University of Florida researchers are suggesting that cats may benefit from receiving vaccine injections in their tails after their study revealed that the practice can help veterinarians more easily deal with injection-site sarcomas.

According to the study, published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, thousands of cats each year develop cancer near more commonly used injection sites such as the knee joint in the leg, which is a recommended protocol from the American Association of Feline Practitioners.  

If cancer develops in that area, it can force owners into making tough decisions involving whether to subject their pet to radical surgery or amputation of a limb, said Julie Levy, DVM, Ph.D., the Maddie's Professor of Shelter Medicine at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.

"Many cat owners elect not to pursue the most effective treatment - radical surgery of the tumor - because excision of tumors in the limbs and torso is often disfiguring, painful, and expensive," Levy said in a University of Florida news release.

Because amputation of a tail in the event of an injection-site sarcoma is less disfiguring and life-altering to cats, the University of Florida researchers decided to explore vaccine injections in the tail as an alternative.

Comparing tail injections to more common alternatives

The researchers surveyed veterinary oncologists worldwide, asking them to rank 11 commonly used injection sites. The respondents also chose their three favorite sites based solely on the relative ease of treating injection-site sarcomas should they develop in those areas.

According to the University of Florida, the tail was one of oncologists' favorite places to inject.

Researchers followed up on their findings from the survey by enrolling 60 cats that eventually received vaccine injections in their tails. Cats tolerated the tail injections as well or better than injections in their hind legs, leading Julius Liptak, B.V.Sc., surgery specialist and a founding fellow in surgical oncology with the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, to conclude that tail injections effectively provide immunity against diseases, are easy to perform, and are well-tolerated by cats.  

And in the long run, Liptak said he thought tail injections are a potentially better way to reduce deaths and disfigurements due to injection-site sarcomas.

"If vaccinations on the end of the tail become a widely adopted practice, then amputating the tail is a much easier and less traumatic procedure, which will hopefully result in a much greater potential to cure this disease," Liptak said. 

Comments (6) -

Arnold L. Goldman DVM
Arnold L. Goldman DVMUnited States
11/3/2013 12:06:33 PM #

You have to wonder about the common sense of advocating injections in the tail of cats. Cat owners are already known to under utilize veterinary care, dread bringing cats in, have trouble enough catching them.
Meanwhile there is known difficulty in handling and /or immunizing a significant proportion of cats. So to choose an anatomic location highly likely to aggravate our feline patients, for a risk of sarcoma that is quite small, seems counter intuitive.

With intra-nasal vaccines, three year duration vaccines, non-adjuvanted vaccines all available, is this "new" idea really wise? Moreso, is it necessary?

Kim London
Kim LondonUnited States
11/5/2013 6:59:19 PM #

Totally agree with Dr. Goldman, far more trouble and aggravation to the patients that are fractious to begin with. If someone told me they were going to vaccinate my cat in the tail, I would surely wince!

Will Wiatt DVM
Will Wiatt DVMUnited States
11/7/2013 9:12:15 AM #

    The article says they are well tolerated in the tail and compared favorably to leg injections. I have removed several of these and only the leg amputations were satisfactory. (Yes, I took very wide excisions to the spine on the shoulder tumors.) I will have my techs try a few of the tail vaccinations and see what they think. I will go with FELV first and then after the 1 year boost place fvrcp in this spot If we go with this. ( Hint:If you wince, the cat will jump!)

Jodie Crosby RVT
Jodie Crosby RVTUnited States
11/13/2013 3:58:44 PM #

Can see both sides. Have vaccinated several cats that do not like any kind of injection! I think more testing about how the patient tolerates this would be beneficial. Perhaps smaller needles? a vaccine that is less than 1 cc?
Amputation of any extremity is difficult for a client to adjust to. Also we have successfully converted to oral Bordetella. Most clients were curious but very receptive. The bright side for me is that the tail is the farthest place from a fractious cats mouth!
Something to think about!

Kim Kendall
Kim KendallAustralia
12/8/2013 5:19:18 PM #

Having switched my vaccine site from the back of the neck to the back leg, and now back again to the back of the neck, I have to comment that injection site is less an issue than injection  technique.

When the 'setup' is smooth, calm and constrained, most of my owners don't even notice I have given an injection, never mind the cat being bothered. 

I am always interested in new information, but I need to see where on the tail the recommendation is - there is not much loose skin at the end!  I would be somewhat concerned about the injection going between the bones of the tail and into nerve tissue - infection in the spinal cord post-vaccination is a bit hard to explain to an already anxious owner. 

Fortunately, the genetics involved in any individual cat developing an Injection Site Sarcoma (it is not just vaccines nvolved in this problem), are extremely rare in Australia.  It just is not something we see here.  Good choice of parentage, Cats of Australia!

georgia gilham
georgia gilhamUnited States
1/13/2014 9:45:30 AM #

Stop the vaccines and the major cause of cancer will be eliminated - however,  profits will plummet and we can't have that.

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