Cat with lump around shoulder blades

chi83October 29, 2006


I noticed a lump around my 17 month old cat's shoulder blades tonight. It's about an inch long and maybe half an inch wide and its very mobile. I can move it from the between his shoulder blades to either side, if that makes sense. Because of this mobility, I'm not really sure where the origin is - whether it's between the blades or to ths side.

He had his annual vaccination series 2 weeks ago. I can't recall exactly where the vet vaccinated him, but he had a couple in various places in his body. One of the vaccines was rabies. Do you think he's just inflammed? He seems too young to have injection site cancer. He otherwise seems fine. He got a physical exam with the injections so I figure the lump wasn't there at the time. Then again it's pretty hard to feel as it slips in between his shoulder blades and it's not visible.

I'm going to call my vet tomorrow but I was wondering if anyone has had any similar experiences?

If it is a reaction, is he now at greater risk for VAS in the future? Is there anything I can do to prevent it?


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If there was a vaccine placed between the shoulder blades, it could be a reaction. However there shouldn't be any vaccines placed between the shoulder blades. The American Association of Feline Practioners recommends that distemper (FVRCP) vaccine be given on the right front leg, rabies in the right rear, and FeLV (only if needed) given in the left rear. All vaccines are supposed to be administered as far down on the leg as possible so in the event of a VAS the leg can be amputated to prevent the spread of cancer.

Hopefully it's just a bug bite or something similar.

As yet, only the FeLV and rabies vaccines have been associated with VAS. There is nothing you can do to prevent it except to have the vet follow the vaccine guidelines and to assess your cat for his need of vaccination. Indoor kitties need only distemper once every 3 years after the 1 year booster (which is what your cat just had). Rabies is done by law. Only cats with risk of exposure to FeLV need a vaccine for it (outdoor cats, if you're in the habit of bringing home strays of unknown FeLV status, that type of thing).

So if your cat did have a vaccine reaction, he shouldn't be needing another vaccine for 3 years at least. Your vet should be able to assess what vaccines your cat needs and how often based on your cat's risk of exposure to those diseases. I'd do rabies by law because of the public health risk.

One of my friend's cat had a rabies vaccine reaction, but she is still going to vaccinate as required by law using the 3-year vaccine. I agree with her. There is a 1 year non-adjuvented rabies vaccine available, but so far the data does not implicate the adjuvent in the development of VAS. Only the number of vaccines given at a single visit at the same location, and the type (rabies and FeLV) seem to make a difference in the development of VAS. So the less vaccines, the better.

It isn't cancer, not 2 weeks post vaccination, so I wouldn't worry about that. If it is a reaction, I'd first consider how well updated on current vaccination policy your vet is, and discuss with a vet knowing the risks of vaccination what your options are.

He's going to be fine now though. Just research what you can about vaccination and ask your vet about what to do if this was a reaction. Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: AAFP Vaccine Guidelines

    Bookmark   October 29, 2006 at 10:24PM
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Thanks Meghane. I asked my vet if he needed to be vaccinated every year and he said yes. They had me fill out a questionaire to see what he needed.

He had FVR-CP and FeL-V, PureVax Feline 3, Leukocell 2, and Rabies, 1 year. I think he had so many because its his first year of "adult" shots (he had kitten shots last year at the shelter).

The shots were administered all over the body. I think he knew what he was doing since he poised the needle, double checked the label then changed vaccination positions. He only rubbed after one shot though and very briefly. I read that you're supposed to do that.

If this was a reaction, is it likely that he'll develop cancer in a few years, even if I make sure that subsequent vaccinations are done in the legs? Or does it take repeated vaccinations in one spot?


    Bookmark   October 29, 2006 at 10:59PM
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I agree with Meghane...shots should not be given anywhere near the spine.

Vets who still do this are not up-to-date in their profession.

I give mine on the front right leg and the left hip.

The movable bump (good thing that it is loose and not fixed) you are experiencing is most likely a reaction to the vaccination. Keep an eye on it, it should begin to retreat. Two weeks is a long time, though.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2006 at 7:36AM
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It's hard to predict which cats will get cancer. Some people think those that have a vaccine reaction are more likely to develop cancer later, others don't. I doubt it's been thoroughly studied.

Placing the vaccines in the legs is done only so that if VAS does develop, it's easier to remove the leg. Otherwise removing a VAS from between the shoulder blades is very traumatic surgery and it's difficult to get all the mass. VAS tend to be very invasive.

The incidence increases if a cat is vaccinated in one spot with multiple vaccines during a single visit, but it can happen even when the vet follows all the precautions. That's why it's so important to evaluate the risk of getting the disease vs the risk of vaccinating esp in cats (dogs too, but they don't get VAS).

It's unfortunate that we just don't know exactly what triggers VAS, so it's difficult to avoid it. The adjuvent was suspected early on, but the incidence of VAS hasn't decreased with using non-adjuvented vaccines. It seems to be related to how the cat responds to vaccination or injection. So the less vaccinations or injections a cat receives the less likely it is to develop a VAS.

FVCRP is recommended only once every 3 years since the duration of immunity is so long. Might want to discuss that with the vet. You'd still need FeLV every year if your cat is at risk, and Rabies as required by law, plus an annual (at least) PE.

There is a non-needle delivery system for the FeLV vaccine that may reduce the incidence of FeLV-related VAS because it does not require an injection. Of course, the studies have not been done except that it does offer the same protection as the traditional injected vaccine. I linked info to it below. Dr. Ford, one of my professors who is on pretty much all the committees for vaccine guidelines, thinks highly of this vaccine for cats who need it. That's pretty much the best recommendation one cat get for a particular vaccine IMHO.

Here is a link that might be useful: Purevax Jet Transdermal Delivery system

    Bookmark   October 30, 2006 at 7:52AM
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I spoke to the vet and I'm going to bring him in this afternoon. They said it's normal to have a reaction but it's been slightly over two weeks and I don't know how long it's been there since I only noticed it last night. They recommended I bring him in, though I'm pretty sure I'm going to end up paying $50 for them to tell me to keep an eye on it.

They said that they gave the distemper vaccine between the shoulder blades. The other vaccines went into the lower hip areas. I'm going to ask him today if there's a reason why he does that.

Thanks for all your help.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2006 at 8:14AM
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I am sure he will have a "good reason", too.

Keep us posted.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2006 at 10:57AM
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Well, I went to the vet's and I didn't see him. I saw a tech who examined him and said it's in the right spot and time frame for a reaction. She gave me the option of seeing the vet or watching it for a week, so I chose to watch it.

I asked her about the vaccination spots and she said that they don't vaccinate between the shoulder blades. They use different vaccinations in different locations, on both sides of the hips and the shoulders. The lump is to the left side but its hard to tell cause its in the skin and moves when you touch it. So that makes sense. She confirmed that they do the distemper in that spot.

I asked about cancer and she said they use the Pure vaccinations so it doesn't cause cancer. I'm not really sure exactly what she meant. She said the lump is a good thing cause it means his body is more likely to attack it if he gets the actual virus.

I feel better now that they vaccinated in the right spot, plus they didn't charge me for it so even better!

Thanks for all your help.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2006 at 2:43PM
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Meghane - First of all, you know that I have the utmost respect for your opinions and much appreciate the fact that you backed me up a few months ago when I posted a general FYI about VAS. You do have a very sensible and moderate approach to vaccinations and you're a professional.

However (and you knew that was coming!) - the one-year non-adjuvenated PureVax has produced a few incidents of VAS, and it is wrong of Meriel to advertise otherwise. In the online support group to which I belong for owners of cats with VAS, we have a few members whose cats did develop VAS after receiving the vaccine in their hind legs, and so had amputation. Now this is a very tiny number, but it's there. Furthermore, PureVax has tested for lasting for two years, and why Meriel doesn't advertise this, I don't know. Could it be the money made from "selling" a "safe" one-year vaccine? I do think that their Jet Transdermal Delivery System is exciting and hope that it will be available soon.

In our group we have at least one vet, a few vet techs, and some "civilians" who zealously follow every published article about VAS. One conclusion is that cats who develop inflammatory reactions to any injection are more susceptible to contracting VAS, depending on their genetics. Some vets recommend no more vaccinations if a cat has developed any kind of lump. I'm not preaching that as the way to go, but it's something to think about.

Chi83 - there is no reason, not one, for giving a cat any kind of injection in the scruff (between the shoulder blades). Because of the tiny area, scrunched up against the spine, there is nowhere to go with radical surgery. Meghane has posted the protocols here and every vet should be following them. Our granny kitty died of scruff VAS following a 3 1/2 year battle, and although she was very lucky in her survival time and her lack of suffering, this is not a disease and disease location that you want to chance. VAS is 100% lethal if untreated, the treatments are expensive and fail over 50% of the time anyway (unless they involve amputation, and even then, the stats are not fantastic). The number of cats who've survived scruff VAS with treatment is so small as to be statistically insignificant. It is dreadfully irresponsible to administer any kind of scruff injection. And cats do not need annual shots. They just don't.

And just to emphasize something Meghane mentioned - spread the injections over a period of time. Don't have more than one on the same visit. And if your vet doesn't rub the injection site fairly vigorously, then you reach out and do it yourself. You want to prevent that little knot from forming and to move the vaccine ASAP throughout the body.

Good luck! I didn't mean for this to be a lecture, but I've walked the walk and accompanied so many others on that journey. I have read variations of your story hundreds of times. Almost always all is well and one doesn't need to worry. But one's vet must know and abide by the protocols.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2006 at 3:34PM
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Sable, I totally agree that no vaccine is 100% safe. I didn't mean to imply that the Purevax is never associated with VAS, only that based on current knowledge it would seem to be a safer alternative to injectible vaccines. The Jet Transdermal system is available, but so far only for the FeLV vaccine which isn't required for all cats. They are working on other vaccines. It shouldn't be advertised as "safe" because you're right, it hasn't been tested that long.

The FeLV vaccine given- Leukocell 2- is NOT a Purevax product. It is a killed virus with an adjuvent. Although your cat didn't react to that particular vaccine given the location of the lump, I'd suggest that Leukocell 2 is not the best product available for FeLV vaccination for those cats who need it.

The FVRCP product given- Purevax Feline 3- is non-adjuvented MLV and inactivated virus. Yes, it is adjuvent-free, but that doesn't preclude the development of VAS. Quite honestly, the only way for CERTAIN to avoid VAS is to never give any vaccines. That's not reasonable for FVRCP, but it IS reasonable to only administer the vaccine once every 3 years after the one year booster. Frankly, if my vet suggested that I vaccinate my cat annually for FVRCP, I'd find a new vet, especially considering that your cat had a reaction to that vaccine.

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of funding going into research for NOT administering vaccines, because vaccine manufacturers do most of the testing. It's a messed up system, but the same one is used for human drugs and vaccines as well. The very people who stand to gain the most from having a new medication or vaccine approved are also responsible for proving the safety and efficacy of those products. There is a huge bias inherent in that system, and until the procedures for product safety and efficacy change, nothing will change it.

I'd never call a lump a good reaction to vaccination. My friend's cat with the Rabies reaction had a lump for several months, and my friend was concerned enough to have the lump removed and biopsied (rightfully so). It came back as reactive tissue and that type of thing, not cancer. The fact that her cat had to go through a general anesthesia procedure to get that information can in no way be considered as a "good thing."

Vaccinating any species for any disease is messing with things we really don't fully understand- the immune system. Every time it seems we have things all figured out, something happens or is discovered to prove we don't. By not fully understanding, or blowing off, the risks of vaccinating we are playing with fire. Who knows what other diseases besides VAS and immune-mediated disease we are causing by vaccinating? We can't even figure out why these problems occur in the animals we know are affected. How are we supposed to know what else we are causing if nobody tries to figure it out? And who is going to pay for all this research, the vaccine company? I doubt it.

In the meantime, the best we can do is understand what we DO know and to follow protocols so that if a problem does occur, we have the best chance to save the animal or person's life.

Wow I didn't mean to post a lecture either LOL!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2006 at 5:40PM
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I just went to that link that had the vaccination guidelines and I did not see anything on any of that material that indicates the injection sites should be at any particular location. Can someone please provide a DIRECT link to this information or something from a 'reliable source' that states this.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2010 at 7:59PM
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I'm late, but my seven year old cat has the same problem. It's been a week since he got a rabies vaccination, and a twenty mg depo medrol steroids shot. I did see them inject one between his blades, but I don't know which. The bump appeared within a few days, and It does not bother him at long should I wait before taking him back to the vet?
Oh, and he had diarrhea for a few das, but he is about over that. Thanks!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 3:16AM
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