If you've ever wondered what the letters in the FVRCP vaccine your cat receives stand for, the first three of those letters stand for feline viral rhinotracheitis, while the C denotes calicivirus and the P is for panoleukopenia. Along with the rabies shot, the FVRCP is a core vaccine for cats.
Feline Herpes Virus
The feline herpes virus is responsible for the sometimes severe upper respiratory infection known as feline viral rhinotracheitis, or influenza. In addition to inducing sneezing, wheezing and coughing, the feline herpes virus causes eye infections in affected cats. Kittens and cats with impaired immune systems are especially susceptible to the feline herpes virus. If you find sneezing and wheezing stray kittens or cats with gooey, possibly closed-up eyes, there's an excellent chance the feline herpes virus is the culprit. Cats pick up the virus from contact with the bodily fluids of infected cats, such as at shared food and water bowls and common litter boxes. After symptoms clear up, infected cats remain carriers. Stressful situations might cause symptom flareups over time.
Although the FVRCP vaccine isn't 100 percent effective in preventing feline herpes infection, inoculated cats exposed to the virus usually have very mild symptoms compared with their unvaccinated counterparts. The vaccine comes in either injectable or intranasal forms. Side effects are generally mild, with possible swelling at the injection site. Because of a slight danger of vaccine-related sarcoma associated with feline vaccinations, take your cat back to the vet if the lump where the inoculation occurred doesn't disappear within a few weeks or continues growing.
National veterinary organizations develop guidelines and protocols for feline vaccination. Under 2011 guidelines, kittens get their first FVRCP vaccine between 6 weeks to 8 weeks of age, then every three to four weeks until they reach the age of 16 weeks. Older, not previously vaccinated cats receive two shots, given three weeks to four weeks apart. After these initial series, cats receive booster shots at the age of 1 year, or one year after the initial shots, then every three years. To combat possible sarcoma, inject FVRCP vaccine below the cat's right elbow.
The Other Diseases
When your kitten receives the FVRCP shot, he's protected not only against herpes but also against calicivirus and panleukopenia. Calicivirus is a source of upper respiratory infections, mouth ulcers and eye inflammation. Different strains of the calicivirus exist. While cats normally recover from the milder versions, the severe strains can be fatal. Panleukopenia is better known as feline distemper, but it's similar to the parvovirus in dogs. It kills a lot of of its victims, including the overwhelming majority of kittens who come down with it.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.