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Bordetella in Cats

Bordetella bronchiseptica can lead to upper respiratory illness in cats. This bacterium is primarily a concern in environments where cats spend time in large groups, such as kennels, rescue shelters, and some places where cats are bred. In this post, our Mandeville vets explain how cats are affected by bordetella and what you can do to spot and stop it. 

What is Bordetella in cats?

Bordetella bronchiseptica causes respiratory illness in many animals. It has been linked to Bordetella pertussis, which causes "whooping cough" in humans, and is therefore classified as a rare zoonotic illness (a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans). This disease-causing agent can lead to illness in cats, dogs, pigs, and rabbits, and occasionally in humans. 

How Bordetella Spreads 

Cats infected with B. bronchiseptica release germs in their saliva and nasal secretions (along with droplets when they sneeze). Therefore, this disease can be efficiently transmitted through direct touch or inhalation. 

While the bacteria are susceptible to disinfections, they will probably survive for one to two weeks in the environment. If not maintained and meticulously cleaned, a cat's surroundings, including their bedding, food bowls, and grooming equipment can all become sources of illness. 

Symptoms of Bordetella in Cats 

Bordetella infection can trigger a variety of symptoms, including sneezing, fever, mild coughing, and ocular and nasal discharge in cats. However, the infection can become severe and potentially fatal in rare cases (especially in young kittens and cats under extreme stress). If your cat is infected with Bordetella, the symptoms will typically last between 7 and 10 days. 

Diagnosing Bordetella in Cats

Once you or your vet suspect Bordetella may be causing your cat's illness, your vet will want to conduct perform a battery of diagnostic tests to confirm the diagnosis. Swabs are used to collect mucus from the pharynx. These may reveal the bacterium during lab tests. Bacterial culture (using a particular culture medium) or PCR (polymerase chain reaction – a molecular technique for detecting bacterium's genetic material) may also be used to identify the bacterium. 

Treatment for Bordetella in Cats

Yes, there is! Antibiotics are generally very effective at treating infections. The most effective treatment is likely to be doxycycline (or another fluoroquinolone antibiotic). However, because some bacteria are resistant to certain antibiotics, it is frequently preferable to conduct sensitivity testing in a laboratory. Keep in mind, however, that a severe infection may necessitate hospitalization and additional supportive care.

Prevention of Bordetella in Cats

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 believe your cat may be suffering from Bordetella or another respiratory illness? Contact our Mandeville vets today to book an exam. We can diagnose your cat's condition and offer treatment options.

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At Riverside Veterinary Hospital, we are always accepting new patients. Our veterinary team is passionate about the health and well-being of companion animals in Mandeville. Book your first appointment today.

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