Vaccines for Cats: An Interview with Dr. Jean Hofve

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Thank you to Dr. Jean for taking the time to talk to Floppycats about vaccines for cats.  I get a lot of e-mails about what vaccines do indoor cats need or what vaccines for cats are necessary.  Finally, this interview provides some insight and answers to those questions for readers.

You can learn more about cat health by reading Dr. Jean’s book, The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care: An Illustrated Handbook as well as proper cat nutrition: What Cats Should Eat: How to Keep Your Cat Healthy with Good Food

Vaccines for Cats Podcast

You can listen to the podcast of Vaccines for Cats with Dr Jean Hofve (click here) or you can read the interview below.

We’ve now done several interviews with Dr. Jean, feel free to check any of them out:

Transcription of Vaccines for Cats: An Interview with Dr Jean Hofve, DVM

Here are the two links referenced in the interview:

 Jenny:           Hello Floppycatters. Today we have the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Jean Hofve of Little Big Cat about vaccines. Doctor Hofve, thank you for joining us today.

Dr. Hofve:     Hi, Jen. It’s good to be here.

Jenny:           Dr. Hofve has written a lot of books. I also call her Dr. Jean, so I might switch back and forth on that.

Dr. Hofve:     That’s fine.

Jenny:           And one that she is currently in the process of revising is what cats should eat, which is important for their immune system, which is what we’re going to talk about with vaccines. And Dr. Hofve mentioned that if you’ve already purchased What Cats Should Eat through Amazon, for example, you can reach out and she will give you the revised copy in some way or another.

Dr. Hofve:     Amazon will update it automatically.

Jenny:           Oh, good. Okay, well then Amazon will update it. And I’ll include a link to it in the About section of the interview too.

Dr. Hofve:     Good.

Jenny:           Okay. Also, Dr. Hofve and I have done a lot of interviews together on the site about allergies, food allergies, obesity in cats, kidney disease. So, I’ll include a link to all of those if you’d like to continue to listen to our interviews together. Dr. Hofve, as you know in anticipation of this interview, I posted on Floppycats’ Facebook page saying, great news – we are doing another interview with Dr. Jean, and this time it’s going to be about vaccines. What questions you have? So, I’m going to read a bunch of different readers’ questions, but first thought we’d just start off talking about vaccines in general.

Dr. Hofve:     Okay.

Jenny:           In the United States.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah, vaccination, it’s a really controversial topic for a lot of people, although the medical establishment doesn’t see why we quibble with them at all. Vaccines are designed to stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies to a particular disease so that if that disease ever shows up in the environment and that the animal is exposed to it, they already have the antibody producing mechanism ready to go. And therefore, they can beat off the virus without getting sick. So, that’s the idea is that you create antibodies to the disease for which the vaccine is, like a rabies virus. There’s a vaccine for that, kitty distemper, which is also called panleukopenia, and a whole host of others. There are about a bazillion vaccines currently and in development, because guess what, vaccines are incredibly profitable for the pharmaceutical companies.

They’re not as expensive to develop, and they can be propagated very quickly to veterinarians with just a couple of CE courses – continuing ed courses – at a conference. So, when your veterinarian is talking to you about vaccines, you definitely want to make sure that every vaccine they want to give is justified based on your cat’s lifestyle – if your cat goes out or doesn’t or living in a colony or whatever it is. You want to make sure that each vaccine is justified. In most cases, when you’re talking about viral vaccines, those vaccines work really, really well. They work so well that once your kitten or cat is immunized against those diseases, they don’t ever need the vaccine again. So, that’s our starting point.

Jenny:           Okay. Good. And I’m glad you mentioned kittens because that’s where I was going to lead. I was going to ask what vaccines do you kind of recommend for any kitten that comes into the world. And one of the things that I will be asking a lot throughout this interview, or maybe we can just nip it in the bud now is, since I’ve had Floppycats for 10 years, so many people reference Rag Dolls as being different than other cats. Like, they shouldn’t receive certain vaccines because of their breed, and I’m not convinced of any of that. So, I wanted to know if you had any experience with breed-specific vaccines too.

Dr. Hofve:     Well. No, that’s not true about Ragdolls. But it is true in general about purebred cats, especially the older breeds like Persian Siamese, and Ragdolls have that heritage. So, the reason that purebreds are more susceptible to vaccine adverse effects is because of the inbreeding and line breeding and over-breeding, and the age of the breeds, and how pure they are. When you start breeding for looks, which is what has happened, pretty much the first thing to be sacrificed in that quest is the immune system. And the immune system in Abyssinians, Burmese, Rag Dolls, Persian’s, it’s sensitive. And it can overreact very easily. In my experience, that’s just what I see is that the hybrid vigor sometimes protects animals from these kinds of genetic problems. But their immune systems are just a little funky. I don’t know how to explain it without going into ridiculous science, which I probably would get lost there myself.

But just consider that purebred cat immune systems tend to be a little trigger-happy, and you can get some serious adverse effects from reactions to components in the vaccine, not necessarily the virus that’s in it or bacteria, but they can have some bad reactions.

Jenny:           Okay. So, in that case, if we go back to the kittens thing, would you vaccinate a Rag Doll kitten different than a domestic Shorthair?

Dr. Hofve:     No, because they all need the kitten vaccines. Where you get into trouble is over-vaccination later in life. The kitten diseases, panleukopenia, is a parvovirus. It will kill you if you’re a kitten. It will kill you fast, and not in a pretty way. So, the panleukopenia, the other components, the rhinotracheitis, if your vet can get the panleukopenia vaccine by itself, that’s really ideal. I prefer to vaccinate kittens not until they’re 10 to 12 weeks old. But if you’re going to wait, you want to make sure that cleanliness is godliness, and they are not exposed. I have a friend who didn’t vaccinate her kittens. A worker – the kennel person – brought the distemper in, and she lost all her kittens and a couple of the adult cats because they were… Well, for one thing, they were purebred. So, they were just not prepared at all for that.

So, you have to be careful with that if you’re going to wait. But there are good reasons to wait, and that is because the mother cat gives the kittens immunity through the milk. That immunity lasts for a long time – 10, 12, 14, 16 weeks. So, when you start vaccinating real early, that’s probably not really necessary. If the mom was immune, the kittens are going to be immune for a long time. The way Dr. Ron Schultz recommends is if you have a kitten or a cat over 16 weeks of age, you only need one vaccine. It’s a good vaccine that works like dynamite, and it will protect them for life. Younger kittens, I would give two. I would give one at nine, ten weeks, and one at fourteen, fifteen weeks. I might give a one-year booster if the cat was exposed to a lot of other cats, either cat shows or walking on a leash out there where all these bugs live in the grass. But minimal vaccines.

So, you want to do the least amount of damage possible. The problem with the feline distemper vaccine is that it has grown. The vaccine is grown and cultured in a culture-medium that contains feline kidneys cells. And there has now been lots of research that shows that when you inject the vaccine, proteins from the kidney cells are also injected. Viruses are bigger than proteins. So, even when the vaccine is filtered, those proteins just go right along in there. Well, there’s been a lot of work now that has shown that in dogs and cats, puppies and kittens, when you inject those proteins, the body reacts to those as well as to the virus. So, it makes antibodies to feline kidney cells. So, guess what, kittens have feline kidneys.

So, you’re creating a chronic low-grade inflammation because those antibodies are going to cross-react with the cat’s own kidneys and set up a low-grade chronic inflammation, which is why it’s so important not to give more vaccines than they need. All my cats, they got the first two – distemper and the first rabies – and they never got another vaccine. Nevertheless, they still developed kidney failure. So, that’s not only a positive factor, but it is a big one. You want to be very careful with that.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     Make sense?

Jenny:           Well, yes. I probably need to listen to it again, but yes. Slowly but surely, I’m learning this stuff a little bit better. You have a page on your website, LittleBigCat.com/health/vaccination where you kind of walk through all the different ones. So, is that one that I can link to help people read further if they’d like?

Dr. Hofve:     Yes.

Jenny:           Okay, that’s good because there are several articles, but that seems to be kind of like the main one that you have it all in one section.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah. And I have the recommendations for schedules and everything. It was first published in 2010, but it’s been updated many times since.

Jenny:           Okay. I figured that it had been updated as well. Okay. So, getting into the specific questions…

Dr. Hofve:     I know there are good ones.

Jenny:           Yes, there were. I’ve got to tell you, this whole vaccine topic really makes me depressed. When I posted it on Facebook and then saw everybody responding, I was excited about the enthusiasm about it. But when I started reading, one reader mentioned that the rabies vaccine is the same. I’m going to use the wrong words here, but concentration for a 100-pound German Shepherd to a 13-pound Rag Doll, that they don’t…

Dr. Hofve:     Right, or a two-pound kitten.

Jenny:           Okay. That makes me want to vomit. I didn’t know that kind of stuff. I understand it’s good to be educated, certainly. But there are sometimes that I’m like I was happier in my other world.

Dr. Hofve:     But ignorance really is bliss sometimes.

Jenny:           Yes. Yes. Anyway, I didn’t start reading through these until last night because I knew if I read them before then that I would just get even more upset about the pharmaceutical companies.

Dr. Hofve:     Well, let’s start with one other big principle. That is, killed vaccines should never, ever be given to cats. Cats develop cancer from those things. And the incidents may be as high as one in a thousand. When you do the math, that’s tens of thousands of cats dying of cancer unnecessarily. You want to find a vet who uses only modified live for distemper and recombinant vaccines for rabies and anything else that you particularly want to vaccinate for – leukemia for one. But the killed vaccines are the problem. They have adjuvants, they have aluminum, they have mercury, they have formaldehyde and God knows what all else in there. The recombinant vaccines do not produce the local inflammation that killed vaccines do. Killed vaccines, because they’re killed, they don’t trigger as robust an immune response. So, they put all these adjuvants in to create more inflammation and bring more blood cells into the area so that you have a good immune response.

It’s kind of slapping the immune system upside the head with a two by four rather than just saying, hey, here’s a potential problem. We can do something about it. So, the recombinant vaccines are much, much safer. Most of them really have a one-year duration on the label. Merial finally got a three-year approval for the rabies vaccine. But just never give a killed virus to a cat. That is the rule of thumb. The duration of immunity has not been well tested on these vaccines. But I guarantee you, they’re going to work just as well. So, always go with that. There are three kill vaccines used in cats – rabies, FIV, and FIP. FIV and FIP, you don’t want to give any of it. But rabies, you have to follow whatever the law is in your neighborhood, and it changes from city to city, county to county, state to state. But you’ve got to do it. So, you want to do it in as least harmful a manner as possible. That’s why you avoid the killed rabies.

Jenny:           Okay. That’s kind of the first question actually. It’s from Alexis. And she said, our municipality now requires an annual rabies vaccine regardless of if it’s an indoor cat, or an outdoor cat. Licensing was started two years ago. My two cats are indoor only. Any suggestions towards placement? Should the shot be in a different spot each year? I’m concerned with the risk of issues of cancers from repeated vaccines.

Dr. Hofve:     Right. So, with the recombinant vaccines, that is not as much an issue.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     They are recommending these days to give it in the tail and probably far down on the tail so that they can lop off pieces as the cancer occurs. But the cancer is really a problem with the killed vaccines. So, if you can avoid the killed vaccine… And let us know what municipality that is because there are activist groups on Facebook and stuff that will absolutely hammer them with facts and science and say get your butt hole off of your head and pay attention to science because annual vaccines are unnecessary and they are harmful. So, Andrea, let us know.

Jenny:           Okay. More on the rabies vaccine in general, somebody wrote, I want to know the PUREVAX rabies shot is safe for Rag Dolls. Spanky – I guess must be her cat – has reactions to revolution flea medicine on his neck, and to anesthesia. So, the PUREVAX is Merial, right?

Dr. Hofve:     That is the recombinant vaccine, yeah.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     If you have a hyperreactive cat, you want to take precautions. Now, elsewhere on my website, there’s an article on how to prevent vaccine adverse effects. That’s a combination of everything I’ve learned over the years, and Dr. Russell Blaylock’s protocol. And do as many of those things at the time of vaccination as you can.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     In particular, the calcium and the Thuja – the homeopathic Thuja, which you can get online.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     So, those would be the keys. I had a hip replacement a couple of years ago and it was in the fall. My doctors all wanted me to get a flu shot. And I haven’t gotten a flu shot in 25 years. But I thought, well, I’m going to be in the hospital, and the hospital is where they keep sick people. So, maybe I’d better. And I did all the things that I was supposed to do, and I did not have a bad reaction. The last flu shot I got, oh my God, the reactions were horrible. I developed three, count them, three auto-immune diseases, boom, boom, boom. On top of the rabies vaccine that we had to get, that was just the last straw. So, I can tell you this protocol works really well.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     And you may want to consider applying some of those things too if you’re ever going to get flea products again, instead of using a natural means to prevent fleas, which is a real pain in the butt. You have to be really dedicated to do it. But there are things that you can do to improve the immune system and help them be less reactive.

Jenny:           Okay. And yeah, I think I found it, Preventing Vaccine Adverse Effects.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah. There’s a full article and then there’s a – if you print it out, it’s one page, you can take it with you and make life easier for yourself.

Jenny:           Okay. Well, I will include that link so our listeners or readers – because this will be transcribed too – don’t have to go searching for it. Thank you for that. Jenny Manning also asked something that I’m curious about – the three-year versus the one-year. And you mentioned that Merial just got approved for the three-year. What do you think about that?

Dr. Hofve:     Well, use the three-year. I mean, less is more with cats. So, you want to minimize vaccines. The veterinary organizations, which make me ashamed to be a veterinarian most days, they revised their vaccine guidelines. The American Association of Feline Practitioners, who are supposed to be out there advocating on behalf of cats, they changed their vaccine recommendations. They changed the wording so that it doesn’t say vaccine associated sarcoma anymore. Sarcoma is the particular type of cancer that it causes. Now they call it injection-related or injection-associated sarcoma because technically, any trauma, any injection, you give your cat fluids, you give your cat Adequan, any kind of injection can potentially cause this kind of cancer because that’s the way cats’ immune systems work. But out of a million cancers, nine hundred ninety-nine thousand nine hundred ninety-nine are from the rabies vaccine. But they get a lot of money from the pharmaceutical companies to put on their conferences. So, what are you going to do?

Jenny:           Right. Oh man.

Dr. Hofve:     So, give as few vaccines as possible, and always give them Merial or the modified live. Everybody has one of those.

Jenny:          Okay. So, going back to the 100-pound German Shepherd to the two-pound kitten, is that three-year vaccine the same concentration as the one-year?

Dr. Hofve:     In the kill vaccine, yes. In the Merial because it’s for cats, it’s for cats. So, it’s what cats need. You can’t give it to it to a German Shepherd.

Jenny:           Okay. But do you know if the one-year and the three-year are the same for the cats, like, the same amount or whatever?

Dr. Hofve:     Oh, in the recombinant?

Jenny:           Mm-hmm.

Dr. Hofve:     I don’t know. I think they’re different, but I can find out from Meriel.

Jenny:           Okay. Well, I don’t know if it’s that important, it’s just something that was in my head out of curiosity.

Dr. Hofve:     That’s so much less dangerous a vaccine. I’d prefer it be given every three than everyone. But even the one-year is fairly safe. How many people do we know that are giving sub-Q fluids to their cats every day, sometimes twice a day? How many of those cats have developed a sarcoma? None?

Jenny:           Right. Right.

Dr. Hofve:     Have you ever heard of one? I have never heard of one?

Jenny:           No.

Dr. Hofve:     So, you can get the one-year every year and that’s fine.

Jenny:           Okay. Another reader, Amanda, mentioned that a lot of times if you have kind of mindful vet, they can just see if there have been any reports of rabies in your county or anything, and usually there haven’t been. So, she kind of delays based on that. Are you familiar with that strategy at all, meaning like rabies found in wildlife or anything outside of domesticated animals?

Dr. Hofve:     Right. That’s just the cases that they know about. If a raccoon gets rabies and bites three other raccoons and dies in the woods, you’re never going to know about any of that.

Jenny:           Right.

Dr. Hofve:     So, rabies [surveillance 00:24:55] is only known cases, reported cases. Denver, Colorado, used to be a pretty nice place. It’s still a nice place, but it’s not as nice because we did not used to have terrestrial rabies. We only had rabies in bats. But rabies was common in the south. This is how this happened, you’re going to love this. Rabies was very common in the south because of raccoons and foxes, and it’s easier to live in the south – the weather’s better, right?

Jenny:           Mm-hmm.

Dr. Hofve:     So, some guys up in New England really liked hunting raccoons, but there weren’t enough raccoons. So, they went down to Georgia, and they trapped a bunch of raccoons and brought them up to New England and let them go. And that’s how New England got rabies. And rabies has been steadily crawling across the country, and now we have it in skunks. No other reported animals so far, although we did have a couple of rabid cows at the University. But we had it in bats. So, if the bat bit the cow… But now, rabies is becoming more serious. It’s already in 25 percent of our bats, which if you live in an old house like I do, you probably have bats in your attic. So, yeah, get the rabies vaccine because it’ll kill you if you get it. But, yeah, I would just follow the law in those cases.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     Because the PUREVAX is so much safer, I don’t squawk nearly as much about giving that. If there was only the killed virus, I’d be tearing my hair out about it. But there’s no reason to ever get a killed vaccine for a cat. There are modified live or recombinant vaccines for everything you can need.

Jenny:           Okay. And I think that’s an easy way to remember it. So, thank you for that as I’m thinking about it when I’m at the vet. Okay. Jeanette said…

Dr. Hofve:     If your vet doesn’t carry the PUREVAX®, you can call Merial and find out who does. And if your vet won’t, that is time to consider, well, maybe that is not the correct vet for you because they’re clearly not on your page.

Jenny:           Good. I was going to ask that too. Well, if they’re not carrying it, then…

Dr. Hofve:      Yeah. Well, it’s very expensive. It’s about 20 times more expensive to carry it. And if they’re not using it all at the time, most of that goes to waste. If they’re only giving you and maybe one other cat in the county the PUREVAX®, they’re not going to carry it. But if they make the switch and are going to give it to all cats, which they should… And maybe you can have that discussion with them because that’s something they can promote – hey, we are more cat-friendly. We don’t use the things that give your cat cancer. It’s possible to have an enlightened discussion, shall we say.

Jenny:           Okay. Yeah. Well, there have been times where I’m like, where’s Dr. Hofve when I need her?

Dr. Hofve:     I’m in Denver.

Jenny:           When I’m at the vet – yeah, right. Okay. Janet said, my Rag Doll developed a round mast cell at the spot where the vet gave her the rabies shot. Any comments on this? She and my other Rag Dolls will not be getting any other rabies shots. I’ve talked to two breeders, and neither gave their Rag Dolls rabies. I was also told by another breeder not to get the leukemia vaccine. So, maybe we can get into that after the round mast cell spot.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah. Mast cells are pretty common in cats. It’s not a recognized [inaudible 00:28:555] of vaccines. But if it’s in that spot, you know there is a connection there. Did she say that was the PUREVAX®?

Jenny:           She didn’t say.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah. If it was the killed vaccine, then I’m not surprised about anything that shows up at that spot.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     But you don’t let them go down on the mast cell, you get it out of there.

Jenny:           Oh, Okay. Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah, very, very important to remove those because they will metastasize like crazy.

Jenny:           Mm, lovely.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah. Not a nice thing, that one.

Jenny:           Okay. Well, good to know. Gosh, I feel like I’ve been so fortunate, knock on wood, with vaccines with my cats. That actually leads into a question that I had. I do know of a family friend who had to put her cat down because it was vaccinated in its neck and developed a tumor there. What are your feelings on… Doesn’t the American Association of Feline Practitioners have suggested legs? I know you mentioned the tail earlier in this conversation, but…

Dr. Hofve:     Right, and the tail is the current favorite. No, they’re not recommending legs anywhere. They’re recommending tail. But those cautions apply to the killed vaccine.

Jenny:           Oh.

Dr. Hofve:     Right. So, rabies right, leukemia left was how they were doing it. And you can’t just give it up in the hip because that is an inoperable site. You have to give it low down on the leg. Few cats will tolerate it. I tried it. It’s not an easy thing. It’s easy to do it wrong.

Jenny:           Yeah. I can see that with how small they are.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah. I mean, how are you going to get it in the skin next to the kneecap? That’s really hard to do, and that’s where you’re supposed to give it.

Jenny:           And meanwhile, the cat needs to stay stationary. Yeah. No.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah. Now you and whose army are going to hold that cat?

Jenny:           Right. Exactly.

Dr. Hofve:     And I don’t think we need to sedate cats just to give them a vaccine. When we’re talking to this group, your enlightened groups of Floppycats people, they’re already giving minimal vaccines. So, giving them in a particular spot, and if they can go with the PUREVAX with the recombinant vaccines, then all of that doesn’t matter because you’re only going to give a few vaccines in the cat’s lifetime.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     I do have to say that rabies, you have to follow the law if you’re going to license your cats. If they’re indoors and your next-door neighbor does not work for animal control, you may not ever come across a situation where they’re going to nail you for not having vaccinated and licensed your cat. If you cat bites someone… I had a crusty old, oh she was so mean, this cat. She was a 15-year-old Tortoiseshell. And she bit the crap out of me, and she’d just gnaw on anybody for the fun of it. And I vaccinated her for rabies. I do not vaccinate cats over 14, but the woman ran a daycare out of her house. So, the chances that that cat was going to bite somebody were like 200 percent. So, you have to go with your situation. I am not telling you to disobey the law. I’m telling you I do it every day because my cats are never re-vaccinated, ever.

Jenny:           Yeah.

Dr. Hofve:     So, knowing that you pay your dime, you take your chance. If you don’t want to vaccinate, that’s fine. Immunologically, I have no problem with that. The cat is protected if it’s had previous vaccines. But you might run into problems down the road with animal control.

Jenny:           Right.

Dr. Hofve:     And some laws are pretty onerous, and they will just take your cat.

Jenny:           Yes. That’s how my vet has feared me into getting the rabies vaccine is that she’s like, okay, I’m just telling you that if they show up at your door and ask for proof of rabies vaccine and you don’t have it that they can go and take Charlie and kill him.

Dr. Hofve:     Yep. Yep. A lot of laws like that out there. So, it might behoove folks to call their animal control and see what the law is, and then you can make your decision.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     You know, you’re making it from a place of knowledge instead of fear.

Jenny:           Right. Right. You mentioned that you don’t vaccinate senior cats after 14 because somebody had asked, it was K. Evans-Brown asking, can vaccinations stop with senior cats? Mine are 12.

Dr. Hofve:     They can stop after the first series. If you have a year-old cat and it’s been vaccinated around 16 weeks and never needs another panleuk vaccine, it doesn’t need anything except rabies as required by law, once a cat is 12 or 13 or 14, they all have some little health thing. Right?

Jenny:           Right.

Dr. Hofve:     Pretty much you can find something to write an exemption for. And I write a lot of rabies exemptions. I have a form letter. I just plug in what’s the cat problem – chronic gingivitis. Every bottle of vaccine says for use in healthy animals only. So, if you have a chronic health problem of any kind, you should be able to get an exemption from the rabies vaccine. Now, whether or not your vet will give it to you is another thing, and sometimes, whether or not the county will recognize it… When we got the laws changed in Colorado to every three years, we worked with the guys in the health department to recognize that immunologically it’s fine, don’t worry about it. And we got them to allow a vet to write an exemption. So, find out if you can do that.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     I would stop probably now, because I know more. I stopped at 14. That was just kind of a random thing. But now, I’d probably stop at 10.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     Because, you know, you’re on this planet for 10 years drinking the water, breathing the air, there’s something wrong with you somewhere along the line.

Jenny:           Right.

Dr. Hofve:     So, we can find some excuse, some immune related excuse to exempt them from rabies vaccine. So, yeah, good luck with that. Hopefully your vet will go for it.

Jenny:           Yeah. My mom’s cats will be 13 in August and I’m thinking for my own purposes because I go to all of her vet appointments that I’m going to use that for them too.

Dr. Hofve:     Absolutely.

Jenny:           Okay. So, I’ve tried to organize the questions in the best way possible. But now it’s getting to the point where I can’t keep up with the organization. So, we might skip around a bit and…

Dr. Hofve:     Shoot.

Jenny:           Okay. Dixie said, I’d like to know if she’s aware of any scientific data supporting the claim that – the abbreviation FeLV, is that leukemia?

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah.

Jenny:           Okay – the leukemia vaccine is harmful to Ragdolls. I know most question-mark Ragdoll breeders have a clause in their contracts that healthcare [inaudible 000:37:12] is voided if the new owner gives the leukemia vaccine. But I’ve only heard anecdotal reasons for this.

Dr. Hofve:     Right. There is no scientific evidence for that. Now, say the first part of the question again so I get exactly what I want to say.

Jenny:           Sure. I’d like to know if she’s aware of any scientific data supporting the claim that the leukemia vaccine is harmful to Ragdolls.

Dr. Hofve:     Okay. The leukemia vaccine, the way most vets use it, is a killed vaccine. And, yes, it’s a problem. And, yes, for all cats, not just Ragdolls.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     Killed vaccines give you cancer. It’s a bad thing. Now, there are two schools of thought about leukemia vaccines, and this is a good time to say this. There may be a recombinant one, I’m not sure because it’s not something I ever used. But you could theoretically give it. The current thought about it from CSU and from AAFP is that kittens should get the first two leukemia vaccines, and never again because you don’t know. When a cat is 10, you might die. And that cat is going to go to a shelter, get exposed to leukemia, and then boom. But leukemia, panleukopenia as well, they’re mostly diseases of kittens. Younger cats tend to get them. Once the cat’s got a mature immune system, they are more resistant to those diseases. So, you can either give none or give the first two. I would never give it annually or even every three years because the chances of having a reaction to the vaccine are higher than the chances of getting leukemia. That’s the latest that I have heard.

Jenny:           Okay. Rico Thompson asked also about Leukemia. It’s hard for me to read FeLV and say leukemia in my head. Okay. Rico said, vaccines, I had no issues with them before I got my little boys. One goes all sickly afterwards – hides, screams at physical touch. It’s completely painful. I know it’s something called serum shock now. But if it… Sorry. The way that things are written online sometimes, it’s hard to read it out live.

Dr. Hofve:     Yep.

Jenny:           If the dose is set for an 80lb dog, and given to a 12lb cat, why don’t they get it changed? It doesn’t seem right. How important are the different vaccines for cats in particular? My vet also gives two others. He mentions a leukemia comp or something.

Dr. Hofve:     Combo?

Jenny:           Well, he says it’s C-O-M-P, comp. I guess he’s asking for suggestions or advice on spreading vaccines out, and that could even go back to the kitten thing. Do you suggest, for example, that a kitten gets the rabies one month and then pan leukemia the next month, or is it okay to give it all in the same visit?

Dr. Hofve:     You’d want to spread them out ideally. But again, this is reflecting back on the killed vaccine issue.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     These problems, they kind of go away, most of them, when you’re using the recombinant vaccine. But if your cat has gotten sick from a vaccine, don’t give any more vaccines. That is a perfect opportunity for an exemption. And the panleuk can be given earlier. Rabies, you don’t give until 4 to 6 months. I prefer to wait until 6 months, but there are a lot of jurisdictions that require it at 16 weeks. So, what I would do would be give the last distemper vaccine 14, 16 weeks, and a booster a year later.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     And then no more.

Jenny:           Okay. Moving on to titer testing. Miranda asked, what is her opinion on titer testing? How often should they be done?

Dr. Hofve:     Well, there was just research that came out a couple of weeks ago on this. So, I’m so glad you asked. If you take a titer, and your cat has a good positive titer to rabies and panleukopenia and pick something else random, coronavirus, you only need one titer. Because if you check next year, it’s going to be the same. And after that, it’s going to be the same. I had rabies vaccines in 1990. And a couple of years ago, my rabies titer was 88,000. So, if the cat ever responds, has ever documentedly responded to the vaccine and produced antibodies, you never need to titer again.

Jenny:           Oh.

Dr. Hofve:     And the reason is because if they have a positive titer, then you know for a stone-cold fact that they have created memory B cells. And if there are memory B cells, your cat is protected against that disease for life because these cells stick around for 30 years. So, not really important in a cat.

Jenny:           Okay. Interesting.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah.

Jenny:           Every time I’ve asked my vet about a titer, and I go to an all feline vet – I feel very strongly that they’re good and mindful, but there are certain things that we like to argue on, and titers is one of them. She always says how expensive they are, just kind of boo-hoos them. Are there any negatives to them?

Dr. Hofve:     No.

Jenny:           And I don’t even know how they’re done or how they work. Can you comment on that too, please?

Dr. Hofve:     You draw blood, spin it, and you send it to Kansas State University, and they run the titer.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     It’s a pain in the butt for the practitioner because it has to be spun, it has to be frozen, it has to be packaged, it has to be taken to UPS… However it’s going to shipped, it has to be done with ice packs. It’s a pain in the butt to do it, and that’s the vet’s objection. And it is not cheap. But tell your vet, just humor me. Just humor me this once and let’s run the titer. I’m just curious. And then see when it comes back.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     And then from then on, you are justified when she says well it’s been five years now Jenny, we should probably vaccinate for something. And you can say, no thanks, with a perfectly clear conscience. Isn’t that wonderful?

Jenny:           Yes. Yes, it is.

Dr. Hofve:     That was a brilliant paper. I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited. And it makes 100 percent medi-logical sense.

Jenny:           Yes, it is. It does. And she did talk about how you said that you were vaccinated for rabies in ’89, is that what you said?

Dr. Hofve:     ’90, yeah.

Jenny:           ’90, okay. She mentioned that too that one time when I was boohooing the rabies vaccine, I was like come on. I mean, it doesn’t have to be exactly a year. If we go a year and a half, two years, who is really counting? She was like, well, I did a titer and I was vaccinated for rabies and whatever like the early 90s as well and she was like and it’s still there. So, yes, it seems like that works.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah. The whole one-year, three-year thing, I have known vets to do and say horrible things if you’re a day late. The immune system does not operate on a calendar. It does not know what a calendar is, and it does not give a flying fadoodle what a calendar is. It’s doing its thing. So, if a cat has ever been properly immunized and created antibodies, you’re done.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     Let me say this because this is very important to know, every vaccine you give that past that point does not improve the titer, it will not make the cat more immune. All it does is creates the opportunity for bad reactions.

Jenny:           Okay. She’s going to be humoring me twice, one for each cat.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah, maybe [inaudible 00:46:54] a little bit and bring cookies. All feline vets, they should not have a killed vaccine in that clinic. So that would be a good question.

Jenny:           No, they don’t. They’re very opposed to the killed.

Dr. Hofve:     Okay. Good. They’ve been paying attention.

Jenny:           Yes. Yes.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah.

Jenny:           But unfortunately, the breeder that I got my cat from did give my cats a killed something. I can’t remember what it is. But I’ve chosen not to focus on it because sometimes I feel like focusing puts energy towards it. But yeah, my vet was disappointed.

Dr. Hofve:     Right. You still would want to go back to the protocol, the adverse effect protocol. You’d still want to go back and do some of those things like the sulia and I can’t remember what all else is in there, but at least sulia.

Jenny:           Okay. Even though they’re almost eight years old and this was obviously some time ago?

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     It’s not going to hurt. Because it takes years sometimes for those reactions to develop. And if there’s one cooking in there, don’t want to kick it in the butt?

Jenny:           Yeah. Yes. My naivety comes from just not being in that world. So, thank you.

Dr. Hofve:     That’s the thing. There’s a saying that I used to say all the time, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with BS.” So, veterinarians are very good at baffling people with BS, and talking in all high-and-mighty vet-ese, and scaring you.

Jenny:           Yes. Mine does the best at scaring me into submission.

Dr. Hofve:      Yeah.

Jenny:           Basically, if you mention Old Yeller, I’m like, yep, give him the rabies shot. That’s fine. She’s like, do you want to rabid animal? Anyway. Beverly Canning said, and I love this, kindly ask if she has – I just like when people phrase things like that – kindly ask if she has a suggestion for those of us living in hurricane prone regions. If I ever have to take the kitties to a shelter, I have to have proof of vaccination. And somebody also mentioned that when they wanted to take their cat to be groomed, they had to have proof of rabies vaccination within that year.

Dr. Hofve:     Well since it’s a three-year vaccine… Well, first, I’d say find another groomer because they’ve got their head up their butt. There’s no reason for that. But it’s a private business, they can require whatever they want. So, you just find someone else.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     And as far as taking them into shelters and stuff, rabies is the only vaccine required by law. And people at the Red Cross are not well versed enough in feline immunity to know whether they might have had a distemper shot at some point. It just doesn’t compute. I think if you have your rabies certificate, you’re fine.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     And if you have an older rabies certificate and a recent exemption, then we know that those vaccines provide long, long-lasting immunity. That’s good. And consider moving to Colorado.

Jenny:           I love how you’ve become a part of the Colorado tourism, or not tourism but support team on our calls. I think consider moving to New Mexico every time they have to worry about fleas. Ugh.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah, we don’t have a lot of those either.

Jenny:           I know. Lucky. Lucky. Okay. Strictly indoor cats, what vaccines do they need? Are yearly vaccines for indoor cats really necessary? This is Nancy Lew asking. We’ve kind of covered that. You could go back through the conversation and put it together. But can you just list out this is what I would do if it were my cat?

Dr. Hofve:     Short and sweet, because my cats are all indoors.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     I do the kitten panleukopenia, and I do one rabies. And I don’t do anything else.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     Now, I hope that the Colorado Department of Health is not listening to this because they know where I live. Maybe I’ll move to New Mexico too. [Laughter]

Jenny:           Yes. [Laughter]

Dr. Hofve:     But they don’t need anything. But they do need the kitten shots because, as I said, you can bring viruses and horrible things in on your shoes or in your hair if you brushed up against a tree. I don’t know, but some of these things are ubiquitous in the environment. And, like I said, if you have a house that’s older, you could have bats. If the bats have rabies… I have had several people come in with cats who were 100 percent indoors yet were exposed to rabies. And how is that? Well, one cat went out on the balcony of his 14th floor apartment, caught a live bat. Another friend, a live bat came down her chimney. And she came home and there was a little circle of dogs and cats staring at this bat on the hearth. Bats are nocturnal. So, you catch a bat in the middle of the day, there’s a very good chance that bat is sick.

Jenny:           Yeah.

Dr. Hofve:     And then I had one client, I tried to talk her into the rabies vaccine. I said, just one, just one because we have so much bat rabies in Denver. She was like no, no, no, no, no. She was back two weeks later, a bat flew in through her window. Okay, let’s get the vaccine.

Jenny:           Yeah.

Dr. Hofve:     So, rabies is just so horrible. And if you can get the PUREVAX, you’ve not 100 percent eliminated the chance of adverse reactions, but 98 percent. And with the protocol, you can really make that a non-issue. The issue is the killed vaccine. Too many problems. Don’t ever give it.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     But other than that, the kitten vaccines and rabies, as required by law, you’ve got to do that or you get an exemption.

Jenny:           Right.

Dr. Hofve:     But if they had had these vaccines as kittens, cats don’t live that long. These vaccines last forever. It’s just not going to be an issue for your twenty-two-year-old cat. And, really, it’s fine.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     Now, somebody’s going to come along and prove me wrong. But I’d say for every cat but that one, because there’s always that one exception. But you want to play the odds.

Jenny:           Okay. Yeah. What about vaccines that we haven’t mentioned, like the upper respiratory where they squirt it into their nose?

Dr. Hofve:     That’s not a bad idea because the problem with vaccines is that they’re injected. The normal route of exposure to these diseases is through the nose, through the respiratory and GI systems. The respiratory and GI systems make a special antibody called IgA that lives in the mucous membranes, because that’s your first line of defense against these diseases. When you take the rhinotracheitis, which that’s a euphemism for herpes, by the way. It is a herpes virus and it lives forever. So, if your kitten had not been exposed to rhino, it was when they gave the vaccine because they just gave it rhino.

But the upper respiratory… then it goes through the mucous membrane and it gets that IgA response, then it goes into the blood, and then it gets IgG response and the IgE response and whoever else, all the other kind of antibodies, and the B-cells and the memory cells and all of that stuff gets generated in the pathway it’s supposed to go. But injecting them is where you come into problems because you’re bypassing all those initial defenses. So, that’s why we see so many problems with vaccines.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     But it’s an unnatural method of exposure.

Jenny:           Okay. I’m surprised by your response on this one. It makes common sense in my head. But, of course, when they asked about – this was with my parents’ cats – Camus and Murphy, who are about almost 13, it was a couple of years ago and they wanted to get an upper respiratory. And I was like, for what? Why? I don’t know, getting ready, when I was brushing my teeth this morning thinking about what I was doing today and I thinking, oh I’m talking to Dr. Jean about vaccines. I was like, vaccines man. It was always just I went to the doctor, got a shot, and went to 31 Flavors afterwards.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah.

Jenny:           My mom made it such a routine thing even with her animals. If the vet suggested it, she just did it. And so, I’m in there trying to battle against this thing, and my mom is like, oh Jenny, let’s just do it if they’re saying it. So that does make me feel better. But is there a time when up the nasal passage isn’t necessary?

Dr. Hofve:     Well, if they’ve already made antibodies to it, they’re immune.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     Now, the problem – rhinotracheitis is a really interesting one because it is a herpes virus. Herpes virus lives on the nerves. It will go and be dormant for a long time until the cat is stressed. And then, how does it show up? It shows up as conjunctivitis typically, or as upper respiratory system symptoms. So, you get a sneezy or eye-buggery – when they squint and their eye is red and they don’t like the light, and that sort of conjunctivitis. And it’s painful. And 99 percent of them are due to herpes virus.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     What the rhinotracheitis, herpes virus, vaccine is intended to do… It is not intended to prevent infection. It’s intended to make the infection less severe when it shows up. And I say when because it’s almost inevitable because we live in a stressful world. Who doesn’t get stressed? So, if you have a cat that has had conjunctivitis problems, I would certainly use a great deal of caution and perhaps not get the rhino virus vaccine. But it’s hard to get individual vaccines. And if I could start over with a kitten and design it just the way I wanted to, I would do the experiment and see if it ever got that kind of eye problem or sniffleys or whatever.

Two of mine have had chronic herpes. I got them when they were two weeks old. They were feral born. But they both had it. But I gave them the vaccine. So, would they have had it anyway? Is it that common in the environment? Can it even live in the environment? I don’t think it does. I think it has to be closely transmitted. And it’s not life-threatening. It’s not a problem, although if they get conjunctivitis, it hurts. But there are lots of ways to deal with that too. I’d like to see it go away. But that might be an experiment that not everybody wants to do with their cat.

Jenny:           Right. And it’s funny that you mentioned that because in the last three months, I’ve had two or three people contact me because they found the interview that you did with us about conjunctivitis. And finally, from Willard Water or Lycee and whatever, they were finally able to get rid of it.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah. I use a homeopathic called Aeura, it’s A-E-U-R-A. It’s a human product. And it’s 50 bucks, but it’ll last the rest of your cat’s life. And I have found that to be absolutely incredible because it’s for human herpes. Now, kitty herpes is not sexually transmitted. It’s a different, less connected cousin. So, it’s not implying anything about your cat’s extracurricular activities. But it’s still a herpes virus, and it does respond.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     I’ve cleared up really vicious conjunctivitis with that stuff. I love it.

Jenny:           Oh cool. Is it something that you can buy anywhere? Where do you buy it?

Dr. Hofve:     On their website.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah.

Jenny:           We’ll Google it then.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah. It’s probably in that article.

Jenny:           Oh okay. Well, those are all the questions. Everybody else’s questions kind of you answered a roundabout way through other questions. I wanted to ask, is there anything that you had wanted to cover that I didn’t address?

Dr. Hofve:     Gosh, I don’t think so.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     Ron Shultz just came out with a new statement about vaccines that’s even stronger than his old statement. So, if you want to Google that, that was pretty good. He knows what he’s doing, and he is the god of knowing about these things. He’s been talking about this for 20, 30 years. What I know I learned from him and his colleagues.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah. I think the important points are the tail thing, where to vaccinate. And if you use the PUREVAX, it’s not an issue. I just haven’t seen those sarcomas from anything but rabies vaccine. Oh, I don’t know if anybody’s still doing the FIV vaccine, don’t.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     Cancer-causing, horrible vaccine. FIP – completely worthless. When they were testing the FIP vaccine, they gave it to their whole colony of test cats. And they died from leukemia. They didn’t even know they had leukemia in the colony. But the FIP vaccine activated it and killed all the kittens. It was very sad. So, you just don’t want to go there.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     FIV, bad.

Jenny:           There’s new research being done about FIP, and this is for cats that have been diagnosed with FIP. So, not like a preventative vaccine. It’s through K-State, and they’re doing some, gosh, I shouldn’t even talk about this stuff because I don’t even know what I’m saying. But they’re working on a quote-unquote cure for FIP. Have you followed any of that?

Dr. Hofve:     I haven’t found it yet.

Jenny:           Okay. I will send you a link.

Dr. Hofve:     There was new research that just came out, and the veterinary organizations have revised their positions on FIV, and now says the FIV cats can live happily ever after with not positive cats.

Jenny:           Oh cool.

Dr. Hofve:     Because it used to be that if the cat had FIV, you really had to keep him isolated and all that other stuff. Well, FIV is transmitted by bite a wound. So, if your cats get along, chances are good. But you never know. An airplane could fall on your garage and your cats could get freaked out and want to bite the other one. So, I never say never. But FIV is now being recognized as the immune system disease that it is, and not very easily transmitted.

Jenny:           Oh. Well, good. That gives a lot more hope for cats in shelters.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah. And FIP is not really contagious either. That may be what you’re talking about. There was a study done a long time ago, and they did not do the calculations exactly. The way I calculated it, the transmission between known FIP cats in the same health to negative cats was 5 percent.

Jenny:           Oh, wow.

Dr. Hofve:     So, it is not contagious – the feline infectious peritonitis – it isn’t infections and it isn’t peritonitis. So, the only correct thing about it is feline, and it is an auto-immune disease. It is not an infectious disease. It’s 100 percent auto-immune. And they’re recognizing that now after I’ve been saying it for 25 years. So, I’m glad they’re catching up with us.

Jenny:           Yes, me too. And that’s interesting about the 5 percent because I just had someone contact me yesterday because her… I will send you that article, by the way. It’s through K-State. They’re close to I think finding a cure for FIP, but I’m not sure how to say it so that it makes sense. So, I’ll just send you the K-State link.

Dr. Hofve:     Okay. Perfect.

Jenny:           Anyway, this reader yesterday contacted me and said that she has a kitten who has been diagnosed with FIP. The breeder feels horrible, wants to replace the kitten, but she’s concerned that she’ll just get another kitten with FIP.

Dr. Hofve:     No.

Jenny:           I said, as far as I know, it’s not really a contagious thing. But…

Dr. Hofve:     Well, it’s not. But if it’s in a cattery, then it’s in the genetics, and then you have a problem. I would not get a replacement kitten from that breeder.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     She needs to deal with the problem and not… Yeah, because every kitten in her cattery is going to be susceptible.

Jenny:           Susceptible to it?

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah.

Jenny:           Okay. Well, that’s good info for me know just in general because I get hit up with that a lot.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah. Yeah. At least they’re starting to understand that it’s not very contagious. But the ways it’s contagious it’s like from mother to kitten. And that is what you have in that situation.

Jenny:           Okay.

Dr. Hofve:     You know, if you have an overwhelming infestation of it, your risk goes way up. It was only 5 percent, but it was 5 percent. So, it is slightly communicable, and you just don’t want to take the chance.

Jenny:           Right.

Dr. Hofve:     It’s too heartbreaking. And I tell you, the FIP kittens that I dealt with when I was in practice, they were always the sweetest…

Jenny:           Yes.

Dr. Hofve:     …sweetest, sweetest kittens. You just fell in love with them. I finally concluded that the angels were so jealous that we had that kitten they wanted. They wanted it back because they miss them, because they are always the nicest little babies ever. They’re just really, really special kittens. So, if you have had one or you have an FIP kitten, you are blessed. You’re blessed with that little being for the time that you have him. Just enjoy it.

Jenny:           Yes. When I was 10 years old… My first Rag Doll, the reason kind of how this all started with the Floppycats and everything, I got my first Rag Doll when I was eight years old and he got FIP. I mean, this was in the late 80s. So, then the vet suggested that my mom not get another cat for a year just to make sure that the disease was gone – I just did quotes with my fingers as if you could see those –  was gone from the home. So, then she brought home two kittens, and one of the two got FIP. And he was the sweetest kitten. He was laying with us. The one that was healthy was running around going crazy. But Cosby, the one that died of FIP, yes – so sweet and snuggly. Yeah.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah. Yeah, it’s heartbreaking. I started to worry when I saw a really, really sweet kitten.

Jenny:           Yes.

Dr. Hofve:     I was like uh-oh. Don’t get sick, little baby. Don’t get sick.

Jenny:           Yes, I know. Well, I think that’s it. As usual, I have learned a tremendous amount. So, thank you for that, from me alone. And I know my readers love your interviews. So, thank you for them too.

Dr. Hofve:     Okay. Well I enjoy talking, and I really enjoy passing along what I know so that people can actually use the information because it does no good sitting in my head.

Jenny:           Yes, I’m very thankful that you’re willing to share it, and I hope we can continue to do more as well.

Dr. Hofve:     Absolutely. We have a long list now.

Jenny:           Yes, I know. So, anybody listening, reader-wise, I kind of keep an ongoing list of what you guys request. And then when I reach out to Dr. Jean and say, hey, do you have time for an interview, I send her that list and say which one would you be interested in tackling. So, that’s what she’s referencing.

Dr. Hofve:     Yeah.

Jenny:           Okay. Well, thank you very much.

Dr. Hofve:     Okay. Well it’s been a pleasure, Jenny.

Jenny:           Same for me. Bye for now.

Dr. Hofve:     Bye-bye.


Learn more about cat health by reading Dr. Jean’s book, The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care: An Illustrated Handbook as well as proper cat nutrition: What Cats Should Eat: How to Keep Your Cat Healthy with Good Food

Comments (3)

  1. Super pawesome post & interview, Jenny! Lurve your interviews with Dr. Jean! She is amazing and I just lurve her honesty and devotion to the well being and best care for our cats. The part of the interview about rabies was super interesting to me! I always learn something new from each interview you have with Dr. Jean. 🙂

    Big hugs & lots of love!

    Patti & Miss Pink Sugarbelle 🙂 <3

      1. Well, pat yourself on the back because you did a fantastic job with the questions and discussions that resulted, etc. Truly! Awesome job, Jenny! 🙂 <3

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