affects nerve cells and is always fatal to animals and humans. If your pet is not vaccinated and is exposed to rabies, the protocol requires your entire family to receive rabies vaccines.

Feline Leukemia:

Outdoor cats, those living with infected cats, and cats prone to fights are at the greatest risk of contracting this virus. The leukemia virus can lead to blood disorders, compromised immune system and even cancer. It is possible to test for this disease and it is strongly recommended that you test a new cat before introducing it to your cats at home.

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