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Q&A: What are the cancer risks with feline vaccinations?


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Rocky is available for adoption at the Teller County Regional Animal Shelter in Divide, CO.

Dr. Lauren Brickman writes a pet health and care column for Read all the Q&As she’s shared with Petfinder here.

Q: I have recently heard that annual vaccinations in older cats may cause cancer. My cat is 11 years old and has always had her annual vaccinations. She is, and always has been, an indoor cat.

Since my two previous cats had to be put down due to massive cancer, I am considering not getting Emma’s vaccination this year. Would this be irresponsible?

A: That’s a great question! Since your cat is strictly indoor she should not need feline leukemia vaccines. As long as she has tested negative for leukemia, an indoor cat that has no contact with other cats is not considered at risk for contracting this virus. The same goes for the feline AIDS (FIV) vaccine although I do not recommend this vaccine even to outdoor cats.

The rabies vaccine should be given as required by state laws (either
every year or every three years). The three-in-one vaccine, or
distemper vaccine, protects your pet from illnesses that are usually
spread by other cats. If your cat ever escapes and is not vaccinated
she will be susceptible to certain diseases. Your veterinarian may
choose to give this one every three years.

Vaccines may cause a type of cancer on the skin called a fibrosarcoma.
It is believed that this cancer is from inflammation at the injection
site. Discuss your concerns with your veterinarian and together you
should be able to come up with a vaccine protocol that meets any legal

If you have questions about your pet’s health, you can submit them to Dr. Lauren at

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