The diseases felids should be vaccinated against are feline rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleucopenia and rabies. Young animals and animals never vaccinated previously should only receive dead vaccines. Adult animals previously vaccinated can receive modified live panleucopenia, rhinotracheitis and calici vaccines but the use of live vaccines is always questionable if it is not registered for that particular species. The vaccine of choice is “Fel-O-Vax PCT” (Fort Dodge). This is an inactivated multivalent vaccine prepared from feline rhinotracheitis, calici and panleucopenia viruses which are grown on a feline kidney tissue cell line and inactivated. The vaccine can be administered intramuscularly or subcutaneously. Vaccination of pregnant females does not cause any deleterious effects. A new recombinant modified live vaccine on the market “PureVax” (Merial) could possibly be used in nondomestic felids. The vaccine being recombinant and using only one or two isolated genes of the pathogen eliminates the risk of reversion to virulence. Wild felids are also susceptible to feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) but this virus does not seem to be endemic in either free-range settings or zoo situations. It can cause clinical disease in these animals but intimate contact with an infected domestic cat is necessary for transmission. This however is rare. The “Fel-O-Vax” (Fort Dodge) range of vaccines has a killed FeLV vaccine available which could be used if an animal is at high risk, for example animals hand-raised and kept with domestic cats.
Feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) doesn’t seem to affect wild felids as it does the domestic cat and therefore vaccination is not necessary.
Cheetahs seem to be very susceptible to anthrax even though carnivores are normally seen as less vulnerable. The immunity seen in other free-ranging large carnivores might be due to these animals being exposed to anthrax carcasses when scavenging. Lions and hyenas tend to scavenge but cheetah only eat fresh meat and might therefore not be exposed to the antigens as the other species are. The vaccine tested in cheetah and seemed to be successful is the “Anthrax” spore vaccine (Onderstepoort Biological Products). This is a glycerine suspension of avirulent Bacillus anthracis 34F2 spores and has been registered for use in cattle, horses, mules, donkeys, sheep, goats, pigs and camels. No ill effects have been noticed with the use in cheetah. Toxoplasmosis in zoo situations has become a problem in species other than felids. Especially Australian marsupials and New World primates, as well as prosimians are very sensitive to Toxoplasma gondii infections and can die peracutely. A commercial vaccine registered for use in sheep and goats caused fatal toxoplasmosis in Tammar wallabies. Other vaccines are being developed for exotic species. Prevention is at the moment the best way to control the disease.
Felids of the genus Panthera seem to be susceptible to infection by canine distemper virus with the possibility of fatal disease, especially encephalitis developing. The use of modified live virus vaccines are contraindicated as the possibility of vaccine-induced distemper is too great. The killed vaccine provided only partial immunity to distemper in dogs and has therefore been withdrawn commercially. The best way to prevent the disease is to vaccinate or remove all domestic canines in the area.
Canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus type 2 (canine infectious hepatitis), canine parvovirus and parainfluenza type 2 virus, as well as rabies are the main infectious diseases they should be vaccinated against. Only inactivated canine distemper virus vaccines should be used but it is not readily available in this country. Inactivated rabies vaccines should be used.
This group of animals only need to be vaccinated in either a zoo situation or when they are kept as pets and in direct contact with domestic dogs and cats. They should be vaccinated with inactivated feline infectious enteritis, canine distemper, canine infectious hepatitis and rabies vaccines.