Cat Distemper Vaccine Side Effects

Cat distemper is similar to Parvovirus in dogs. Vaccination is the only way to prevent the disease. In fact, due to the number of cats vaccinated with the distemper vaccine, few pet owners ever experience this disease. As with any vaccination, there are risks involved with the feline distemper vaccination.

If the mother cat contracts feline distemper during the early stages of pregnancy, it's likely she will abort her unborn litter. Later in pregnancy, the kittens may suffer damage to their nervous system and develop tremors that impede their normal movements.

What Is Cat Distemper Virus?

The feline distemper virus enters through a cat's nose or mouth. Once inside, the virus attacks the lymph nodes before attacking white cells within the bone marrow and the intestines. As a result, diarrhea and vomiting are common symptoms and often lead to dehydration.

Due to the loss of white blood cells, the body lacks the immunities to fight off the disease. If other infections or diseases enter the system, the immune system will not kick in.

Symptoms of Feline Distemper

Key symptoms of cat distemper include:

Your veterinarian will run blood tests to check the white cell count. If no white cells are found, the diagnosis is almost always cat distemper. The SNAP test used to diagnose Parvo in dogs is also effective in cats.

Typical Side Effects to Feline Distemper Vaccinations

Following a feline distemper shot, most pet owners find their pet shows signs of mild pain at the injection site. Other possible side effects include:

  • Lameness in joints

  • Loss of appetite

  • Sleepiness

  • Slight fever

  • Swelling at the injection site

If the nasal spray vaccine is used, sneezing is likely to occur for the next few days.

Rare, Yet Dangerous Side Effects

Anaphylactic shock is extremely rare following a feline distemper vaccination. However, you should be watching for signs and seek emergency veterinary care if it does happen.

Anaphylaxis occurs when the cat is allergic to the ingredients in the vaccination. Symptoms include:

  • Breathing difficulties from build-up of fluid in the lungs

  • Collapse

  • Diarrhea

  • Severely itchy skin on the face

  • Vomiting

Usually, anaphylaxis occurs within 24 hours of the vaccination. Most cats experience a reaction immediately, so you're likely to still be at the veterinary office. If your cat experiences any of these symptoms once you are home, return to your vet immediately. Anaphylactic shock is treatable and will not pose long-term problems with your cat's health.

Cat Distemper Vaccination Associated Fibrosarcoma

If your vet uses a killed virus vaccination for feline distemper, there is a slight risk of developing cancer at the injection site. Vaccination Associated Fibrosarcoma involves a tumor that grows deep within the tissue at the injection site. Surgical removal is possible, but this can lead to the tumor returning and becoming even more aggressive.

While there is a risk that this cancer will occur following vaccinations. However, the risk is extremely low. The cats most likely to develop this cancer receive three vaccinations every year in the same location. If you follow a three-year booster schedule, your cat should be perfectly fine. In addition, many vets now give different vaccinations in different areas of the body as an added precaution.