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Individualized preventive care plans improve cat lives

New AAHA/AAFP feline care guidelines stress the need to tailor vaccine protocols for specific pets

To provide feline patients with the best preventive care possible, it is imperative veterinarians determine a cat’s unique risk factors.

That’s the message emphasized in the 2020 AAHA/AAFP Feline Vaccination Guidelines, a new release from a panel of experts convened by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP).

The resource stresses the need for a comprehensive understanding of individualized feline risk factors, including life stage, environment, and lifestyle, to determine a proper preventive health-care plan.

“We no longer can simply ask a client if the cat is ‘indoors’ or ‘outdoors,’” says AAFP’s president, Kelly St. Denis, MSc, DVM, DABVP (feline practice). “A client may not correctly interpret what they might consider brief or low-risk outdoor access, which may contain information that contributes to your risk assessment.

“A risk assessment of the other cats living in the home is also critical, as these risks extend to all other cats in the house. By asking these questions you can better review the cat’s risk for safety, nutrition, behavior, and zoonotic disease.”

The guidelines, which serve as an update to the 2013 AAFP Feline Vaccination Advisory Panel Report, were written based on recent evidence-based recommendations and peer-reviewed literature on feline vaccinations with input from both AAHA and AAFP.

“Working together with these two organizations affords our veterinary community exposure to the wisdom of colleagues who are dedicated to increasing the standard of care for cats,” says Amy ES Stone, DVM, PhD, who chaired the publication’s task force.

The guidelines include specific resources to help animal health professionals educate clients, such as:

  • a lifestyle-based feline vaccine calculator;
  • FAQs and tips for client and staff education; and
  • recommendations for core and noncore vaccines for pet and shelter-housed cats.

Veterinarians should use these guidelines in conjunction with their own clinical experience and expert opinion, AAHA says, while also considering the needs of an individual patient.

“Cats used to be vaccinated for certain diseases based solely on whether they went outside or not. Those times have changed,” says AAHA senior veterinary officer, Heather Loenser, DVM. “We need to tailor vaccine protocols for individual pets, rather than basing vaccination decisions on a single factor.”

To access the guidelines, click here.

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