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Bordetella in Cats

Bordetella bronchiseptica in cats is a bacterium that can cause and upper respiratory illness. Here, our Groton vets discuss cat bordetella, its symptoms and how it's treated. 


Bordetella bronchiseptica causes respiratory illness in multiple species and is linked to Bordetella pertussis, which causes "whooping cough" in people. For this reason, it's classified as a rare zoonosis (a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans). 

This disease causing agent in dogs is one of the major contributing factors to kennel cough and can also cause disease in rabbits, pigs and cats. Occasionally, it can also cause people to become ill. 

How Bordetella Spreads 

B. bronchiseptica can infect cats, which can shed germs via their nasal secretions and saliva (in addition to droplets when they sneeze). therefore, inhalation or direct contact is an efficient, common method of transmission of this disease between cats. 

While bacteria are vulnerable to disinfectants, they will probably persist in the environment for 1 or 2 weeks. Bedding, grooming equipment, food bowls and other items may all be potential sources of disease if not meticulously cleaned and maintained. 

Symptoms of Bordetella in Cats

Bordetella infection in cats can cause a variety of symptoms, such as mild coughing, sneezing, fever, ocular and nasal discharge in cats. That said, in rare circumstances (especially in young kittens and for cats under intense stress), the infection can turn more serious and potentially prove fatal. If your cat has contracted Bordetella, symptoms will often persist for about 7 to 10 days. 

Diagnosing Bordetella in Cats 

Once you or your vet suspect Bordetella to be the cause of your cat's illness, your vet will want to conduct thorough diagnostic testing to confirm the diagnosis. The bacterium is detected in a laboratory using swabs collected from the pharynx. Bacterial culture (using a particular culture medium) or PCR (polymerase chain reaction - a molecular technique for detecting the bacterium's genetic material) can also be used to identify the bacterium.

Treatment for Bordetella in Cats

There is, indeed! In most cases, antibiotics are very effective in treating infections. Doxycycline (or another fluoroquinolone antibiotic), is likely to be the most efficient treatment. However, it is frequently preferable to conduct sensitivity testing in a laboratory due to the fact that some bacteria are resistant to some antibiotics. However, remember that a very serious infection may necessitate hospitalization and additional supportive care.

Most Bordetella infections are considered mild, and no special precautions are required for most cats since the risk of infection and serious illness is minimal.

However, it is never a guarantee that there will be minimal risk. A good and effective vaccination is available and administered through drops in the nose. Vaccination is an important part of providing your cat with protection against Bordetella and other serious diseases.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you suspect your cat is suffering from bordetella? Contact our Groton vets today for diagnosis and treatment options. 

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