Don’t Vaccinate Your Adult Cat for Distemper! by Jean Hofve, DVM

May 25, 2012
By Jean Hofve, DVM

Seriously? Yes! Evidence is mounting that the common FVRCP (feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and paneleukopenia) vaccine may cause long-term damage to cats’ kidneys that increases with every booster. Here’s the report from Colorado State University:

The Center for Companion Animal Studies at Colorado State University has shown that cats vaccinated with FVRCP vaccines grown on Crandell-Rees Feline Kidney (CRFK) cell lines can develop antibodies to renal proteins, and that cats hypersensitized to CRFK cell lysates can develop interstitial nephritis…Cats administered FVRCP vaccines parenterally (by injection) have higher levels of circulating antibodies to these antigens than do cats who were administered a FVRCP vaccine for intranasal administration.

Similar antibodies have been implicated in the development of renal disease in humans, and there is every reason to suspect that they do the same in cats. Chronic renal failure (CRF), also called chronic kidney disease (CKD) in cats is known to be caused by chronic interstitial nephritis, or inflammation of kidney tissue–the very thing that these vaccines cause.

Fortunately, the distemper vaccine is extremely effective and long-lasting. A kitten that receives its initial vaccine series, or any kitten or cat vaccinated just once after 16 weeks of age, is protected for life. There is no benefit, and substantial risk, to repeated distemper vaccines in adult cats.


Note: two questions were asked by a reader. Please see Dr. Hofve’s response below:

How do you know that one injection won’t cause lifelong increased antibodies to renal proteins? That would be my assumption. If one shot can immunize for life, couldn’t one shot cause CRF over time? Are any distemper vaccines grown on cells that are not cat cells or similiar?

Holistic veterinarian and author Dr. Jean has 18 years’ experience in conventional and alternative veterinary medicine. She has a passion for feline health and nutrition is the former Editor-in-Chief of The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Journal. For more information, please visit the library at Dr. Jean’s website,

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8 Responses to Don’t Vaccinate Your Adult Cat for Distemper! by Jean Hofve, DVM

  1. Retos para los cuidadores: gatito | Gato Gatito on July 6, 2014 at 10:02 am

    […] embargo, en el sitio de la vacunación, Truth4Pets, el Dr. Jean Hofve discute la relación entre el FVRCP vacuna contra la enfermedad y de riñón, una de las afecciones más comunes encontradas en los gatos. Ella cita el estudio en la Universidad […]

  2. Défis pour les soignants de kitty | Chat Minou on July 6, 2014 at 9:36 am

    […] Toutefois, sur le site de la vaccination, Truth4Pets, Dr Jean Hofve traite de la relation entre le FVRCP vaccins et les maladies rénales, un aux affections plus courantes trouvées chez les chats. Elle cite l’étude à la Colorado […]

  3. Challenges for kitty caregivers | ExclusivelyCats Blog on February 20, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    […] However, on the vaccination site, Truth4Pets, Dr. Jean Hofve discusses the relationship between the FVRCP vaccine and kidney disease, one of the most common afflictions found in cats. She cites the study at Colorado State University, […]

  4. MacKenzie on October 5, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    What about the intranasal vaccine? The study says it doesn’t cause kidney inflammation.

    • Ariella on November 27, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      I am interested in learning about the same thing. According to Dr. Michael Lappin, “parenteral administration of FVRCP vaccines induces a statistically greater magnitude of antibody response to CRFK proteins than intranasal administration of a FVRCP vaccine.” (“Update on FVRCP Vaccine Issues.” Retrieved at Lappin goes on to suggest that this is attributable to CRFK cells being unable to pass through the mucosal lining of the nose/mouth. I have been looking for follow-up studies, but I have not come across any. It appears that this study was conducted in 2004. Dr. Hofve, do you know of any additional studies or resources that have since addressed this issue? Thank you for your time!

      • admin-jhofve on November 27, 2012 at 2:01 pm

        His work is ongoing. Subsequent publications include:

        Mike has never been willing to come out and say that the panleuk vaccine *causes* CRF, but there’s enough evidence for *me* to say it…I don’t have an academic position and reputation to defend. His most recent work is directed toward getting away from injectable vaccines, since the intranasal form does not trigger the formation of antibodies to kidney proteins. And indeed that makes more sense, since that is the normal route of infection and induces a very fast IgA response that injectable vaccines fail to accomplish. By-passing the normal host defenses always seemed to me to be a bad idea!

        You can keep track of any new publications at Just search for “Lappin MR panleukopenia.” However, publication often lags the actual research by many months (or longer). Or just give him a call at Colorado State University, he’s a heck of a nice guy, adores cats, and I’m sure he’d be happy to answer your questions. (You can tell him I said so!)

  5. priya gehm on September 16, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Dear Dr. Jean,

    How do you know that one injection won’t cause lifelong increased antibodies to renal proteins? That would be my assumption. If one shot can immunize for life, couldn’t one shot cause CRF over time?

    Are any distemper vaccines grown on cells that are not cat cells or similiar?

    Thank you so much!

    • adminjr on September 17, 2012 at 6:30 am

      Priya, I asked your question of Dr. Hofve and here’s her response: A single distemper vaccine will cause white blood cells (B cells) to create antibodies to the distemper virus and cat kidney cells (among many other things). Those antibodies reach their effective peak about 3 weeks after vaccination. However, the body does not continue to make antibodies after the virus is dealt with; so active inflammation is not perpetuated. Some kidney cells are probably killed in the process, but the kidneys have enormous reserve capacity. Kidney disease isn’t even detectable until almost 75% of kidney cells have been destroyed.

      After vaccination or infection, antibody-producing B cells go on to become “memory” cells that quietly sit in the lymph tissue unless and until they see the distemper virus again. If the distemper virus (wild or vaccine) comes around again, those memory cells will quickly begin producing new antibodies, and those antibodies will participate in a new round of inflammation. That is how lifelong immunity is created. Instead of taking weeks weeks to get antibody production up to speed, the immune system responds very rapidly, and the disease is defeated.

      If the memory cells are *not* triggered again, no new antibodies will be produced, so no new inflammation will be created.

      It is *repeated* boosters that stimulate antibody production again and again, and keep rekindling the inflammation and killing more kidney cells, that is the primary danger.

      I do not know of any feline distemper vaccines that are not produced on feline kidney cells, but technology is changing all the time. Your veterinary clinic can tell you what specific vaccines they use, and they (or you) can contact the company to find out the most current information.

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