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Ask Dr. Kara Your Own Question
Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 16691
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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My 3 year old cat was in perfect health on Saturday morning.

Customer Question

Hi, my 3 year old cat was in perfect health on Saturday morning. She was booked for a routine annual booster which she has had before. 1 hour after the vaccine she started panting heavily and coughing along with screeching noises. Within the next 30 minutes she went down hill very quick. Whilst I was on the phone to the vet she was very shaken and walked about 2 Metets collapsed, coughed a significant amount of blood, lost control of her bladder and died. She got very anxious with visits to the vet and was put in the crush cage to have the vaccine. What could have caused this ? Can you please help ?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 1 year ago.
Hello, my name is***** and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. My deepest condolences on your loss, I can only imagine how heartbreaking this turn of events must have been for you. To go from a perfectly healthy cat to sudden death would be horrible to have to witness. I suspect that she had a true anaphylactic reaction to her vaccine. This is very rare in pets (incidence is reported as between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 10,000 cases of vaccinated cats). We can see mild reactions to vaccines, including fever, muscle pain, lethargy, facial swelling and hives. Less commonly we can see tissue swelling and edema such that the throat can swell leading to difficulty breathing. These reactions generally respond well to antihistamines and corticosteroids. Although she was probably stressed by her visit it is unlikely that led to her passing away. Stress does not cause a vaccine reaction. But with a true anaphylactic reaction we see a chemical called histamine released in the body which leads to a rapid drop in blood pressure, vomiting, possible diarrhea, loss of urine and stool continence, erratic changes in heart rate and rhythm, bleeding into the lungs, organ failure, collapse, seizures, coma and death. This can all occur in a matter of minutes, often in less than an hour once the cascade of events starts. The treatment of choice is exactly the same as we would treat any other patient in shock, including epinephrine, steroids and intravenous fluids, and drugs to support heart function as needed.But in these instances even if every effort is made to treat shock immediately we may not be able to save our patient. Once this cascade of events occurs it is very difficult to turn things around.The unfortunate thing is that we have no way of knowing which animals will react this way. It has nothing to do with the quality of the vaccines or care your cat received, she simply had the horrible misfortune of a body that over-reacted inappropriately to an immune system stimulant. My heart goes out to you and your family. Please let me know if you have any further questions.