Vaccines are designed to protect our pets and prevent disease. Yet over the past 20 years, veterinarians have learned that vaccines can also cause cancer in cats. This has made the decision about whether to vaccinate a cat a difficult and challenging one.
Vaccines still are important to protect cats from infectious diseases such as rabies, panleukopenia, feline leukemia virus, rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus. However, vaccines can cause sarcomas to develop at the site of the vaccine.
The best advice is to vaccinate your cat against the diseases that he or she is realistically exposed to. This means that if you live in a high rise apartment and your cat never goes outside, the risks of exposure to many of the infectious diseases is quite small. The other piece of advice that I give to pet parents, is to vaccinate only as frequently as needed and no more. For example, according to the Cornell Feline Health Center, current research suggests that panleukopenia, rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus vaccines provide protection for several years, so these vaccines should be boosted no more than once every three years.
There is also some evidence that the adjuvant in the vaccine is one of the components that can lead to excessive inflammation and potential to cancer formation. Therefore, using non-adjuvanted vaccines may be helpful.
Weighing the risks of vaccination against the risks of not vaccinating your cat is important. It is becoming increasingly important for you and your veterinarian to discuss the unique set of factors that affect your cat. The decisions that each pet parent makes may be different based upon their circumstances.
The most important precaution any pet parent can take to prevent vaccine sarcomas from occurring in their cats is to stay informed.