In the USA the standard protocol (recommended) for vaccinating a kitten with the FVRCP vaccine is, as I understand it, a series of four injections starting at six weeks of age and finishing at 16 weeks of age. This is 4 vaccines within 10 weeks.
FVRCP is a combination vaccine against viruses: herpes, calici, panleukopenia.
There is concern amongst some vets and cat owners that a kitten receives too many vaccinations, which can damage kidney cells. There is evidence that the FVRCP vaccine can inflame kidney cells.
There is a direct link, in fact, as the FVRCP vaccine is grown in feline kidney cells. The cells used to grow the vaccine is retained in the vaccine and so they are injected into the kitten with the vaccine. It is suggested that the kitten attacks these cells as foreign bodies, gets confused and attacks his own kidney cells in an autoimmune response. This inflames the kittens kidney cells.
A research paper also links vaccines with kidney damage: Vaccines and kidney damage
Is the series of combination vaccines administered to kittens one reason why cats are 7 times more likely to get kidney disease than dogs and why kidney disease is the most common cat health problem in some veterinary surgeries? Kidney disease is certainly a major health problem for cats in the 21st century. Another potential culprit for the high incidence of kidney disease is diet: low protein commercial cat food and/or dry cat food2.
One veterinarian2 recommends that the standard procedure should not be followed. Instead, she recommends that:
- An injectable modified live (non-adjuvanted) FVRCP vaccine should be used as follows:
- The first vaccination takes place at aged 8-9 weeks
- The second and final vaccination takes place at no younger than 16 weeks (2 vaccinations).
Cat owners should take charge in the veterinarian’s consulting room, in a gentle but persuasive way, armed with sound information. At least a client should gently challenge and probe for good answers.
Arguably, there is a tendency amongst vets to over-vaccinate for various reasons, one being that it gets clients back to the clinic for a bit of selling. The vet is the expert. That does not mean he/she can’t be questioned about, for example side effects.
In my view, vaccinations in older cats should not take place. This certainly applies to places where vaccinations of cats and pets take place routinely creating a healthy zone.
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- Your Cat by Elizabeth M. Hodgkins DVM
- Lisa A. Pierson, DVM