The American Association of Feline Practitioners released its latest vaccination guidelines in the September 2013 Journal of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery. Its prior report in 2006 recommended that only certain vaccines should be considered necessary for all cats and that a number of others should be given based on the cat’s lifestyle and general health.
In response to growing concerns about vaccine-associated sarcomas, it also suggested a protocol for the locations where vaccines should be given.
Now, the AAFP’s Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel has new, and even more conservative, guidelines for cat vaccination.
The first surprise for me was that rabies has been removed from the core vaccine list, leaving only immunizations against three common feline respiratory diseases. However, the AAFP also states that rabies vaccination is essential in areas where the disease occurs frequently and must be given in places where it is required by law. I understand from conversations with veterinarians that a waiver for the rabies vaccination can be given under very specific circumstances.
The report also details specific vaccination guidelines for household pet cats, breeding cats in catteries, shelter cats, and cats in trap-neuter-return programs. Each of these is based on a cat’s risk of exposure to infectious diseases.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the panel has recommended a vaccine protocol for community cats in TNR programs. I didn't read the full 2006 report, so they may have done so at that time as well. Recognizing that community cats generally don’t have immunity to respiratory viruses, the panel recommends vaccinating against these illnesses and rabies (for public health reasons) at the time of surgery.
The panel has recommended some changes in the location of vaccine administration as well. In order to facilitate tumor removal if a vaccine produces a sarcoma, it suggests vaccinating even lower on the leg than in the 2006 guidelines. Respiratory virus vaccines should be given below the right elbow, rabies vaccines should be given below the knee of the right rear leg, and the FeLV vaccination should be given below the knee of the left rear leg. On the other hand, the panel says that vaccinations should absolutely not be given between the shoulders or on the upper legs and hips.
It is always important to recognize the appropriate method for placing the injections for cat' home care. Responsible cat owners should get updated instructions not only from their veterinarian but the local American Red Cross pet first aid classes and DVD's available for purchase.