Where Kitty gets a particular shot in his body depends upon the type of vaccination. However, shots are rarely given in the neck. National veterinary associations develop guidelines recommending both the types of vaccines most cats should receive and where the vet performs the injections.
Vaccinating your cat protects him from serious, possibly fatal, diseases. However, there's a very small chance that a vaccination could cause a soft-tissue, malignant tumor called a sarcoma to form at the injection site. The odds are so low that the fear of Kitty getting cancer from a shot is really not something to worry about -- at least compared to the risks of not vaccinating -- but it does happen to one out of every 10,000 cats. For this reason, professional organizations such as the American Veterinary Medical Association have come up with recommendations not only on the frequency of vaccination but where Kitty should get them.
Core vaccines include those shots that veterinarians recommend for all feline patients. Some shots, such as rabies, may be mandated by your state or city. The FVRCP vaccine, which protects Kitty against herpes virus, calici virus and the panleukopenia, is another core vaccine. Non-core vaccines include those for feline leukemia, feline chlamydia, bordetella, feline infectious peritonitis, giardia and others. Some of these non-core vaccines are given intranasally. Ask your vet whether she recommends non-core vaccines for your cat based on risk factors. These include whether he's an indoor/outdoor cat or lives in a household with indoor/outdoor cats.
Of all vaccines, rabies and feline leukemia are the most likely to cause sarcomas in cats. For this reason, Kitty receives his rabies vaccination in his right rear leg. He'll receive an initial one-year vaccine, but after that your vet can give him a three-year vaccine, unless local law stipulates more frequent rabies inoculation. His left rear leg is the site of the feline leukemia vaccine, which consists of two shots given a month apart, followed by annual boosters. If Kitty develops a sarcoma in either of these sites, your vet can amputate his leg and save his life. Tripod kitties usually navigate very well. The FRVCP vaccine may be given intranasally, but if your vet uses the injectable version she'll inoculate Kitty in his right shoulder. After two initial doses given three to four weeks apart, Kitty receives a booster at age 1 if he received the first vaccine as a kitten. If he's at low risk of exposure, he might receive a booster shot every three years. If he's high-risk, your vet will discuss a vaccination schedule with you.
It's not unusual for Kitty to develop a bump or swelling at an injection site. It should go away within a couple of weeks. If the bump is still there after a month or more or gets bigger, take Kitty to the vet for an examination. Sarcomas can develop at injection sites years after the shot. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, these tumors have an octopus-like appearance, with tentacles spreading throughout soft tissues. If Kitty is diagnosed with a sarcoma, treatment might include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
- University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine: Canine and Feline Vaccination Guidelines
- Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Community Practice Vaccination Protocols -- November 2012
- North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine: Oncology Vaccine-associated Sarcoma in Cats
- Humane Society of the United States: A Shot in the Dark - Feline Vaccine-Associated Sarcoma
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