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AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents' Report on Cat and Dog Vaccines
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith
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December 2002 News

As we gain more knowledge regarding the length of immunity produced by vaccinations, vaccines improve to provide a longer duration of immunity, and better methods to test immunity are developed, we are seeing changes in the recommended vaccine schedules for dogs and cats. Vaccine schedules are becoming more individually tailored to the animal. In the future, most vaccines will not be given annually, and vaccine rotation will be more common e.g., vaccinate against disease "A" one year, against disease "B" the next year, disease "C" the third year, and then repeat the rotation.

The American Veterinary Medical Association's Council on Biologics and Therapeutics Agents has recently released a report that includes recommendations on the vaccination of dogs and cats.

Some of the main points made in the report are:

  • Vaccinations are an important part of preventive medicine.

  • Vaccination is associated with benefits and risks for animals. Knowledge of immunology and vaccines, including associated benefits and risks of vaccine use and the pathobiology of infectious diseases, is necessary to implement an effective individualized vaccination program.

  • Individual animals will require different vaccines and vaccination programs. The probability of exposure to the organism, susceptibility, severity of the disease, efficacy and safety of the vaccine, potential public health concerns, and owner's preferences should be taken into consideration.

  • Revaccination recommendations should be designed to create and maintain immunity to disease while minimizing the risk of adverse effects. The practice of revaccinating animals annually is largely based on historic precedent supported by minimal scientific data. There is increasing evidence that some vaccines provide immunity beyond 1 year. Unnecessary stimulation of the immune system does not result in increased resistance to disease and may expose animals to unnecessary risks.

  • Vaccines should be divided into two classes: core and noncore. Core vaccines are defined as those that are appropriate to provide protection in most animals against diseases that pose a risk of severe disease because the pathogens are virulent, highly infectious, and widely distributed in the region. Core vaccines are considered to be highly efficacious, to have benefit-risk ratios high enough to warrant their general use, to be of substantial public health importance, or are required by law. Noncore vaccines meet one or more of the following conditions: they target diseases that are of limited risk in the geographic region or in the lifestyle of the pet, they help protect against diseases that represent less severe threats to infected animals, their benefit-risk ratios are too low to warrant product use in all circumstances, or inadequate scientific information is available to evaluate them. Veterinarians and owners/clients need to carefully consider the benefits and risks of using noncore vaccine products on an individual basis.

The Council has identified those vaccines which are core and noncore for both dogs and cats, and they are listed in the following tables:

AVMA Vaccination Recommendations for Dogs

Component Class Efficacy Length of Immunity Risk/Severity of Adverse Effects Comments
Canine Distemper Core High > 1 year for modified live virus (MLV) vaccines Low  
Measles Noncore High in preventing disease, but not in preventing infection Long Infrequent Use in high risk environments for canine distemper in puppies 4-10 weeks of age
Parvovirus Core High > 1 year Low  
Hepatitis Core High > 1 year Low Only use canine adenovirus-2 (CAV-2) vaccines
Rabies Core High Dependent upon type of vaccine Low to moderate  
Respiratory disease from canine adenovirus-2 (CAV-2) Noncore Not adequately studied Short Minimal If vaccination warranted, boost annually or more frequently
Parainfluenza Noncore Intranasal MLV - Moderate Injectable MLV - Low Moderate Low Only recommended for dogs in kennels, shelters, shows, or large colonies; If vaccination warranted, boost annually or more frequently
Bordetella Noncore Intranasal MLV - Moderate Injectable MLV - Low Short Low For the most benefit, use intranasal vaccine 2 weeks prior to exposure
Leptospirosis Noncore Variable Short High Up to 30% of dogs may not respond to vaccine
Coronavirus Noncore Low Short Low Risk of exposure high in kennels, shelters, shows, breeding facilities
Lyme Noncore Appears to be limited to previously unexposed dogs; variable Revaccinate annually Moderate  

AVMA Vaccination Recommendations for Cats

Component Class Efficacy Length of Immunity Risk/Severity of Adverse Effects Comments
Panleukopenia Core High > 1 year Low to Moderate Use caution with intranasal modified live virus (MLV) vaccines in stressed kittens
Rhinotracheitis Core High; may not prevent infection or carrier state > 1 year Moderate; MLV vaccine can cause carrier state Use killed vaccine in catteries where respiratory disease is not a problem; use intranasal vaccine for faster protection
Calicivirus Core Variable; may not prevent infection or carrier state > 1 year Higher for MLV vaccines that can cause carrier state Killed vaccines prevent acute signs of disease and do not cause carrier state
Rabies Core High Dependent upon type of vaccine Low to moderate  
Feline Leukemia Core for all cats that live outside full or part time, or those living full time inside but with exposure to outside cats Variable Revaccinate annually Vaccine-related sarcomas can develop Vaccination not recommended for cats with minimal or no risk, especially after 4 months of age; blood test prior to vaccination
Chlamydia Noncore Low High Not recommended for cats at minimal or no risk
Feline Infectious Peritonitis Noncore Low      
Dermatophytosis (Ringworm)Noncore Low      
Bordetella Noncore Low Short May be more severe in kittens  
Giardia Insufficient data to comment
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus Insufficient data to comment

In the next few years, we are likely to see many changes in the types of vaccines we use, how often we vaccinate, methods of vaccination, and for which diseases we will have vaccines. This will be an exciting time, and we will do our best to keep you up-to-date on new developments.

- Klingborg, DJ; Hustead, DR; Curry-Galvin, EA; Gumley, NR; Henry, SC; Bain, FT; et al. AVMA Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents' report on cat and dog vaccines. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. November 15, 2002 (Volume 221, No. 10); 1401-1407.

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