The Importance of Vaccination
Frequently reports appear claiming that vaccinating cats and dogs is unnecessary and indeed potentially harmful to the animal. I've been a vet too long to be surprised by vaccine scares reported in the press; but not so long that I shrug my shoulders and fail to address the issue.
In a recent episode of scaremongering, owners were being told that their cats may die from vaccination. This is total lunacy. Only a couple of years ago, Feline Enteritis, a usually fatal diarrhoea disease killed dozens of cats in the Folkestone area. With a potential fall in vaccination uptake in response to these misguided reports, this may happen again.
Vaccines do have the potential to occasionally cause allergic reactions and in very rare cases can cause a tumour (Less than 1 in 33,000 animals in the UK). Let's put it in perspective. The chance of you being killed in a road accident is 1 in 8,000, whilst the risk of an allergic reaction in your cat following vaccination is less than 1 in 7,000 animals.
In the last year I have seen no vaccinal tumours and no cats that we could not vaccinate due to a risk of allergic reaction. I have however seen hundreds of cats whose lives are debilitated by infection with Catflu. I have seen tens of cats die from cat flu and similar numbers die from leukaemia. This year was not an enteritis year, but it's time will come again.
Life is busy and we all miss boosters by a few weeks now and then. The important thing is that you catch up. I do feel it is most often about cost, and articles offering an excuse to not vaccinate may seem welcome – bingo, no more outlays! I even get people coming up to me at shows saying they can't afford to vaccinate because they have "had to rescue so many cats" To that there is a very simple answer - look after as many as you can afford to keep healthy and no more.
When consulting with a client who has an unvaccinated cat I often go over these pros and cons, finishing by pointing out that every one of our staff vaccinate their pets. They see animals belonging to both sides of the argument and recognise a vaccines worth.
Compliance is hard to achieve, but it is something my staff and I continue to strive for. The sign in our waiting room states clearly that this is a patient-orientated practice, and with this in mind, we will continue to protect as many animals as possible through vaccination.
PS - I often talk in schools and to a respectful audience I totally spoil my credibility by saying "the practice is not well equipped" -stunned disappointment- "you see we don't have a Tardis and so when your cat catches a nasty virus like cat flu we can't go back in time to vaccinate them! "
- Jeremy MA VetMB MRCVS