Kitten Vaccines

What Vaccines does my Kitten need?

Why do kittens require a series of vaccinations?

Young kittens are highly susceptible to infectious diseases because their immune systems are not fully mature.  While nursing, their mother’s milk contains antibodies that provide some immunity to diseases.  However, these maternal antibodies do not last long, and there may be gaps in protection as the milk antibodies decrease and the kittens’ immune systems aren’t yet capable of fighting off infection.  To keep these gaps in protection as small as possible, a series of vaccinations are scheduled, usually 3-4 weeks apart.  For most kittens, the final vaccination in the series is administered after 24 weeks of age.  Remember that an incomplete series of vaccinations may lead to incomplete protection, making your kitten vulnerable to infection.

What vaccines does my kitten need?

There are three vaccines considered “Core Vaccines” because every kitten should receive them regardless of lifestyle (rare exceptions apply).

Every kitten will need a series of 2 to 4 distemper-combination vaccines for upper respiratory and GI viruses (panleukopenia, calicivirus, and rhinotracheitis) until it is 24 weeks or older.  

Every kitten will also need a series of 2 feline leukemia vaccines.  Feline leukemia is an infection that causes immunodeficiency and cancer.  Because kittens are more susceptible to the disease and are a higher flight risk, it is recommended for all kittens to receive the 2 initial vaccines.  Any adult cats that go outside unsupervised should continue receiving this vaccine yearly.

Once the kitten is old enough, it should be vaccinated against rabies as well.  

What are possible side effects that I may see?

Although <1% of the population will develop a vaccine reaction, it is important to monitor your cat after it receives a vaccine.  The most common adverse responses are mild and include fever, lethargy, and reduced appetite.  Pets may also experience temporary swelling at the site of vaccination.   Most adverse reactions will resolve within 12-24 hours.

Rarely, more serious adverse reactions can occur.  Allergic reactions can appear within minutes or hours of vaccination and may include vomiting, swelling of the face or legs, difficult breathing, or collapse.  Injection site tumors (sarcomas) may occur months or years after vaccine administration.  Contact your veterinarian immediately if any of these symptoms are seen.


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