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Feline Vaccinations

 Check out our very own Dr. Falls demonstrating what takes place and what doctors are looking for during your cats physical exam.  Call to make your appointment today! 

There is currently a lot of controversy surrounding vaccine safety and efficacy. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of inaccurate and unsubstantiated information about vaccines being spread by different people and shared on the internet and through social media. This overwhelming amount of information makes it hard for you as a pet owner to make an informed decision about vaccinating your pet. We know you want to do everything you can to ensure your pet stays healthy, and the doctors and staff at The Burnt Hills Veterinary Hospital are here to help. Our vaccine recommendations were created after reading a variety of scientific research, reviewing the recommendations of large veterinary health organizations, and considering our doctor’s combined 250 plus years of experience giving these vaccines and treating the infectious diseases they were created to prevent. We will continue to consider new information and research as it becomes available and may adjust our protocols and recommendations so we can continue to provide the safest and most effective vaccines to the pets we all love so much.  

Our Vaccination Policy: We do not administer vaccines except as a medical procedure that we feel is properly indicated based on the age, risk of exposure, health status, past vaccine history, and intended life style of your pet.  We recommend yearly physical examinations for every pet, and we can discuss the appropriateness of vaccination at those times. We welcome any and all questions regarding vaccine safety and efficacy at your appointment. 


Frequently Asked Questions:

1.)Will my pet have a reaction to the vaccine?

2.)Does my pet really need all the vaccines available?

3.)Why does my small cat or kitten get the same volume of vaccine as a larger cat or a dog?

4.)Does vaccination guarantee protection?

5.)Is it true that vaccines can cause cancer in cats?

Some cats may experience mild lethargy, fever, or soreness at the vaccine site for 24-48 hours following an injection. These side effects are not harmful to your pet and generally resolve quickly without any medical care. Serious or life-threatening vaccine reactions are very rare, and it’s important to remember that for most pets the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks. If your pet is one of the few which experiences more serious side effects when vaccinated, your doctor will discuss ways which these side effects may be minimized, or in rare cases, will consider not vaccinating your pet.

When reading about vaccines you will see the terms “core” and “non-core.” Core vaccines are those recommended for all cats of a certain age and generally includes rabies and FVRCP, which is also known as feline distemper. “Non-core” vaccines are those vaccines only recommended for certain pets based on factors such as the geographic area they live in and their lifestyle. The most common “non-core” vaccine is feline leukemia (FeLV). Depending on your cat’s lifestyle we may not recommend vaccinating against FeLV.

Unlike medications which are often dosed on weight, a vaccine dose is not based on the size of the patient because a cat’s immune system does not come in different “sizes.” The amount of vaccine given is based on the minimum immunizing or infectious dose. Reducing the vaccine dose given may cause the vaccine to be ineffective, thus putting your pet at risk. In addition, studies have not shown that reducing the volume of vaccine given will reduce the risk of an acute adverse reaction or enhance vaccine safety.

The short answer is no. No vaccine can be guaranteed to be 100% effective against preventing disease transmission even when given correctly. This is due to a variety of factors such as the health of your pet’s immune system and their genetics. That being said, when given appropriately vaccines are usually very effective and are one of the simplest things you can do to keep your pet safe.

Feline injection site sarcoma (FISS) is a connective tissue cancer that is thought to be a result of the inflammatory reaction that occurs when a vaccine is given. Tumor growth may occur many years after vaccination and treatment usually involves radical surgery. Since injection site sarcomas are very rare (likely less than 1 for every 10,000 vaccines given), especially as compared to vaccine preventable disease, the benefit of vaccination still far outweighs the risk  Despite their rarity, we take this potential effect seriously and do encourage you to schedule an exam if you ever find a growth on your cat.


For the Future: There are newer vaccines that have been granted 3-year duration by the FDA, but they contain 5 times the regular amount of viral particles, so we are currently waiting to see if they are as safe over a long period of time as the ones we currently use.  As information becomes available, as vaccine companies develop improvements in their products, and as we understand the immune system and vaccination reactions better, we may recommend less frequent vaccinations. For now, we choose the safest vaccines available, which routinely provide the highest level of protection, with the least likelihood for vaccine reaction, and we recommend yearly re-vaccination for most pets with the exception of rabies.  

What are these vaccines for:

Many of us know our pets need vaccines, but have you ever wondered about the disease you are vaccinating against? Below is a list of the vaccines we offer followed by information on the diseases they prevent.  

  • FVRCP: This is a combination vaccine which vaccinates against 3 separate disease.
  • Rabies is a virus which attacks the brain and central nervous system. It is always fatal in cats. This vaccine is required by law in New York state. Rabies represents a major zoonotic health risk and is transmitted to humans chiefly through the bite of an infected animal. It is estimated that worldwide nearly 60,000 human deaths caused by Rabies occur each year.
  • Feline Leukemia Vaccine (FeLV): FeLV is a virus that replicates in white blood cells and other lymphoid tissues. Most notably, it causes anemia, specific types of cancers, and immunosuppression. Due to their immunosuppressed state ,infected cats are at high risk for secondary infections. Cat’s become infected when they come in contact with body fluids from a cat which is shedding the virus or a contaminated environment. FeLV is considered a “non-core” vaccine and is generally only recommended for adult cats which are at risk for exposure, such as those that go outside or those that live in a home which foster or rescues other cats. The vaccine is recommended for all kittens because kittens are more susceptible to the virus and their lifestyle is generally undetermined.

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVR) This is a herpes virus infection which primarily affects the upper respiratory system and the eyes. It most commonly causes nasal discharge with sneezing, conjunctivitis and ocular discharge as well as keratitis (inflammation of the cornea). Fever, lethargy, and inappetence may also result. 

Calicivirus (C) This virus generally affects the upper respiratory system and causes symptoms very similar to herpes as well as ulceration of the mouth. A more serious strain of the virus can also cause inflammation of the liver, pancreas, intestines, and cells lining the blood vessels and can be deadly.

Panleukopenia (P) This virus, also known as feline parvo, attacks rapidly dividing cells. Most notably, the cells of the gastrointestinal track and bone marrow are affected. The most common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. This virus can be deadly and kittens are particularly susceptible.


 Vaccine schedules: Below is a generalized vaccine schedule provided to give you an idea of what you may expect for your cat. However, we tailor our vaccine recommendations and schedule to the individual patient and what is listed below may not be what is recommended for your specific pet.

8-9 weeks: FVRCP #1, FeLV #1

12 weeks: FVRCP #2, FeLV #2

16 weeks FVRCP #3, Rabies

1 year and older: FVRCP and FeLV (if indicated) yearly and rabies every 3 years

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