Vaccinations (Does my cat/kitten need them?)

WHY DOES MY CAT NEED TO BE VACCINATED?

Vaccines help to protect against specific infectious diseases caused by some viruses and bacteria. They stimulate the body's immune system to destroy the organism and 'remember' it so that it can fight against infection again if necessary in the future.Without vaccination, many cats become seriously ill or may even die from diseases that their immune system is unable to fight effectively on its own. The use of vaccines has prevented death and disease in millions of cats. In addition, vaccines protect people from disease, such as rabies, that could be transmitted from cats.

Some diseases are easier to vaccinate against than others. For example, vaccination is very effective against feline parvovirus infection (panleukopenia) but does not completely protect against respiratory virus infections. However, cats vaccinated against respiratory tract infections generally have milder illness than if they hadn't been vaccinated and are far less likely to die from the disease.

WHY DOES MY KITTEN NEED A SERIES OF MORE THAN ONE VACCINE?

Newborn kittens depend on their mothers not just for food and warmth, but also for protection against infectious diseases. The first few times they nurse, kittens get antibodies from their mother's milk that will help to keep them safe for a few weeks to several months. This immunity provided by "maternally derived antibodies" (MDA) is protective while a kitten's own immune system is immature. However, if the antibody levels decrease before the kitten has developed his/her own immunity, gaps in protection will occur, leaving the kitten susceptible to disease. Also while the kitten has high levels of MDA, their immune system will not respond optimally to vaccination.

Since we cannot predict for each kitten when MDA has decreased adequately to allow an effective response to vaccination, guidelines have been developed to protect as many kittens as possible against disease by giving a series of vaccinations. An incomplete series of kitten vaccinations may leave your kitten vulnerable to infection, so it is important to follow your veterinarian's recommendations and vaccinate up to at least 16 weeks of age.

 

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