New Research Suggests Tail Vaccinations make Vaccination Sarcomas Easier to Treat
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The Case for Administering Cat Vaccines in their Tails
For many cats that encounter other animals or spend time in the outdoors, feline vaccinations for diseases such as rabies and feline leukemia among others is extremely important to both their health and longevity, and in the protection of other cats in the household and outside environment. As many cat owners are aware, there is a small but serious risk that cat vaccinations will result in the development of a feline sarcoma or sarcomas at or near the injection site. Known to vets for years, this risk resulted in the recommended administration of vaccinations to the limbs, so that if a sarcoma developed, amputation of the limb and associated tissue could, in some cases, save the cat's life albeit with significant disfigurement and scarring. Of course, this treatment option was less than ideal for pet owners, and traumatic and life-altering for the cats that survived.
In 2011, I began reading about a small but growing trend (I believe originating in Europe) whereby veterinarians were choosing to vaccinate in the cat's tail, since the development of a sarcoma could be more easily treated by amputating a portion of the tail, resulting in less trauma and disfigurement to the cat in terms of recovery potential and mobility.
In late 2013, research was published from the University of Florida in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery that used a controlled study to examine the overall effectiveness and efficacy of tail-based vaccination. Not only did they find that tail vaccination group tolerated the vaccinations as well as the other more established sites used to administer vaccines in the control group, but the efficacy of the vaccines themselves were just as high in the tail vaccine group as compared to the control group. While additional studies would be helpful to confirm these results, cat tolerability and effective antibody titer levels achieved through tail vaccination, with the added benefit of easier treatment should a sarcoma develop, suggests that veterinarians should strongly consider either switching their vaccination site protocols, or at least offering the option to pet owners.
I recently discussed this issue with two friends that have cats who had vaccinations in the past year, and neither owner was offered this option by their veterinarians, with both cats receiving their vaccinations in the hind leg. I have no knowledge of what cat shelters are doing in this regard, but hopefully, the technique will gain traction as more attention to the safety and efficacy of the tail for injection is spread by professionals and researchers. However, pet owners can do a great deal in spreading the word by asking their veterinarians about this, and by requesting tail injections.
Here are a few resources you may wish to read about this interesting research.
This one is from the University of Florida where the research was conducted:
This article is from PetMD, and discussing the research findings:
Finally, here is a video made by the researchers outlining the research protocol and their findings. It's quite informative, but be warned, there is one slide that shows a cat undergoing surgery.