Battle This Cat Cancer

What precautions can pet parents take to prevent vaccine site sarcomas in cats?

By Gerald Post, DVM, MEM, DACVIM (Oncology) | Posted: August 21, 2014, 12 p.m. EDT

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cat cancer from vaccinesVaccines are designed to protect our pets and prevent disease. Yet over the past 20 years, veterinarians have learned that vaccines can also cause cancer in cats. This has made the decision about whether to vaccinate a cat a difficult and challenging one.

Vaccines still are important to protect cats from infectious diseases such as rabies, panleukopenia, feline leukemia virus, rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus. However, vaccines can cause sarcomas to develop at the site of the vaccine.

The best advice is to vaccinate your cat against the diseases that he or she is realistically exposed to. This means that if you live in a high rise apartment and your cat never goes outside, the risks of exposure to many of the infectious diseases is quite small. The other piece of advice that I give to pet parents, is to vaccinate only as frequently as needed and no more. For example, according to the Cornell Feline Health Center, current research  suggests that panleukopenia, rhinotracheitis, and calicivirus vaccines provide  protection for several years, so these vaccines should be boosted no more than once every three years.

There is also some evidence that the adjuvant in the vaccine is one of the components that can lead to excessive inflammation and potential to cancer formation. Therefore, using non-adjuvanted vaccines may be helpful.

Weighing the risks of vaccination against the risks of not vaccinating your cat is important. It is becoming increasingly important for you and your veterinarian to discuss the unique set of factors that affect your cat. The decisions that each pet parent makes may be different based upon their circumstances.

The most important precaution any pet parent can take to prevent vaccine sarcomas from occurring in their cats is to stay informed.

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Reader Comments

Fezzy    Haverhill, MA

8/27/2014 6:46:37 PM

I have this cancer... LINK

Nancy    Jersey City, NJ

8/27/2014 3:03:54 PM

I lost my cat son Smokey r.i.p. 1998-2013(boy)(He called me his "Mommy".) last year to Stomach cancer. please take your pet kid or pet to doctor to find out what he or she can do for your pet.

Crystal    La Porte, IA

8/27/2014 7:40:47 AM

I just lost my beloved cat one month ago due to Cancer from the injection site. I wish I knew now about these rare side effects of vaccines.

Jennifer    Morgantown, OH

8/25/2014 11:10:39 AM

An update to my earlier comment: I did some digging online after I posted my previous comment. There has indeed been some research done on vaccinating cats in their tails. Apparently, it is tolerated just as well or better by the cats, and the antibody titer levels are just as high a month after vaccinating in the tail vs. the control group that had their vaccines in the limb. Here is a video about the research and results: LINK

(Caution: the video has one slide showing a surgical procedure to remove a tumor in the belly area of a cat vaccinated in the upper hind leg, but other that that, a great and information video. If your vet doesn't do this yet, consider sharing the video with him/her.

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