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Feline distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that is especially harmful to young kittens, who can die without warning from the infection. Because the virus that causes distemper is so widespread in the environment, the distemper vaccine is recommended for all cats—even those who only live indoors. And it’s particularly important to protect young kittens as soon as it’s safe to do so, as they’re the most vulnerable to serious illness.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the virus kills rapidly growing and dividing cells in the body, like those found in the bone marrow, lymph nodes, intestinal lining, and developing fetuses. The AVMA says infected cats release the feline panleukopenia virus in their urine, poop, and nasal secretions. The Merck Veterinary Manual explains that most infected cats don’t show any signs. Fever Lethargy Loss of appetite Vomiting Diarrhea Dehydration Low white blood cell count (called leukopenia—where the virus gets its name). If you have an adult cat, the proper time to vaccinate depends on variables like her age, health, and risk of infection. “Lethargy is typically a positive sign because it means the body is really being stimulated to make antibodies against the disease-causing organism,” he explains. While lethargy and even soreness at the injection site (much like you might feel after a flu shot) aren’t a cause of concern, allergic reactions are.

Is distemper shot necessary for cats?

Because the virus that causes distemper is so widespread in the environment, the distemper vaccine is recommended for all cats —even those who only live indoors. And it’s particularly important to protect young kittens as soon as it’s safe to do so, as they’re the most vulnerable to serious illness.

How does a distemper shot affect a cat?

Another side effect of distemper vaccination is a vaccine reaction. Vaccine reactions in cats are rare. Symptoms of a reaction include red splotches or hives on the belly or swelling of the face. If you notice these symptoms, call your veterinarian immediately as vaccine reactions can be life threatening.

How important is distemper shot for indoor cats?

Vaccination against the feline distemper complex is important because these diseases can be deadly. These are hardy viruses that can be brought into the home on inanimate objects like clothes or shoes.

How often does a cat need a distemper shot?

Their recommendations state that, following an appropriate initial vaccination protocol, the FVRCP (distemper/respiratory virus) vaccine need only be given every 3 years at most.

Distemper is an old-fashioned general term that’s used to describe a serious infectious disease of dogs and cats that causes fever along with respiratory, gastrointestinal, and neurological symptoms.

Infected cats have a high temperature, dullness, inappetence, as well as vomiting , diarrhea , and a range of other systemic signs. The cost depends on your location and your choice of veterinarian: you should phone around your local area to discover the range of prices in the market place. All kittens and cats should receive initial primary courses of vaccination against Feline Distemper (Panleukopenia) because the viral particles are excreted from ill animals, and they can live in the environment for a protracted period of months or years. This means that there is a risk of a human bringing the virus back to the house with them, which is why a basic level of protection is important for all cats, even if living indoors. In general, the primary series of vaccinations against FVRCP (which includes Feline Distemper) should be given to all kittens and cats. Other non-core vaccines that you may wish to discuss with your vet include Bordetella, Chlamydia, FIV and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP). Dr Pete Wedderburn qualified as a vet from Edinburgh in 1985 and has run his own 4-veterinarian companion animal practice in County Wicklow, Ireland, since 1991. Pete is well known as a media veterinarian with regular national tv, radio and newspaper slots, including a weekly column in the Daily Telegraph since 2007.

It is a myth that cats who live indoors do not need to be vaccinated against infectious diseases. While living an indoor lifestyle is certainly safer overall than living outdoors, and indoor living contributes to a longer life expectancy, important infectious diseases can find indoor cats.

Cats are most susceptible to this virus in the first few years of life and their personalities are still developing – you never know if your adorable new kitten is going to decide that he needs to dart out the door whenever they spot it opening. Even a strictly indoor cat may find a way to sneak out of the house and be exposed to rabies by a wild animal in the neighborhood. Your veterinarian is your best source of the most current recommendations for vaccinating your cat in order to protect her from preventable infectious diseases – even if yours lives strictly indoors. Instead, an individual risk assessment is performed to determine the most appropriate disease protection and prevention plan for your cat.

Felinerhinotrachetis andcalicivirus (feline herpes virus type I) are responsible for 80-90% of infectious feline upper respiratory tract diseases. Most cats are exposed to either or both of these viruses at some time in their lives. Once infected, many cats never completely rid themselves of virus. These “carrier” cats either continuously or intermittently shed the organisms for long periods of time — perhaps for life — and serve as a major source of infection to other cats. The currently available vaccines will minimize the severity of upper respiratory infections, although none will prevent disease in all situations. Vaccination is highly recommended for all cats.

It infects and kills cells that are rapidly dividing, such as those in the bone marrow, intestines, and the developing fetus. The first visible signs an owner might notice include generalized depression, loss of appetite, high fever, lethargy, vomiting, severe diarrhea, nasal discharge, and dehydration. FP may be suspected based on a history of exposure to an infected cat, lack of vaccination, and the visible signs of illness. Once a cat is diagnosed with FP, treatment may be required to correct dehydration, provide nutrients, and prevent secondary infection. Adult vaccination schedules vary with the age and health of the cat, as well as the risk of FP in the area.

Why Vets Recommend the Distemper Vaccine for Cats

Virtually all cats will be exposed to the highly contagious virus that causes feline distemper at least once.Feline distemper is a highly contagious viral disease that is especially harmful to young kittens, who can die without warning from the infection. Because the virus that causes distemper is so widespread in the environment, the distemper vaccine is recommended for

What Is Feline Distemper?

Feline distemper (also called feline panleukopenia, feline infectious enteritis, and feline parvo) is a disease caused by the feline panleukopenia virus. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the virus kills rapidly growing and dividing cells in the body, like those found in the bone marrow, lymph nodes, intestinal lining, and developing fetuses.

How Do Cats Get Distemper?

The AVMA says infected cats release the feline panleukopenia virus in their urine, poop, and nasal secretions. Unvaccinated cats who come in contact with these substances—either directly or through an object harboring the virus, such as bedding, food bowls, litter boxes, and the hands and clothing of people who’ve interacted with infected cats—can become infected with the virus. It can also be spread from a pregnant cat to her developing fetus via the placenta.Unfortunately, the virus is particularly difficult to get rid of and can survive in the environment for up to a year. As a result, virtually all cats and kittens are exposed to it at some point in their lives. People, however, are not at risk of infection.

When Should I Vaccinate My Cat for Distemper?

The Merck Veterinary Manual explains that most infected cats don’t show any signs. Cats can become infected at any age, but cats under the age of one are most likely to become severely sick, and kittens under the age of five months are most at risk of dying from the infection. Sadly, death can occur without warning.In addition, if an infected pregnant cat passes the virus to her growing fetus, the fetus may die or suffer serious brain damage.

What Are the Side Effects of the Distemper Vaccine?

The most common side effect Eddy sees after vaccinating cats is general lethargy the day of and the day after, but that can actually be a good thing. “Lethargy is typically a positive sign because it means the body is really being stimulated to make antibodies against the disease-causing organism,” he explains.While lethargy and even soreness at the injection site (much like you might feel after a flu shot) aren’t a cause of concern, allergic reactions are. “They can happen with any cat, any age, and any vaccine,” Eddy says. Luckily, such reactions to the distemper vaccine are rare. In 15 years of practice, Eddy has only seen adverse vaccine reactions toSigns of a mild allergic reaction include mild fever, itchiness, and swelling and redness of the eyes, lips, and neck. In more severe cases, vomiting, diarrhea, and breathing problems can occur. (Some cats may even collapse.) If your cat starts showing any of these signs within hours of being vaccinated, call your veterinarian as soon as possible.Another rare but serious vaccine reaction is the development of a tumor at the site of injection. While mild swelling at the injection site is normal in the few days following a vaccine, swelling that grows or doesn’t go away after three weeks is cause for concern as it could be a sign your cat has an injection-site sarcoma. These cancerous tumors can form weeks, months, and even years after the vaccine was given. If you notice such a lump under your cat’s skin, call your vet right away.

What Type of Illness is Distemper in Cats?

Feline Distemper, or Feline Panleukopenia, is a highly contagious disease caused by the Feline Panleukopenia virus, with a high mortality rate for unvaccinated cats, especially kittens aged between 2 and 5 months.The virus is similar to Canine Parvovirus, and the clinical signs are similar too, with the intestinal tract being a focus for viral damage. Infected cats have a high temperature, dullness, inappetence, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, and a range of other systemic signs. As its name suggests, the virus causes significant suppression of white blood cell production in the bone marrow (panleukopenia), with the consequently suppressed immune system making affected cats even more vulnerable to serious complications of the illness, including bacterial infections.

What is the Distemper Vaccine for Cats?

The vaccine for Feline Distemper (Panleukopenia) is included in the standard combination vaccine that’s given to all kittens, otherwise known as the FVRCP vaccine.
This vaccine includes Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (caused by Feline Herpesvirus) and Feline Calicivirus, upper respiratory infections are known generally as “cat flu”, whose signs include sneezing and nasal discharge. These are all known as core vaccines, meaning that vaccinating all cats against these diseases is recommended under the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) and American Association of Feline Practitioners feline vaccination guidelines.

When Should Your Cat Get a Distemper Vaccine?

The precise timing of vaccinations depends on the type of feline vaccine schedule used by your local veterinarian, so you should discuss the details with them directly.In general, vaccinations are recommended for young kittens at 8–9 weeks of age, with a second vaccine given 3–4 weeks later. A third vaccine is often given between 14–16 weeks of age. A booster vaccination is then given 6 – 12 months later, with further booster shots every 1 – 3 years depending on the cats’ needs.
To decide when or if your cat needs booster shots, discuss your cat’s lifestyle with your veterinarian.

How much does the Distemper vaccine for cats cost?

The cost depends on your location and your choice of veterinarian: you should phone around your local area to discover the range of prices in the market place. In general, the fee represents a combination of a veterinary clinical examination of your pet (to make sure that they are healthy enough to vaccinate) as well as the cost of the virus vaccine itself.

Distemper Vaccine Side Effects

Side effects to Feline Distemper (Panleukopenia) vaccination are rare and usually very minor. They include transient episodes of dullness, with mild fever.Occasionally, there may be minor swelling and discomfort at the injection site. As with any injected product, allergic anaphylactic vaccine reactions can occur, with more serious signs. This reaction, however, is extremely rare. As a veterinarian qualified for over thirty years, I have never witnessed this after a cat vaccination against Panleukopenia.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do indoor cats need a distemper shot?

All kittens and cats should receive initial primary courses of vaccination against Feline Distemper (Panleukopenia) because the viral particles are excreted from ill animals, and they can live in the environment for a protracted period of months or years. This means that there is a risk of a human bringing the virus back to the house with them, which is why a basic level of protection is important for all cats, even if living indoors.

Can cats get distemper after being vaccinated?

Vaccination against feline distemper (panleukopenia) provides solid long lasting immunity against the disease, so barring exceptionally unusual vaccine failure, your cat will be fully protected against the disease.

What vaccinations do indoor cats need?

Cat owners should discuss their own cats’ vaccine needs with their own DVM veterinarian, so that any specific risk of exposure to viruses can be identified and discussed. In general, the primary series of vaccinations against FVRCP (which includes Feline Distemper) should be given to all kittens and cats. Indoor adult cats may be given booster vaccinations every three years to maintain minimal immunity. Cats that go outside, mingling with other cats, or cats that go to boarding kennels or catteries, or to cat shows, may be given an annual booster vaccination, but again, this is a topic for discussion with your own vet.Rabies vaccine may need to be given, depending on legislation in your part of the world, and depending on travel plans that you may have for yourself and your cat. Rabies is considered to be a core vaccine in the United States.Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) vaccination should be discussed with your vet, but this illness cannot generally be passed on indirectly in the same way as other viruses, so may not be needed: this is regarded as a non-core vaccine.Other non-core vaccines that you may wish to discuss with your vet include Bordetella, Chlamydia, FIV and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP).

Indoor Cats and Infectious Disease

Why does my cat need vaccinations if she spends 100% of her time indoors?

It is a myth that cats who live indoors do not need to be vaccinated against infectious diseases. While living an indoor lifestyle is certainlyFeline rhinotracheitis virus, feline calici virus, and feline panleukopenia virus make up the feline distemper complex. Vaccination against the feline distemper complex is important because these diseases can be deadly.These are hardy viruses that can be brought into the home on inanimate objects like clothes or shoes. Because transmission does not require direct contact with another cat, indoor-only cats can be exposed and become ill if they are not appropriately vaccinated. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), World Small Animal Association (WSAVA), and Cat Healthy (Canada) have published vaccination guidelines that reflect the current standard of vaccine science. Your veterinarian will help you understand the most appropriate distemper vaccination schedule for your cat.