Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: October 31, 2022 by Crystal Uys

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The American Association of Feline Practitioners updated its vaccination guidelines, previously issued in 2006.  Previous guidelines divided vaccines into core and non-core vaccines and recommended that vaccination protocols should be tailored to the individual cat’s health and lifestyle. The guidelines also addressed concerns about injection site sarcomas caused by vaccines.

I was happy to see that the new guidelines are even more conservative. They help veterinarians select appropriate vaccination schedules for their feline patients based on risk assessment. The recommendations rely on published data as much as possible, as well as on the consensus of a multidisciplinary panel of experts in immunology, infectious disease, internal medicine and clinical practice.

One surprise to me was that the rabies vaccine is no longer considered a core vaccine. Core vaccines are recommended for all cats, non-core vaccines should be recommended based on an individual risk/benefit assessment. Of course, rabies vaccines are legally required by many jurisdictions, and while some veterinarians will give a waiver to cats with certain health issues, very few states legally recognize these waivers.

The new guidelines also contain some changes to the recommended location of vaccine administration. They suggest that vaccines be administered even lower on the leg than previously suggested to facilitate treatment of possible injection-site sarcomas. The most common treatment for these tumors is aggressive surgery and frequently amputation. The illustration below shows the new recommended injection sites (green) and the areas to be avoided (red).

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The guidelines also address vaccination protocols for shelter cats, breeders, and community cats.

Sadly, far too many cats are still being over-vaccinated because too many veterinarians, and cat guardians, still think annual “shots” are necessary. Compelling evidence implicates vaccines in triggering various immune-mediated and other chronic disorders (vaccinosis). If your cat is still receiving annual vaccines, I urge you to discuss the new guidelines with your veterinarian, or find one who follows these guidelines and practices individualized feline medicine rather than taking a one size fits all approach.

To read the full 2013 AAFP Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel Report, visit the AAFP website.

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