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What Is Bordetella In Cats?

What Is Bordetella In Cats?

Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacterium that can cause upper respiratory illnesses in cats. It is mostly a concern in environments where cats are in large groups, such as rescue shelters and boarding facilities. 


Bordetella bronchiseptica causes respiratory illness in a variety of species. It is linked to Bordetella pertussis, which leads to "whooping cough" in humans, and is thus categorized as a rare zoonosis disease. This means that it is transmissible from animals to humans. It is a disease-causing agent in dogs (one of the major causes of 'kennel cough'), cats, pigs, and rabbits, and can occasionally cause sickness in humans.

How Bordetella Spreads

Cats infected with B. bronchiseptica shed germs via their saliva and nasal secretions (as well as droplets when they sneeze). Therefore, direct touch or inhalation is an efficient method of transmission of this disease between cats.

Although the bacteria can be removed with disinfectants, they are likely to persist in the environment for 1-2 weeks. The surroundings, bedding, food bowls, grooming equipment, and so on may all be sources of illness if not maintained and meticulously cleaned.

Symptoms of Bordetella in Cats

In cats, the Bordetella infection causes mild sneezing, coughing, nasal and ocular discharge, and fever. However, in rare cases such as particularly young kittens and under intense stress, the infection may become more serious and may even become fatal. If your cat has contracted Bordetella the symptoms often persist for approximately 7 to 10 days.

Diagnosing Bordetella in Cats

Once you or your vet suspect that your cat has contracted Bordetella, your vet will want to conduct a thorough examination with diagnostic testing to confirm. 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

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 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 require extensive hospitalization and additional supportive care before your pet gets better.

Most Bordetella infections are relatively mild and don't require special precautions in most cases 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 pet 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.

If your cat needs to be boarded or if you think they may have contracted Bordetella, contact our Villa Rica vets to book an appointment to either update their cat vaccinations or test them for illness.

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