Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Can Vaccinations Give Your Cat Cancer?

If there's one thing you might have figured out about me from this blog, it's that I'm obsessive in my pursuit of information and I research every decision I make intensively. This trait definitely causes me to worry more than I might if I just acted on impulse or took the first piece of advice I received as gospel.

Now, I know my boys are due for their 12-week vaccination in a little while and I've started reading about the main risk associated with the vaccination procedure, Vaccine-Associated Feline Sarcoma. That sounds like a vague, scientific term so let me simplify it for you; it's cancer.

While research is ongoing into the causes of VAFS, I found the site of a Vet (unfortunately nowhere near New York) named Ron Hines of the 2nd Chance Sanctuary and he has some great advice on minimizing the risks of VAFS, including several tips:

  1. Use only non-adjuvented vaccines in your cats. Adjuvented vaccines give us longer terms of immunity but they also cause considerably more local tissue inflammation than non-adjuvented vaccines. Vaccine manufacturers are quickly shifting to vaccines that do not contain irritating enhancing chemicals. These new vaccines will be less likely to cause tumors.fibrosarcoma cat.
  2. Request that your veterinarian use 25 gauge needles when administering vaccines to your cat. Small hypodermic needles are less likely to carry irritating hair and debris under the skin.
  3. Request that your veterinarian massage the area where the vaccine was administered. Massage spreads out the antigen (vaccine) lessening inflammation.
  4. A somewhat gruesome suggestion that has been made by some academicians is that the vaccination be administered in a leg. The theory is that if a tumor should develop the leg could be amputated saving the cats life.
  5. Avoid over vaccinating your pet. There is scientific evidence that panleukopenia and feline leukemia vaccinations last for at least three years, probably more. Yearly vaccination for these diseases is not necessary annually. Since yearly rabies vaccination is required by State law, be sure a non-adjuvented rabies vaccine is used."

I'm no vet, but this all sounds logical to me. Now, how do I find a vet who is sensitive to these issues?

This reminds me of the issue of mercury amalgum fillings in the dental field. Most dentists swear by these standard fillings and will get extremely defensive if confronted by a patient who doesn't want something they've read has increased health risks.

I want to find someone who is with the program, b/c I don't want to put the cats at unnecessary risk. Any advice? I don't want to make an appointment, show up at the Vet for a vaccination, and then have him downplay my concerns.


Anonymous said...

Avram, pick out a handful of vets that seem like possibilities--the one around the corner, the cat-only vet, etc. Make a list of questions about your concerns, and another list of routine services that you will need. Interview the vets as though you were choosing your own physician. Ask them about the way they practice feline medicine. Ask them how much it costs for a neuter, routine wellness exams and vaccinations, dental care, etc. Find out what the policy is in an emergency when the office is not open. If the vet is unwilling to talk to you about your concerns, or unwilling to tell you the cost of routine services, cross that one off the list. You will be amazed at the variation in attitudes and prices. You are the client and you have a right to this information in order to provide the best healthcare for your furkids.

Since your boys will presumably be indoor-only and neutered, most likely the vet will recommend the basic vaccinations, some of which may not even need to be given annually.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Peggy. First-off, VAS is a risk primarily with the FeLV and Rabies vaccines, which use adjuvants. If you have Arthur and Beowulf tested for FelV and FIV (assuming Bidawee hasn't already tested them), and since they are both indoor cats and not exposed to any other cats, there is no real need for either the FIV or the Rabies vaccine, unless N.Y. law requires the rabies one. (The current FIV vaccine is generally not recommended under most circumstances.)

They'll need core vaccines, and after their series of kittens shots and 1-year booster, they should not need any more vaccines for at least three years. The risk of VAS from the core vaccines is negligible, at best.

Rabies and FeLV vaccines should always given in a back leg, as distally (removed from the body) as possible, one in the left; the other in the right. Although it does sound gory, in the rare (less than 3:10,000) instances of VAS, the leg can be amputated. Previously, vaccines were routinely given in the scruff of the neck - you can see the implications there.


Avram said...

I believe that NY State law does require rabies vaccinations unfortunately (clearly no need for it in their case).

They were already tested for FELV and FIV and came out negative.

Anonymous said...

My beautiful cat has just been diagnosed with lung cancer and I was wondering if it could be from the vaccines I've been giving her.
I've tried to only give them every 3 years but I made a mistake and the last one was given just two years afterwards. Do you think that could have caused her lung cancer. I don't know who else to ask. I doubt if the vets will ever admit to it.