Ashlea Veterinary Centre Ltd, Unit 2b Port Road Business Park, Carlisle CA2 7AF  Reg no: 4759132

We would recommend that all cats, both kittens and adults, be vaccinated against a number of major diseases, for without such protection your cat will run the risk of severe and potentially fatal illness.

Provided that the mother has been properly vaccinated a kitten will receive temporary immunity through the first milk but as this passive protection wanes the kitten becomes at risk of infection.  Vaccinations are started at 9 weeks of age, with a second injection given 3 weeks later.  The main diseases that we vaccinate against are Feline Enteritis (Panleucopaenia), Feline Infectious Respiratory Disease (Cat ‘flu), and Feline Leukaemia.

Feline Enteritis: fortunately this is a rare condition nowadays as a result of efficient vaccination.  Potentially it is highly contagious and will cause death in young kittens.  The virus causes severe watery or bloody diarrhoea and the affected cat can die from dehydration.  This is the cat equivalent of Parvo virus in dogs.  Should a cat become infected during pregnancy then her kittens can be born with brain damage.

Feline Infectious Respiratory Disease – ‘Cat flu’: symptoms of Cat flu can be caused by either of two viruses, Feline Herpes or Feline Calicivirus.  Cat flu is spread by direct contact with infected cats.  Both viruses will produce similar signs: fever, runny eyes and nose, sneezing, conjunctivitis and an inability to eat properly because of ulcers on the tongue.

Flu vaccination is not perfect because, as with human flu, mutation of the virus occurs year by year, but a vaccinated cat will suffer much milder signs and recover within a few days should it contact a virulent strain of ‘flu.  Cat flu can be fatal in kittens, in elderly cats, and in cats suffering from conditions that suppress their immune system.  Fortunately severe flu is uncommon, but we regularly see mild cases within the practice.  Severely affected cats may have such painful throats that they have to have special feeding tubes placed up their nose; it may take up to 10 days before these cats start eating again.

Annual boosters are essential for cat flu, because the protection induced by the vaccine lasts no longer than a year.  If your cat is going into a cattery (and therefore potentially at higher risk of infection because of the numbers of cats there) and its booster is due within the next month we would suggest that be given slightly early (i.e. before the cat goes in).

Many cats who have been infected by flu will become lifelong carriers of the disease.  Just as with either cold sores or shingles in humans, stress can cause a re-appearance of the disease, and a week in a cattery seems to be stress enough to do this in many affected cats!  It is essential that any cattery has adequate ventilation and that there is a sneeze barrier between adjacent pens to try and prevent cross-infection between cats.  Cat pens with outside runs will have more effective ventilation than pens situated entirely within a building.  A reputable cattery will insist on all cats being suitably vaccinated and should be checking all vaccine certificates.

Feline Leukaemia Virus: Feline leukaemia is a significant cause of illness in young adult cats.  The virus attacks the immune system and makes the affected cat more prone to other infections.  It is spread by close contact, essentially by licking and grooming, but can also be transferred from an infected queen to her kittens while they are still in the womb.

It can be several years from infection to the appearance of illness; infected but symptom-less cats will appear healthy and can spread the disease during this period.  Young cats, especially kittens under the age of 8 weeks, are most at risk of infection as their immune system is not fully developed, while many older cats meeting the disease for the first time can fight it off.  Cats who cannot fight off the virus become persistently infected; affected cats will eventually die of a leukaemia-related disease.  The condition is incurable.  Symptoms of feline leukaemia can be very varied, ranging between fever, anaemia, tumour formation or simply an unwell cat.  It is sufficiently common condition that we will recommend blood testing for evidence of the virus in any cat that is recurrently ill.

Our vaccine manufacturers provide Panleucopenia, and Cat flu as a ‘3-in-one’ jab for kittens, with two injections required for the primary course followed by single annual boosters. Feline Leukaemia is produced as a separate vaccine which also requires two primary injections.

The vaccines can either be given at the same time or separately in order to spread the cost.

Feline Chlamydia: this bacterial infection is a cause of chronic conjunctivitis in young cats.  Once established it is very difficult to clear (antibiotic, given twice a day for three weeks may work – if your hands can stand the scratching from a reluctant patient!) so vaccination as a kitten is worthwhile in an attempt to prevent this troublesome condition.

Currently the ‘4-in-one jab’ which protects against Panleucopaenia, Cat flu and Chlamydia is unavailable but will be reintroduced as part of our preferred vaccination protocol once production of the vaccine recommences.

(01228) 549177


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