Preventing cat diseases through inoculations harnesses the body's natural ability to fight infection

Infectious agents are viruses or bacteria normally. In vaccines, the infectious agent is modified. It is no longer infectious. This is achieved by killing it or modifying it so that it is alive but no longer infectious. Or in the creation of a vaccine, the scientists take vital components of the infectious agent or enslave bacteria through genetic engineering to produce replicas of those parts in the words of Dr. Bruce Fogle (Complete Cat Care). 

URI in a cat. Typically caused by the herpes virus. Photo: urbananimalveterinary.com
URI in a cat. Typically caused by the herpes virus. Photo: urbananimalveterinary.com.

The resulting vaccine is similar to the unmodified form of the infectious agent. This provokes the cat's immune system to create antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that attach to and help destroy the specific infectious agent against which the vaccine works.

Kittens acquire their mother's antibodies in her milk and therefore take some protection from their mother when they suckle from after birth. These are temporary antibodies which last around 6 to 10 weeks.

There are a variety of vaccines available for cats.

Feline infectious enteritis

There is a vaccine against feline infectious enteritis. This is also known as feline panleukopenia or feline parvovirus. This is a virus that can survive for a long time in the environment. The symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting and sometimes death. It is especially dangerous to kittens. The vaccine against this disease is very effective and it provides protection for a long time.

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Cat flu

Cat flu is usually caused feline herpesvirus or feline calicivirus. The disease is spread by close contact with cats that carry the disease. Most upper respiratory infections (URIs) in domestic cats are caused by these cat flu viruses.

The symptoms are mild to severe including pharyngitis (a sore throat) eye inflammation and discharge, nasal discharge, sneezing, coughing, and mouth ulcers. A complication is pneumonia which can be life-threatening. 

RELATED: Feline Herpes Virus

Some cats may suffer permanent damage to the nose or eyes. There might be a secondary bacterial infection. This can destroy eyes. You will see many blind, ex-feral cats whose eyes had been destroyed by bacterial infections.

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Some cats recover quite quickly in a few days while others might take weeks. The vaccination against these viruses protects the cat from serious illness. It does not protect against infection. Cats that are vaccinated can carry the disease and pass it on to others. These carriers are asymptomatic.

Feline leukaemia virus

Feline leukaemia virus is described as 'fragile' and it is transmitted through saliva during prolonged close contact between cats. When a cat becomes infected it lasts for their lifetime and most cats die within three years of being diagnosed. This is usually because of related illnesses such as lymphoma or anaemia.

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Around 1% of all healthy cats test positive. Up to 18% of all ill cats seen by veterinarians have this disease. In the selective breeding of purebred cats, blood testing has been effective in reducing the incidence of this disease. The vaccine against it provides protection to at-risk cats but not necessarily all cats.

Rabies

Rabies is well known. It's a virus which attacks the central nervous system. It is fatal. It can infect almost all warm-blooded animals. It is most common in members of the canine family, monkeys, bats and cats. The virus is excreted into the saliva of the animal and it can be transmitted to people normally through bites. The disease is zoonotic.

RELATED: How often do cats transmit rabies to people in the USA?

In some places vaccination against this disease is mandated and for travelling cats. The vaccine provides effective and efficient protection which lasts for three or more years.

P.S. The principles of vaccination is better known to all of us because of Covid. It is shocking however that there are still millions of people who fear the Covid vaccines despite worldwide approval and the biggest testing program ever.

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