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Bordetella in Cats

Bacteria can cause a number of illnesses and conditions that can have a serious impact on your pet's health. Here, our Westport vets talk about Bordetella in cats along with the symptoms, treatment options and what to expect during recovery.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica in Cats

Bordetella bronchiseptica is a bacteria that causes respiratory issues in the animals it infects. It's linked to the bacteria Bordetella pertussis, which causes whooping cough in humans. Therefore, it's categorized as a rare zoonosis disease (transmittable from animals to humans). This can be concerning to cat owners who want to know how to recognize and prevent Bordetella in their kitties.

How Bordetella Spreads

When cats become infected with Bordetella, they transmit germs through nasal secretion (sneezes) and saliva. This makes the bacteria highly transmittable through touch and inhalation. This means that cats that are more often around other animals and cats (like strays or cats in kitty daycares) are more likely to contract the bacteria.

The bacteria can live in the environment for up to 2 weeks. Your cat's surroundings, bedding, grooming equipment, food bowls and other items may all be sources of illness if not regularly disinfected and cleaned.

Bordetella in Cats: Symptoms

The symptoms of Bordetella in cats can last around 7 to 10 days. Some of the symptoms that your cat may experience include:

  • Coughing
  • Gagging
  • Fever
  • Sneezing
  • Discharge from eyes or nose
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

In more severe cases, such as in kittens or cats with already weakened immune systems, the Bordetella bacteria can be fatal. This is why it is important to seek veterinary care immediately if you notice the above symptoms in your cat.

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.

Bordetella in Cats: Treatment Options

The treatment for Bordetella in cats most commonly consists of medication to target the infection.

One of these common medications prescribed by vets includes Doxycycline (or maybe a fluoroquinolone antibiotic), which is likely to be the most effective treatment. Bear in mind that an extremely severe infection may require additional veterinary care and even 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.

Recovery for Cat with Bordetella

If your cat is recovering from Bordetella, the prognosis depends on a number of factors.

The prognosis for a young kitten with no other underlying health problems is usually quite good with treatment. The prognosis for older cats is dependent upon their age and underlying health conditions.

Here are some ways that you can help your cat with the best recovery possible:

  • Administer medications on time and strictly follow the veterinarian's instructions.
  • Quarantine your cat to allow them to remain stress-free while protecting any other pets you have at home.
  • Keep the cat’s environment clean. This includes disinfecting bedding, litter boxes, and food dishes often.
  • Consult with your veterinarian about supplements and other nutritional options for improving the immune system.
  • Speak with your vet about a vaccine schedule for Bordetella and other infectious 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 suspect your cat has some sort of bacterial infection? Are they displaying any of the mentioned symptoms? Contact our Westport vets for an exam today.

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