Don’t Vaccinate Your Adult Cat for Distemper

Seriously? Yes! Evidence is mounting that the common FVRCP (feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and paneleukopenia) vaccine may cause long-term damage to cats’ kidneys that increases with every booster. Here’s the report from Colorado State University:

The Center for Companion Animal Studies at Colorado State University has shown that cats vaccinated with FVRCP vaccines grown on Crandell-Rees Feline Kidney (CRFK) cell lines can develop antibodies to renal proteins, and that cats hypersensitized to CRFK cell lysates can develop interstitial nephritis…Cats administered FVRCP vaccines parenterally (by injection) have higher levels of circulating antibodies to these antigens than do cats who were administered a FVRCP vaccine for intranasal administration.

Similar antibodies have been implicated in the development of renal disease in humans, and there is every reason to suspect that they do the same in cats. Chronic renal failure (CRF), also called chronic kidney disease (CKD) in cats is known to be caused by chronic interstitial nephritis, or inflammation of kidney tissue–the very thing that these vaccines cause.

Panleukopenia is a deadly disease, and kittens must receive their initial vaccine series. Totally unvaccinated cats may be at risk. (See link below) However, adult cats who were adequately vaccinated as kittens do not need repeated boosters.

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7 comments for “Don’t Vaccinate Your Adult Cat for Distemper

  1. sugarcatmom
    July 19, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    My first cat had lymphoma so I became concerned with preventing cancer in any future cats. I was always worried about vaccine associated sarcomas, and learned about titers. My two cats were last vaccinated just before I adopted them in 2006. My state requires mandatory rabies vaccines, but I insist on a titer and so far, each year it has come back as still being protective. I think that’s the way I’ll go with all my adult cats from now on.

  2. jhofve77
    August 1, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    So sorry to hear your very sad story! I can’t even imagine the pain and sorrow you have endured.

    One thing I’m not totally clear on is how panleukopenia was diagnosed…the white blood cell counts are typical, but can be caused by other things, such as Salmonella (which can look identical).

    I don’t recommend adult booster vaccines; however, kitten vaccines are essential. Fortunately the vaccine is very effective; and even one vaccine at any age after 16 weeks is considered by experts to protect for life.

    However you make a very good point, and you’re right, totally unvaccinated cats of any age may be at risk. Adult cats are very resistant, but not 100% immune. I have edited the article to clarify this. Thanks so much for writing!

  3. Parkcat
    August 1, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Dr. Hofve, 5 years ago, we brought home 2 kittens who were fostered for 6 weeks at a home that had just fostered a kitten who had distemper (unknown to us until 2 years later). These kittens were checked out at my vet and cleared for FIV and FeLeuk. After the 6 weeks, we brought the kittens home and they transmitted Panleukopenia to every one of our adult cats in residence who numbered 11 at the time and had never been vaccinated for anything. The kittens both had severe herpes in their eyes that were not being treated at the shelter, which is why we took them out of there. One kitten had infection so severe that his eyeball finally had to be removed and sadly, the other kitten developed FIP and had to be put to sleep. 2 of our adult cats died quickly despite ER and nursing care. We spent over $12,000 in 3 months on ER and veterinary and nursing care trying to save the rest. 2 more cats developed mysterious “failing” situations over the next 2 years and also had to be put to sleep, i.e. high white blood cell counts and failing, low white blood cells counts and failing. It was a battle. So we learned a big lesson that sometimes vaccinations can help, and adult cats CAN get these diseases. We have never believed in vaccinations and never had any idea that anything like that could happen. It was heartbreaking. So the vaccination issue remains a difficult choice to make.

  4. jhofve77
    February 5, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Every facility is different. You may be able to find one that has a more holistic philosophy, or at least one that is paying attention to the fact that no expert recommends annual vaccination any more.

  5. Donna
    February 5, 2012 at 6:27 am

    I thought FRVCP is one of the shots required by most pet hotels if you need to board your cat. We board the cats about once a year and for that reason I’ve always had them given that vaccine.

  6. jhofve77
    December 4, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Actually, panleukopenia is a disease of kittens–it’s rare in adult cats, who are naturally resistant. OTOH, the feline distemper vaccine is known to cause autoantibodies and low-grade chronic inflammation in cats’ kidneys. Over-vaccination and unnecessary boosters put cats at risk for chronic renal failure–a devastating, debilitating, progressive, 100% fatal disease. Kittens should be vaccinated; adult cats, not so much!

  7. December 4, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Feline distemper, as feline panleukopenia is commonly known, is a devastating, debilitating and often fatal disease that affects cats. Although there is no known cure, this feline disorder is preventable. By understanding the disease, how it’s transmitted and the steps to take to prevent it, you and your vet can help protect your cat.

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