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Bordetella in Cats

Bordetella bronchiseptica in cats is a type of bacteria that can cause upper respiratory illness. While there is a vaccine and antibiotics can cure infections, there are some facts pet parents should know. Our Rancho Cucamonga vets discuss cat bordetella and how it can be detected and prevented. 


Bordetella bronchiseptica leads to respiratory illness in many species. It's linked to Bordetella pertussis, which causes whooping cough in people. Therefore, it's categorized 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'), cags, rabbits and pigs, and can occasionally cause illness in humans. 

How Bordetella Spreads

When cats become infected with B. bronchiseptica, they shed germs through their nasal secretions and saliva (along with droplets when they sneeze). Therefore, transmission through inhalation or direct touch is common. 

While the bacteria are susceptible to disinfectants, they are likely to persist 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. 

Symptoms of Bordetella in Cats

The bordetella infection can cause coughing, nasal and ocular discharge, fever and mild sneezing in cats. 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

Yes, there is! Antibacterial medicines are typically extremely successful in treating infections. 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 believe your cat is suffering from bordetella? Contact our Rancho Cucamonga animal hospital for diagnosis and treatment options.

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Rancho Regional Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Rancho Cucamonga companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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