Know your Queen’s Diseases and Vaccines


Dr Vinod Kumar Singh
Vaccination helps to shield against pathogens and has greatly reduced the occurrence of life threatening infectious diseases. Vaccines are usually developed for diseases that are debilitating or life threatening and can easily spread. Here are a few common diseases of cats and how they can be prevented.
Cat flu, leukemia or panleukopenia are just a few of the words you may come across your veterinarian discussing the infections your cat can acquire. Here’s brief information about the common diseases of cat and the vaccinations available to help your cat live a long and healthier life.
Feline Panleucopenia or Feline Infectious Enteritis or Feline Distemper
Feline panleucopenia virus or Feline parvovirus is a frequent cause of severe haemorrhagic gastroenteritis among cats. Onset of the disease is very rapid with high rate of mortality.
Causes: Usually cats get infected through direct contact with the infected faeces and indirectly by contaminated objects and contact by hands. Even the cats being kept indoor are at risk of getting infection as the virus can also be spread by pet parent’s shoes from the infected ground outside.
Symptoms: Initial signs of the disease include vomiting, diarrhoea and high fever which will progress to a low temperature, watery diarrhoea with or without blood, dehydration or sudden death. Those who survive the disease and the kittens born to queens infected with Feline parvovirus during gestation often suffer permanent brain damage and many other lifelong problems.
Important tip: Vaccination is critical as most of the cats are exposed to this virus at some or the other time of their life.
Feline Respiratory Disease: Cat Flu
Feline herpes virus (FHV-1) and Feline calicivirus (FCV) are the main causes of upper respiratory tract infections in cats called cat flu.
Symptoms: Clinical signs vary from mild to extremely severe, and occasionally other complications may develop including viral pneumonia.
Important tip: Although vaccination does not always prevent infection with these viruses it greatly reduces the severity of disease if the cat gets infected.
Feline herpes virus
After infection, the virus became latent and causes disease and virus shedding at the times of stress.
Symptoms: Infected cats suffer from repeated infections of the nose and sinuses.
Important tip: Even after the initial signs subside, most of the cats will remain permanently infected and some may develop ulcers on the surface of the eyes which will progress to long-standing painful eye conditions.
Feline calicivirus
Feline calicivirus account for nearly half the upper respiratory infections in cats. FCV mutates frequently, giving rise to different strains with different ability to cause disease.
Symptoms: Signs in adult cats include sneezing, high fever, in-appetence, runny nose and eyes while in kitten stage, lameness and a high temperature is common. Sometimes, both in adults and kittens the only sign is the presence of painful ulcers on the hard palate, tongue or the nose. In some cases, FCV can cause severe outbreaks of disease with high mortality.
Rabies is quite common in wild animals, including foxes, raccoons, skunks, coyotes, and bats, which can transmit the disease on to domestic animals. Although the disease is more common among canines cats can also be infected and is a potential source of infection to humans.
Important tip: Vaccination is very effective in preventing disease and vaccination of all cats is recommended in countries wherever rabies is reported. Furious form is more frequently present in cats with increased aggression and death within few days.
Feline leukaemia virus (FeLV)
FeLV attacks the immune system making cats more susceptible to infection and illness as well as prone to developing anaemia and certain cancers.
Causes: Cats get infection by mutual grooming, sharing food and water bowls, mating or bites from infected cats. Kittens may also get infections from the mother before birth.
Symptoms: Signs of persistent infection include recurring infections of respiratory tract, sore gums and/or digestive problems. Infected cats can also suffer from a fluctuating fever and enlarged lymph nodes. Most persistently infected cats will die within three and a half years as a result of infection.
Important tip: Blood tests can be performed to identify the infected cats for isolating them from healthy animals to prevent spread of the virus.
Feline Immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
Feline immunodeficiency virus is quite common among cats and is potentially fatal. Although, FIV is related to Human Immunodeficiency Virus but no case of human infected with FIV has been reported ever.
Causes: Cats acquire FIV infection by bite from infected cats and can also be transmitted from infected mother to young ones via placenta or feeding milk.
Symptoms: The virus interferes with the defense system and the initial symptoms like fever, sores and diarrohea will progress to severe chronic infections when the immune system is overcome.
Important tip: There is no treatment or cure specific for the virus. There are several different strains of the virus present and it is not clear that the available vaccine protects against all these strains, but there are reports of providing significant degree of protection for cats at high risk of infection.
Chlamydophila felis
Causes: Cats become infected with Chlamydophila felis by direct contact with infected cats.
Symptoms: Chlamydophila felis bacteria mainly cause painful conjunctivitis with discharge and redness of the eyes in young kittens and upper respiratory tract disease in adult cats. Clinical signs usually appear within a few days after infection and begin as watery discharge from eyes.
Important tip: Treatment can be given successfully with suitable antibiotics but vaccination may be helpful as part of a control measure in an infected household.
Bordetella bronchiseptica
Bordetella bronchiseptica is one among the causes of the upper respiratory infection complex in cats. It is not as common as FHV-1 or FCV, but sometimes can be a problem especially in stressed cats. It also cause kennel cough in dogs. Progression of the bacterium to the chest results in serious infection with relatively high death rate in kittens where pneumonia may develop and sudden death can occur.
Important tip: Infected cats can be treated effectively with appropriate antibiotics, and vaccination is not essential in most cats.
Vaccination calendar for kittens and cats
Every cat is different and the timing and frequency of vaccinations depend on various factors, viz. cat’s age, area where you live, whether your cat goes in the open or is ever boarded and many other factors. The most common vaccination in the cat is known as F3 and includes Feline panleukopenia, Feline herpes virus and Feline calicivirus are considered under ‘core vaccines’ category. There are also ‘non-core’ vaccinations which include Feline leukaemia virus,Felineimmunodeficiency virus, Chlamydophila felis, Bordetella bronchiseptica which may be given, depending on the circumstances and location. Other vaccines may include rabies and FIP.
Age Vaccines
        6-8 weeks

  • Core vaccines: Feline Distemper, Feline Rhinotracheitis, Feline calicivirus
  • Vaccination Chlamydia (at veterinarian’s discretion)
  • Fecal analysis for parasites
  • Topical deworming and flea control product that should be applied once every 2 weeks until 12 weeks of age

10-12 weeks

  • Second vaccination with “core vaccines”
  • Blood test for Feline Leukemia and Feline immunodeficiency virus
  • Vaccination: Feline Leukemia virus, Feline immunodeficiency virus (if your cat is going outdoors)
  • Strategic deworming once every month until 6 months of age

14-16 weeks

  • Full physical examination and consultation
  • Blood test for Feline Leukemia and Feline immunodeficiency virus if not  done already
  • Third vaccination with “core vaccines”
  • Second Vaccination: Feline Leukemia and Feline immunodeficiency virus
  • Vaccination: Rabies
  • Repeat fecal analysis for parasites

6 Months

  • Female cats: Ovariohysterectomy
  • Male cats: Castration

1 Year

  • Full physical examination and consultation
  • Vaccinate with “core vaccines”
  • Second Vaccination: Rabies (revaccination after every 3 year)
  • Vaccination: Chlamydia, Feline Leukemia and FIV
  • Fecal analysis for parasites
  • Strategic deworming/flea control