The Three Vaccines Your Cat Does Not Need

Updated: February 15, 2017
Published: September 09, 2013
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Last reviewed on Novemer 11, 2015

This is the last installment in our feline vaccination series. I’m going to tie up a few loose ends.

Vaccines are available for the two feline pathogens Bordetella (yes, the same Bordetella that can infect dogs) and Chlamydophila (previously called Chlamydia), but I’ve never used them. I would classify these products as situational, but the only time that I could see them being useful is in the face of a disease outbreak. For instance, a shelter or cattery might see an unusual uptick in disease in their population, run the necessary tests to confirm that Bordetella or Chlamydophila was to blame, and decide to isolate sick animals and vaccinate the apparently healthy ones.

For household pets, the vaccines don’t make a lot of sense, but for different reasons.

Bordetella is fairly ubiquitous in the cat world, but it rarely causes a problem in healthy individuals. When it is identified in a sick individual or as part of a respiratory disease outbreak, it is almost always a secondary invader. We need to be focusing on the primary problem, not Bordetella. This vaccine has been called a vaccine in search of a disease.

Chlamydophila is included in with some combo herpes, calici, panleukopenia vaccines for cats. To my knowledge, a stand-alone vaccine is not available. This is kind of an odd situation since to be effective the Chlamydophila fraction of the vaccine would have to be given yearly, but most veterinarians now recommend that herpes, calici, and panleukopenia vaccines be given no more frequently than every three years. Thankfully, disease associated with Chlamydophila simply isn’t that big of a problem in client-owned animals. It causes eye infections and sometimes respiratory disease, but cats typically recover quickly once an appropriate antibiotic is started.

And on to the final vaccine that we’ll talk about … Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). This one is pretty simple. Don’t give it. FIP vaccines simply can’t work except under the rarest of circumstances, and one study even showed that vaccinated cats were more likely, not less likely, to die from FIP.

FIP is a very strange disease. It is caused by a coronavirus. This particular virus infects many kittens, usually causing some mild diarrhea, and then most often is never heard from again. In some cats, however, the virus mutates into a form that causes the disease FIP unless the cat’s immune system is capable of fighting it off. The only way the vaccine could have a benefit would be if it were to be given before a kitten comes in contact with the original coronavirus, but since these infections usually occur so early in life, this would rarely occur in a real-world setting.

So that’s it. A Giardia vaccine used to be available but proved so worthless that it was pulled from the market. Did I forget anything else?

Dr. Jennifer Coates

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