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What Is Vaccine-related Sarcoma? And How Can I Avoid It?

Discussion in 'Cat Health' started by Joealexie, Dec 7, 2017.

  1. Joealexie

    Joealexie Thread Starter TCS Member Kitten

    Sep 2, 2017
    I know vaccines are important but I recently saw a YouTube video talking about the side effects of vaccinating annually. I'm really confused on this subject, and I have never heard about this before.I was hoping someone can provide some guidance? Does that mean I don't need to take my cat to the vet every year? Or how do I know which vaccines are associated with this? And is there any statistical data supporting this or journals that talk about it?

    P.S. I just want to hear what both parties have to say about this

  2. Anne

    Anne Site Owner Staff Member Admin

    Oct 23, 2000
    On TCS
    The name has been changed as it became apparent that it wasn't the vaccines causing this. The new term is feline injection-site sarcoma (FISS). It's the prick of the needle itself that can very rarely trigger sarcoma in the injection site. It can happen with any type of injection but again, fortunately, is rare so should not prevent you from letting your cat get the treatments he/she needs, including vaccinations.

    The current recommendation is to inject cats in sites other than the traditional back of the neck shot. Legs and even tails are preferred because should this rare form of tumor occur, it can safely be treated by amputation. I know it sounds awful but at least it's effective treatment that doesn't put the cat's life at risk.

    Of course, for every injection - vaccines included - your vet always needs to assess the overall risk management. The decision on which vaccines to give can be affected by local epidemiological considerations so it's best to consult with your vet. I believe it's always good to educate ourselves, as long as we choose reliable sources. Here are a few helpful ones that I found -
    Vaccines and Sarcomas: A Concern for Cat Owners
    The next one is a bit technical but not bad -
    Feline Injection Site Sarcoma |

    There's some information in our article about rabies vaccinations here -
    Do Indoor-only Cats Need Rabies Shots?

    I did some research when writing that one and I know I need to write a new one about FISS sometime. On my to-do list :soldier:

    Oh, be careful of those YouTube videos. They may not be up to date, or may just be part of general anti-vax, anti-science, propaganda. There's a lot of that going on these days, unfortunately. As I said, choosing reliable science-based resources is the key here. It's not a matter of "taking sides", it's a matter of current scientific knowledge.
    fiorya, margd, Joealexie and 2 others purraised this.

  3. di and bob

    di and bob TCS Member Top Cat

    Dec 12, 2012
    Nebraska, USA
    I was never more happy to have had my cats vaccinated then when distemper went through our neighborhood like wildfire a couple of years ago. So many little ones died, it was a heartbreak. But EVERY cat that I had had vaccinated came through fine. And even though we are in town, there are skunks, bats and raccoons everywhere, so the threat of rabies is real too. I wish I had a schedule of how often various vaccines are REALLY necessary, I have heard they really last a lot longer than a year. True? I have so many outside cats it would be a welcome addition to my income to not have to vaccinate so often!
    PS in my over fifty years of caring for literally 100's of cats, I have never had one develop a tumor at injection sites. This is short term though, sadly since most were feral, their life expectancy was never long.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017
    margd and Joealexie purraised this.

  4. maggiedemi

    maggiedemi TCS Member Top Cat

    Mar 26, 2017
    Upstate NY
    I think there are 3 year Purevax Rabies and Distemper shots now.
    fiorya, margd and Joealexie purraised this.

  5. PushPurrCatPaws

    PushPurrCatPaws TCS Member Top Cat

    May 22, 2015
    This is a great, important thread - I'm glad it is 'Featured'!

    It's a hard topic to think about, though, for a worry wart like me -- so much more research needs to be done on FISS. I've wondered about the risk of FISS in diabetic cats. The use of vaccine injections usually leads the conversation because those are often the more common injections a cat may experience in their lives. But I've wondered what research has been and can be done regarding cats with diabetes, since the most common injections for them are often daily or twice daily insulin injections. One might also wonder if different brands of insulin have different possible inflammatory effects on cats. My last cat had feline diabetes and I gave her sub-q insulin shots twice daily in her lateral abdomen. It would be great if some quality studies could be done in regards to the incidence of FISS in diabetic cats having insulin injections. (yikes, though! That's a scary thought!)

    I really appreciated those links you offered, @Anne, esp. the "Feline Injection Site Sarcoma" one. Reading the section on "Prevention" within that link was helpful, too.
    fiorya, margd and Anne purraised this.

  6. fiorya

    fiorya TCS Member Adult Cat

    Oct 28, 2016
    It's good to be informed about FISS. Many veterinarians are aware of the issue and are now being more cautious. There are also now more rules in place to help safeguard against FISS, including the temperature of the vaccine solution when it's given, where the vaccine should be administered, and how often vaccines should be given.

    If you have concerns about vaccinating your cat, you can discuss them with your vet. They might recommend a 3-year vaccine or even (if it's an indoor cat) not vaccinating for some viruses at all.

    Personally I think the vaccines are worth it, as you never know if your living situation will change, if your cat might interact with another diseased animal in the future, etc. Vaccinating our pets against these diseases now will also help eliminate them as dangers for other pets in the future.

    But I understand the worry over it. A few years ago, my mom's cat developed a lump on her leg a couple months after a vaccine. I looked it up and read about FISS, and I was shocked. We ended up taking her to an oncology vet to get the lump biopsied, as it was still there weeks later. It turned out to be just localized inflammation, completely benign. It went away a couple weeks later. I think my mom doesn't get her vaccinated as often anymore, if at all.

    Note that injection-site sarcomas have not been found in humans.

  7. boney girl dad

    boney girl dad TCS Member Alpha Cat

    Mar 13, 2016
    Xena had FISS. It was diagnosed just before she passed. Heart failure got her before we had to make any cancer decisions. I really didn't noticed a lump or bump (and that's my fault), she had a sore that wouldn't quite heal. There was a definite mass when she was diagnosed.
    With my new cat Ziva we are titer testing when vaccines are due. Can't do anything about rabies because of laws, but everything else we can titer test. A titer test checks to see if previous vaccines are still effective. A holistic veterinarian will be glad to do this for you. Not exactly cheap is really the only negative.

  8. Neo_23

    Neo_23 TCS Member Top Cat

    Sep 2, 2017
    There is currently disagreement amongst veternarians regarding whether it is the adjuvants in vaccines or the way the vaccine is administered, or the needles themselves causing the sarcomas. The recommendation nowadays is to get a non-adjuvanted vaccine. I would also add that you should do your research and think hard about whether all vaccines and boosters are always necessary. At the end of the day, administering vaccines is a business - both veterinarians and the companies that make vaccines profit from them. Also, the duration of vaccines in cats' systems is not well understood. It is highly likely that a yearly booster is not necessary for most vaccines. For example, there is a study currently underway by Dr. Dodds showing that the rabies vaccine can last up to 7 years in a dog's system. The Rabies Challenge Fund Studying Duration of Immunity

    There is a lot of fear-mongering on websites about vaccines. I find the information from Dr. Lisa Pierson helpful for making decisions about what is right for your pet: Vaccines for Cats: We Need to Stop Overvaccinating

    Unfortunately, whenever someone speaks up and questions vaccines they get called names like "anti-vaxer" and immediately dismissed. Just because you question the legitimacy of a vaccine doesn't mean that you are against all vaccines all the time or that you are against science. This is a typical argument used to dismiss people thinking critically and to continue the fear-mongering amongst pet owners. There are instances where vaccines are definitely necessary and useful, and instances where they are excessively used.

  9. denice

    denice Advisor Staff Member Advisor

    Feb 7, 2006
    Columbus OH
    I take my cats to a clinic that uses the Purevax vaccines. I would ask about that. Many clinics don't use them because they cost a little more.

    Yes there are risks with vaccines. Like any medication or treatment there are benefits and risks which need to be weighed. For most cats especially kittens the benefits outweigh the risk. At one time cats were getting more vaccinations then needed but the new recommendations have cut back on how often they are given. Kittens still need the three rounds of shots and then one year boosters.

  10. daisyd

    daisyd TCS Member Super Cat

    Jan 21, 2017
    Gosh never heard of this . Gracie has a her year health check due which includes a booster I believe. She had two injections as a kitten however had to have quite a few anti sickness jabs as couldn’t keep her food down. I’m a bit worried now so will ask vet when I make the appointment

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