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Bordetella in Cats

Bordetella in Cats

Bordetella bronchiseptica is a type of bacteria that, when infecting cats and other animals, can cause respiratory illness and infection. There are vaccines and antibiotics to counteract this bacteria, but pet owners should still know certain things about it! Our Cumming vets discuss cat Bordetella and how it can be detected and prevented. 


Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacteria that leads to respiratory illness in many animals. It is also linked to the bacteria that causes "whooping cough" in humans, therefore categorizing it as a rare zoonosis disease (transmittable from animals to humans). It is a disease-causing agent in dogs (one of the main causes of 'kennel cough'), cats, rabbits and pigs, and can occasionally cause illness in humans. 

How Bordetella Spreads

A cat infected with Bordetella spreads germs through saliva and nasal secretions (such as the spray when they sneeze). This makes transmission through contact very high.

While the bacteria are susceptible to disinfectants, they are likely to survive in the environment for 1 to 2 weeks. Your cat's surroundings, bedding, grooming equipment, food bowls and other items may all be sources of illness if not meticulously cleaned. If your cat has access to other cats a lot of the time, this also raises their risk of contracting the bacteria.

Symptoms of Bordetella in Cats

The Bordetella infection can cause a few notable symptoms in cats:

  • Coughing
  • Nasal and ocular discharge
  • Fever
  • Mild sneezing
However, in rare circumstances (especially in young kittens and in cats under intense stress), the infection may develop into more severe illness and become fatal. Symptoms often persist for 7 to 10 days. 

Diagnosing Bordetella in Cats 

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

Antibacterial medicines are typically successful in treating infections caused by Bordetella. Such medicines include Doxycycline (or maybe a fluoroquinolone antibiotic), which is likely to be the most effective treatment. However, because certain bacteria are resistant to some antibiotics, it is often preferable to do sensitivity testing in a laboratory. Bear in mind, though, that an extremely severe infection may require additional supportive care and hospitalization.

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 vaccine is available (vaccination is administered by drops in the nose), and this is an important aspect of disease prevention.

Do you think your cat has been infected by Bordetella or another infection? Contact our Cumming vets today to book an examination for your kitty.

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Animal Medical Center of Cumming is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Cumming companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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