Disease Free

New vaccines give cats better disease protection

Are you up to date with the new cat vaccinations that are now available or do you have some needling doubts?

The white-coats have been busy looking at new ways of protecting our cats from disease and they have done well with the production of the F5 - a new vaccine for cats.

The well-known F3 vaccine protects cats from the feline enteritis virus and the two viruses that cause cat flu but the F5 goes two steps further by adding protection against the feline leukaemia virus and a bacterium called Chlamydia.

So what are these pathogens and what effects do they have?

Feline Enteritis

Infection with the feline enteritis, which is a brother of the canine parvovirus, is now uncommon, mainly because of the effectiveness of the vaccines that prevent it. The virus is a tough varmint that can live outside a cat's body for some time, thus being easily spread by food bowls, clothing, shoes and bedding that are contaminated with infected droppings.

Initially, it causes a lethargic, dull attitude and the loss of appetite. These effects are followed by frequent vomiting and by profuse diarrhoea. The diarrhoea often contains blood although this is not the only disease in which blood-stained diarrhoea is seen. Abdominal pain occurs and this can be severe. It is common for pregnant cats to abort when infected by this virus or for kittens to be born with abnormalities such as brain damage. Up to 75% of affected cats will die.

Cat Flu

Cat flu is also known as Feline Respiratory Disease or Cat Snuffles. The feline rhinotracheitis virus and the feline calicivirus are well known causes and vaccines against these bugs have been available for some time. Now, the F5 vaccine gives additional protection against Chlamydia psittaci, another organism that causes part of the cat flu disease complex.

Cat flu can affect cats of all ages, from kittens to adults.

Sneezing and coughing is commonly seen with cat flu. A discharge from the nose, conjunctivitis and ulcers on the tongue also occur. The cat loses its appetite and is lethargic. Symptoms of the disease may plague the cat for up to three weeks.

 Cat flu can affect cats of all ages, from kittens to adults.


When chlamydia becomes involved, serious conjunctivitis is often seen, especially in young cats that are between 5 and 9 months of age but, thankfully, the new vaccine helps to prevent this malady.

A known complication of cat flu is that even after a cat has recovered, it can still carry the virus and infect others. While cat flu can certainly kill kittens and elderly cats, it does not often kill adult cats.

While vaccinations don't always prevent the disease, they certainly reduce its severity and are worthwhile.

Feline Leukaemia

The F5 vaccine also protects cats against Feline Leukaemia. Unlike leukaemia in humans, we have known for years that the feline disease is caused by a virus.
It is a rare disease, but dangerous when it occurs. The first symptoms usually include a reduction in appetite, reduced activity, weight loss, vomiting and diarrhoea. Reproductive problems occur and it also causes increased susceptibility to other infections. Solid tumours can develop in various parts of the body. Death is slow and usually occurs within three years although some infected cats recover.

Infection is transmitted by saliva, tears, and nasal secretions and by urine. The virus can also be transmitted to other cats when they groom each other, and when items such as food bowls, litter trays and toys are shared.

The Remedies

The best way to prevent these diseases is by vaccination.

You should ask your own veterinarian about a vaccination schedule, but a good guideline is for the first vaccine to be given at six to eight weeks of age, the second vaccination at 12 to 14 weeks, and the third at 16 to 18 weeks.

Kittens can be difficult to vaccinate effectively because they get immunity from their mothers which may stop the vaccine from working. For this reason, or if your veterinarian considers there is an increased risk of transmission of the disease, he or she may advise revaccination every two to three weeks.

Your vet will also help you to decide whether the F3 or the new F5 vaccine is the best choice for your cat.