Vaccinations play a vital role in the overall health of our pets. It is important to keep them up to date, as the diseases they protect them from can be life-threatening, or cause long-term, chronic problems. Thanks to modern medicine, these viruses are much less common nowadays. Developing a vaccine means they have been almost fully eradicated in populations with high vaccine rates. Areas with wildlife, and strays, or low vaccine rates will generally always pose a risk to herd immunity so it is essential to keep your pet up to date to prevent them from becoming abundant again.

Immediate, aggressive Veterinary treatment is usually required to give the dog the best chance of survival if they contract any of the viruses described in this article – because unfortunately, once diagnosed, there is no cure available. The only approach for treatment is symptomatic care, to try and reduce the intensity of the clinical signs.

Read on to find out more about the common viruses found in dogs and the vaccines developed to prevent them.


Panleukopaenia is the feline version of canine parvovirus. Symptomatically they are very similar, with bloody diarrhoea being the most obvious clinical sign, and mainly affects young susceptible kittens. Panleukopaenia can live in the environment for up to 1 year in a stable form, and is resistant to most forms of disinfectants, heat and detergent. Transmission occurs via urine, stool, nasal secretion and fleas from the infected cat, and the environment itself, including bedding, cages, food dishes and hands/clothing of people handling an infected cat.

Other external clinical signs can include vomiting, lethargy, anorexia, depression and fever, but will most commonly present with the stereotypical bloody diarrhoea. This virus should be treated very seriously as the feline panleukopaenia virus not only targets the gastrointestinal system, but can also destroy cells in the bone marrow, lymph nodes and fetus if the cat is pregnant. This is the most concerning clinical sign as this symptom can be the actual cause of death in cats – the resulting cell damage can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances and septicaemia. There has been studies warning that if a kitten is infected under 8 weeks old, or has not improved by the 5th day of clinical signs, it will have a grave prognosis.


Calicivirus relates to the upper respiratory tract, and presents fairly similarly to what you would expect the flu to look like. Calicivirus can live in the environment for up to 1 week in a stable form, and is resistant to most forms of disinfectants, heat and detergent. Transmission occurs via direct contact, urine, stool, nasal secretion, saliva and the environment itself, including bedding, cages, food dishes and hands/clothing of people handling an infected cat.

Clinical signs relate to the upper respiratory tract, including the nose, throat and mouth, as well as the eyes. This includes sneezing, eyes/nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, tongue/gum/lip/nose ulcers, excessive salivation, lethargy, fever and anorexia. Kittens usually suffer worse than adult cats, but should be treated just the same as they will start as mild and progress to severe regardless if left untreated

Figure 2. Tongue ulcer in a cat with feline calicivirus infection (Radford et al. 2009)


Also known as feline viral rhinotracheitis, feline herpesvirus acts very similarly to calicivirus. That is, the upper respiratory tract and eyes are usually the most affected. All cats that have been infected with herpesvirus will become carriers for the rest of their lives, and can be ‘activated’ again during times of stress or illness and will present with the clinical signs as described below.

Herpesvirus can also live in the environment for up to 18 hours, or as long as it stays moist – which is fortunate, as most secretions from an infected cat usually dry up in a short period of time. It is also one of the only viruses that is sensitive to cleaning/disinfection, and transmission can be minimised by using a bleach solution, hot water and detergent. Transmission occurs via urine, stool, nasal secretion, fleas from an infected dog, and the environment itself, including bedding, cages, food dishes and hands/clothing of people handling an infected dog.

Clinical signs as said before are very similar to Calicivirus – sneezing, eyes/nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, lethargy, and anorexia is very common. Because this is a ‘chronic’ virus, cats can also develop dry eye, corneal ulcers and ongoing inflammation. Kittens usually suffer worse than adult cats, but should be treated just the same as symptoms may very well start as mild, but progress to severe if left untreated. Owners need to bare in mind that although prevention via vaccination is required, they can still contract a milder version that usually can resolve on it’s own. 100% immunity cannot always be promised especially if your cat is exposed to high doses, or is in contact with the virus frequently.

Figure 3. Conjunctivitis in a cat (Woodruff, K. et al 2016)

Chlamydia Prevention

Despite there being no cure available for Panleukopaenia, Calicivirus, Herpesvirus and Chlamydia variations, vaccinations have been developed to prevent these ‘unnecessary’ diseases from infecting our pets. See the outline below for the vaccination protocol we follow here at Narangba Veterinary Clinic.

Please bare in mind, this is our standard procedure we follow, but for individual cats this may vary depending on Veterinarian’s recommendation at the time. See Figure 1. for a visual representation of the core and non-core vaccines available. We currently offer an ‘F3’ vaccination as standard protocol for the majority of kittens and cats that present to our clinic. This is a live vaccine, which means that less boosters are required (see the ‘how do vaccines work?’ section below for more information on this.

Core Vaccines – Panleukopaenia, Calicivirus & Herpesvirus

Core vaccines include vaccines that all cats should be immunised with. It includes Panleukopaenia virus, Calicivirus and Herpesvirus.

Currently at Narangba Veterinary Clinic, we offer the Nobivac F3 vaccinations as an injectable. Every time your cat comes in for a vaccination, they will always receive an F3 vaccine, regardless of whether they are a kitten or adult (unless indicated otherwise – see ‘Non-core Vaccines’ below).

Vaccination Schedule – Kittens

  Age of Kitten
Vaccination Type 8 weeks old 12 weeks old
Nobivac TriCat

Vaccination Schedule – Adults

  Age of Cat
Vaccination Type Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4
Nobivac TriCat    
Nobivac DuCat    

Please note: kittens/adult cats with overdue/unknown vaccination history will be vaccinated at the Vet’s discretion. Sometimes boosters are required for adult cats.

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines in cats work exactly the same way as they do in humans. In the Veterinary world, there are two types available – inactivated or live vaccines. The former uses a ‘killed’ version of the virus that causes the disease. It is cultured, and created into a strain that removes it’s disease-causing ability. The body then creates antibodies in response to the ‘killed’ virus fragments. Generally speaking, inactivated vaccines are less effective as they don’t exactly mimic the real disease unlike live vaccines.

Live vaccines are a lot stronger, as they include active viral microbes to produce an immune response. Similarly to inactivated vaccines, the body then creates antibodies in response to the ‘live’ virus fragments, but in a more accurate and comparable way to a real life encounter with the virus itself. Booster shots are still required, but not as often as inactivated vaccines.

Most of the vaccines available here at Narangba Veterinary Clinic are live vaccines. This is to ensure your pet has the best chance of being protected against harmful viruses such as the ones discussed in this article. Despite what you may be thinking, live vaccines are rigorously tested in the lab before becoming available to Vet clinics, so there is little risk of any serious adverse effects occurring. Adverse effects are completely unpredictable and occur much less often than side effects. This can include severe anaphylaxis or sudden death.

Side effects of Vaccinations

Now that you know how vaccines work, you can understand that, although rare, there can also be some side effects present in cats (side effects meaning low harm and expected… with adverse effects meaning serious harm and unexpected). They are usually acute, minor, and pass within a day or two. Symptoms can include localised swelling at the injection site, mild lethargy, fever and loss of appetite. A prompt re-visit with one of our Veterinarians is always recommended, as most of the time these side effects can be counteracted with appropriate medication.

Call the clinic today if you have any further queries regarding this topic!