Risks of the Feline Leukemia Vaccine

Feline leukemia is one of the most common, and most deadly, feline illnesses. Veterinarians recommend a feline leukemia vaccine as one of a number of feline vaccinations given at regular intervals over your cat's life. These vaccinations provide immunity to the majority of cats that receive them. However, like cat flu vaccines or cat rabies shots, the feline leukemia vaccine does carry some risks.

Risks of the Feline Leukemia Vaccine

As with all vaccines and immunizations, there is a minimal chance that your pet may contract the disease that you intend to immunize him against. Typically, this situation only arises when your pet is already suffering from a compounding disease or condition of the immune system that may predispose him to infection. Before administering a vaccine, your vet will conduct a physical examination of your cat in order to verify his overall health.

The other risk associated with the feline leukemia vaccine is fibrosarcoma. Fibrosarcoma is a type of cancer that may develop in certain cats at the site of the vaccination. This situation is also exceedingly rare. However, it is risky enough that many veterinarians and cat owners consider it to be a mitigating factor in the vaccination process. If you are concerned, consult with your veterinarian about the risks specific to your cat. It is also advisable to monitor your cat's overall health following an injection. While some immune suppression and overall lethargy is normal, be aware of any rashes, bumps or irritation that may develop, particularly around the site of the vaccination.

The final risk associated with the feline leukemia vaccine is anaphylactic shock. This occurs less frequently than either of the previous risks, and should not be considered a reason to not vaccinate your pet against feline leukemia, unless your veterinarian advises otherwise. Other Considerations

Due to the low risk of adverse effects in the administration of feline leukemia vaccines, you should exercise caution in vaccinating your pets, but rest assured that the benefits typically far outweigh the risks. Note that a feline leukemia vaccine may not be necessary, depending upon your cat's environment and situation.

Feline leukemia is spread through direct contact with an infected cat. The virus cannot survive outside of a cat's body for more than a few seconds. Because of this, cats that live outdoors or that have frequent contact with other cats are at the highest risk of infection, while cats that spend their lives indoors and have limited or no interaction with other cats are at low risk. If your pet is an indoor cat, and especially if he does not come into contact with other cats, the feline leukemia virus may not be necessary.

If you have any concerns specific to your cat or his medical history, don't hesitate to consult with a veterinarian.