Feline Distemper Vaccine

The feline distemper vaccine is a common inoculation cats first get when they are between the ages of 9 and 11 weeks. Distemper vaccinations are recommended because of the communicability of the virus and the danger it poses other felines. 

The Distemper Virus and Symptoms

The distemper virus is similar to canine parvovirus and causes a respiratory infection in felines that's followed by a gastrointestinal infection. The virus will replicate in the cat's respiratory system through the tissues in the lymph nodes. The virus can also affect a cat's central nervous system and eyes. A cat that has contracted the distemper virus will quickly become symptomatic after exposure.

One of the first signs a cat has contracted the distemper virus is a runny nose that has green-colored mucous. A cat will also not want to eat much, have discharge from the eyes, become very tired, develop a cough and diarrhea, vomit, have inflammation of the eyes and have difficulty breathing when the virus affects the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. Neurological signs may also become noticeable:

  • Seizures
  • Twitching
  • Weakness
  • Encephalitis
  • Neck pain
  • Changes in behavior

The Feline Distemper Vaccine

The feline distemper vaccine is the answer to preventing feline distemper. The inoculation is easy to access and is one of the standard shots cats and kittens should receive. It works by introducing the inactive distemper virus to the cat so he can build immunity against it. A cat can't get sick with distemper from the vaccine when inoculated with the correct doses. The shot is given in a cat's muscle or vein.

The success of the vaccine depends on the lack of interference from the maternal antibody. Some veterinarians may recommend a kitten be vaccinated at the age of 9 weeks and then one or two more times for the next two or three weeks, until the cat is 13 weeks old. A booster shot of the vaccine is recommended every year by its manufacturers. However, most vets would advise booster shots be given every three years, as the vaccine is long-lasting and greatly aids a cat's immunity for long periods of time.

Precautions for the Feline Distemper Vaccine

A kitten that's younger than 4 weeks of age should never be given a distemper vaccine, as his natural immune system is still developing. Cats that are pregnant should also not receive the shot, as doing so can abort her kittens.

The feline distemper vaccine should only be given to healthy cats. Some veterinary experts recommend giving a feline epinephrine prior to the shot, since some cats can have an anaphylactic shock or a false fever.

Not all cats will have a negative reaction to the distemper vaccine. The slight chances of side effects from the vaccination outweigh the risks of a cat contracting the actual distemper virus.

Feline distemper is an illness that can have severe consequences for a cat, like death within 24 hours, yet it's easily prevented. Although the inoculation is still undergoing a lot of research, the reason we don't often hear about cats contracting distemper is because the feline distemper vaccine is easily accessible and it works.