What is The FVRCP Vaccine for Cats?

Routine and producing minimal side effects or complications, the FVRCP vaccine, a three-in-one virus "terminator," is one of the core vaccines that veterinarians recommend to protect your kitten and cat from a trio of nasty, potentially deadly viruses: feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia. What's not to love?

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What is the FVRCP vaccine for cats?

Viruses aren't pretty. Stopped in their tracks by the FVRCP vaccine, rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia don't have a chance to wreak havoc on your cat. Bottom line, the FVRCP vaccine for cats is a triple whammy, protecting your cat against three potentially life-threatening viruses.

Rhinotracheitis is a common virus that originates from the feline herpes virus and invades the nose lining, sinuses, throat, windpipe, and eye membranes, often in cats with compromised immune systems, or those with emotional or physical stress. Shelter or rescue cats are prone to this virus due to overcrowding, and purebred and longhaired cats are predisposed.

If your cat has some or all the following symptoms, rhinotracheitis may be the reason:

  • Sneezing
  • Drooling
  • Nasal discharge
  • Fever
  • Lack of energy, or lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mucous discharge from the eyes that makes your cat squint. This development is very serious since herpes ulcers on the eyes require intensive treatment, including intravenous fluids, and possibly forced feeding to prevent death from dehydration and starvation.

Calicivirus commonly affects cats in shelters, catteries, and multi-cat homes. This common respiratory infection affects the cat's throat, eyes, nasal passages, mouth, and sometimes lungs, intestines, and musculoskeletal system.

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You may have a case of calicivirus on your hands if you see the following clinical signs:

  • Runny eyes.
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Drooling
  • Nasal discharge.
  • Ulcers on the tongue.

Keep in mind, calicivirus can be life-threatening to kittens and older cats, since severe cases can readily spiral into pneumonia. And in multi-cat households, catteries, and shelters, a domino effect will most likely ensue due to the highly contagious nature of the virus. Consequently, if one cat is infected with the virus, all the cats in the immediate vicinity are likely to contract it.

Also, keep in mind that poorly ventilated households promote calicivirus. Immune-compromised cats are more at risk, but any cat who has not received the FVRCP vaccine is susceptible.

Panleukopenia, also known as feline distemper, is widespread, highly contagious, and potentially fatal. It affects blood cells in the intestinal tract, bone marrow, brain, and developing fetuses, and almost all cats—inside or outside the home—will encounter it. And just how are our cats exposed to this insidious virus? Panleukopenia is transmitted through the secretions of other animals or derived from people who handle infected cats.

Otherwise protected with the FVRCP vaccine, unvaccinated felines risk potential death when exposed to feline distemper. Kittens between the ages of 4 and 6 months are particularly threatened due to their immature immune systems.

Clinical symptoms of panleukopenia are as follows:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Lethargy, which can be described as lack of energy or enthusiasm aka depression.
  • Diarrhea that is either mucous-like or bloody. In combination, diarrhea and vomiting causes severe dehydration, and can be fatal within 12 hours of onset.

How does the vaccine work?

Like all vaccines, the FVRCP vaccine stimulates the body's immune system to recognize and fight the rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia viruses. In effect, the vaccine primes the immune system, thus preparing it to react to a future infection by any of the three viruses. You could think of a vaccination as mimicking a true infection for the purpose of protecting the body in the future.

Why is the FVRCP vaccine important?

If you're thinking that your cat does not need the FVRCP vaccine because she lives inside your home 24/7and doesn't hang out with other cats at all, think again. Every cat, regardless of indoor or outdoor status, should still get the FVRCP vaccine. And why is it so important? Because every one of these three heavy-hitting viruses is airborne! That means your cat is always vulnerable to at least one of them, if not all.

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When should your cat get an FVRCP vaccine?

Initially, the vaccine is administered to 6- to 8-week old kittens to help them develop immunity to the viruses, especially panleukopenia and calicivirus, followed up by three booster shots three to four weeks apart until the kitten is 12 weeks old. Then, FVRCP booster shots once per year help your cat's immune system prepare to respond to the onslaught of a disease.

For indoor cats who do not have any contact with other cats, your veterinarian may decide that boosters on a schedule of once every two to three years is enough to keep your cat free of the viruses.

Side effects and cautions with FVRCP vaccines

FVRCP is a live virus. Occasionally, cats may contract the diseases the vaccine fights. Signs to be aware of are a high fever, breathing difficulties, and excessive vomiting. In this case, call your vet immediately.

More usual, less-severe side effects are soreness in the injection site or surrounding area. If your cat seems depressed, be assured, he will perk up when the soreness subsides. Also, be aware, he may have a runny nose, develop an oral or nasal sore, or throw up for the whole day after receiving the shot, but again, anticipate no further complications.

One particular caution with the FVRCP vaccine is associated with pregnant cats, who should never be vaccinated with live viruses since it could harm their unborn kittens.