Monday, November 11, 2013

BREAKING: Tail vaccine for cats may save lives

We have long known that vaccines can cause cancer in cats at the injection site. And when it occurs, fibrosarcomas caused by vaccine have been found to be more virulent and aggressive than ones that naturally occur.

This has been established as a known factor, specifically for rabies and feline leukemia vaccines, says the University of Florida's Small Animal Hospital.

Dr. Julie Levy of the University's College of Veterinary Medicine commented that “one to ten cats out of every 10,000 vaccinated against infectious diseases develop cancer at the vaccine injection site.”

Historically, the injection site was located between the shoulder blades, which made treatment - excision of the tumor with clean margins - virtually impossible.

So in 2006, the Winn Feline Foundation recommended that the injection site be moved to a location where a tumor might more easily be removed.

The location recommended was either a front or back leg. The AAFP (American Association of Feline Practitioners) went even farther, suggesting the injections be made below the elbow or knee joint.

Studies of cats whose injection sites had moved to an intramuscular location such as the leg then began to show an increase in fibrosarcomas at that location. This uptick put to rest any doubts that vaccines (and possibly the adjuvants added to the vaccine to increase its effectiveness) were indeed to blame.

So it's fairly well accepted that in a small percentage of cats, this cancer will occur. And, Dr. Levy points out, even though this is a small percentage statistically, that's still thousands of cats each year who will be diagnosed with it.

Which is why a news release from the University of Florida veterinary college published October 31 brought some very welcome news:  

Julie Levy, D.V.M., Ph.D., and Maddie’s Professor of Shelter Medicine, unveiled the results of a study just completed where they looked at the impact of moving feline vaccine injection sites to the tip of the tail.

Their findings indicated that administering vaccinations in the tip of the cat’s tail was just as effective as vaccines given in traditional locations.

Tail vaccination allows for a far more effective surgical treatment of any cancer that will occur near the site, Levy says.

And because such treatment is less invasive (thus less expensive), she hopes that it will be something more pet owners would be willing to treat.

Treatment to the tail would also be less disfiguring for the animal - another plus. 

One major concern of those participating in the study was how well the injections would be received by the patient!  U of F veterinary student Cleon Hendricks, one of the participants in the research study, admitted to some apprehension. He was pleasantly surprised to find that the cats accepted vaccination in the tail just as well as they did in the leg!

UPDATE: We were unaware that a drug had been developed to deliver a six-month systemic flea prevention through injection, but discovered it in the course of researching this article. Please do not accept this for your pet if offered. The drug, called Program, has also been found to cause cancer in cats. Besides, you need to protect your cat for heartworm anyway, and monthly topical treatments that provide that protection will also handle fleas and ticks. 'Nuff said.


National Institutes for Health Article archive
VetMed's Shelter Medicine site library
University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine New Release
AVMA on the web
U of Fla Small Animal Hospital, on vaccination and sarcomas
Current studies on tail vaccination in cats
Vaccines - do our cats really need them?
Eigner, Diane R. "Feline Vaccine Guidelines". The Winn Feline Foundation. Retrieved 2006-08-27.
Cleon Hendrick's article on his experience participating in the study
Centers for Disease Control: About Adjuvants
Information on Vaccine-Associated Sarcomas


  1. Ah... We just got our yearly rabies last week. I sent the info to our vet for next time. Thanks so much for getting this very important information out.

    Dad says we are no longer going to get the standard FVRCP. Studies show due to our initial and booster shot we should be good for life.

    We have to get Rabies by law in Pa. Oh well

  2. That was very interesting and we would never have thought about vaccinations in a tail.
    Have a marvellous Monday.
    Best wishes Molly

  3. Mom has opted out of giving us vaccinations. The odds of us contracting anything is so remote it doesn't even register on any scale.

  4. This is great news! We don't get vaccinated regularly, since we are indoor-only, but if something happens and we need it (like the time the old house was tented for termites and we had to be boarded), this is really good to know!

  5. This was a very interesting and informative post. Mom is going to ask our VET about the tail vaccine when we have our shots in the spring. Thank you so much for sharing. Purrs and hugs, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo

  6. That was very helpful, thank you so much for sharing this!

    I have already had Nico done with his shots for this year, however since he is a Ragdoll, I told his vet that I didn't want him to have a Feline Leukemia shot (Because it has been known to kill Ragdolls, and Nico and Anya's breeder says to not give them one), but Nico's stupid vet just went ahead and gave him one!

    But on the bright side.... Anya has never had one! I am very grateful for that! And she will never have that stupid shot!

    But Anya also needs her shots for this year.

  7. Wow that's amazing, never would of thought the tail.. Have a fantastic Monday xxoxxx

    Mollie and Alfie

  8. Wow, this is really exciting!

    Katie is due for her rabies in a couple of weeks...I'm going to ask the vet about this for sure!

    : )

  9. We heard about this the other day. We only hope that most veterinarians get this news too.

  10. I shared this on facebook a few days ago and people were afraid of the cat being injected INTO the spine of the tail.

    the other potential down side is there will be no way of defining which vaccine caused the issue. My last vet always gave the same vaccines in the same areas so if cancer happened they would know clearly which vaccine caused it..

    but I do totally LOVE this idea, and I can't wait to see how this fares long term!

  11. @Tails from the Foster Kittens, yes, we imagine this would require some training so that spinal injection does not occur.

    And though ours have been done in the haunch at exactly the same spot (for tracking purposes) we're hoping they'll move to the tail tip just to decrease the odds. Actually, we're hoping they'll agree to titer so we can prove we're already immune and *need* no injections!!

  12. TW doesn't believe in yearly injections but I had to get them this year because I bite them so much they were worried that if one of them got an infection, they'd take me away and I'd get PTS.

  13. gonna talk to our vet about this - and titer testing everyone. we stay a little more current than some due to the foster kittens coming in and out...and rabies is required in our area. but we hope more vets start to accept this. :)

  14. I just read about doing these vaccines further down in the foot. Which sounds kind of tricky... Of course, the tail sounds even trickier. I think I'd feel like I would hit a bone. My old boss, who's a vet, had a cat who's leg was amputated because of these.

  15. I just sent this to former vet and others who can decide what is best to do relative to rescues. Frankly Mom Linda is now going to really question my vet when I go in Jan for my annual check up. I don't think I am going to be getting the FVRCP this time around...

  16. Mum will ask our vet when we go for our annual stabbing at the beginning of next year and what a great start for the new year that is!!
    Luv Hannah and Lucy xx xx

  17. We had one cat Lily who was diagnosed with the rabies vaccine carcinoma and lost her rear leg. It was crushing to go through this. But she became a happy and efficient tripod. A few years later we had a young cat Marley ALSO develop a vaccine related tumor and fortunately we knew what it was, immediately took him back to the vet, and his surgery was only necessary with muscle mass removed and we were able to save his leg.
    Lily was given the rabies vaccine in her tail the next time we decide to do this (beyond the recommended, and after discussion with our vet, but we felt necessary as she was getting older we did not want her quarantined if she had to be treated at the vet). She did fine with the tail and we decided we would opt for that for our other cat Marley. We moved out of the state and when we came here I asked a couple vets about giving the vaccine in the tail and they were not familiar. Because they were indoor cats we were not concerned. We recently lost Lily who lived a wonderful life to and old age of 18!! 12 years beyond the removal of her leg. We went to the humane society to adopt a new kitten last week and with application and checks we were shocked to be DENIED adoption of an animal. The reason was because Marley was not current on his rabies vaccine. I explained the situation and stated we would bring him that day, and I would have requested the tail vaccine for him. The local humane society responded they did not believe we had two cats that developed this tumor as their vet stated in 30 years they had only seen one. They told us even having him vaccinated that day they would deny us adoption for two years until we were able to PROVE WE WOULD TAKE CARE OF OUR ANIMALS!!! We have raised 5 children, had 7 cats 3 dogs and other hamsters , fish etc...and the only two animals that we chose to be cautious with vaccination were the two that developed the Vaccine related sarcoma. This topic needs to be presented to the people in charge of these adoption clinics and educate all pet owners since we had never heard of this until Lily was diagnosed and lost her leg. I cannot believe the amount of animals that are euthanized and when we go to adopt we are treated as lairs and poor candidates to adopt a pet! What has happened in this world? Sorry to rant so long, but I am just so saddened by this situation.

    1. Thank you for your comment and for visiting. We are so very happy to hear that Lily lived a wonderful 12 years as a tripod girl! And we are so saddened that a family as loving and responsible as you sound would be denied the chance to adopt. We are so very sorry to hear this! Yes, there is a great deal of education that needs to occur - and a great deal more research, too, we think. It would be nice to have science be able to prove that rabies isn't something you need to vaccinate against after kittenhood.

  18. I'm a owner of a cat that is survived to fibrosarcoma, and another that never got a shot. Good to know that now the tail is a option, so if it will be necessary, I know where to vaccine my future cats.


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