Bordetella in Cats

Bordetella bronchiseptica in cats is a bacterium that can cause an upper respiratory illness. It is mostly a concern in environments where cats are maintained in large groupings, such as rescue shelters and some breeding houses. Antibiotics may successfully cure infections, and an effective vaccination is available in many areas. Today, our Edgewater vets discuss cat bordetella and what you can do to spot and stop it.

What is Bordetella?

Bordetella bronchiseptica in cats causes respiratory infections. It has been linked to Bordetella pertussis, which causes "whooping cough" in humans, and is thus classified as a rare zoonosis (a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans). It is a pathogen that causes disease in dogs, cats, pigs, and rabbits, and it can occasionally cause illness in humans.

How is Bordetella Spread?

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.

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

What are the symptoms of Bordetella in cats?

Cats with Bordetella infection have mild sneezing, coughing, nasal and ocular discharge, and fever. However, the infection can be fatal in rare cases (particularly in young kittens and under extreme stress). Symptoms last 7 to 10 days on average.

How is Bordetella in cats diagnosed?

Pharyngeal swabs are used in a laboratory to detect the bacterium. To identify the bacterium, use bacterial culture (using a specific culture medium) or PCR (polymerase chain reaction - a molecular technique for detecting the bacterium's genetic material).

Is there treatment for Bordetella in cats?

Yes, there is! Antibacterial medications are usually extremely effective at treating infections. One such medication that is likely to be the most effective is doxycycline (or a fluoroquinolone antibiotic). However, because some bacteria are resistant to certain antibiotics, sensitivity testing in a laboratory is often preferable. Keep in mind, however, that a 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 believe your cat is suffering from bordetella? Contact our Edgewater vets today for diagnosis and treatment options.