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 Boulder County vets discuss cat bordetella and what you can do to spot and stop it.
What is Bordetella?
Bordetella bronchiseptica causes respiratory illness in a variety of species. It is linked to Bordetella pertussis, which causes "whooping cough" in humans, and is thus categorized as a rare zoonosis (disease transmissible from animals to humans). It is a disease-causing agent in dogs (one of the major causes of 'kennel cough'), cats, pigs, and rabbits, and can occasionally cause sickness 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 vulnerable to disinfectants, they are likely to persist in the environment for 1-2 weeks. The surroundings, bedding, food bowls, grooming equipment, and so on may all be sources of illness if not maintained meticulously cleaned.
What are the Symptoms of Bordetella in Cats?
In cats, the bordetella infection causes mild sneezing, coughing, nasal and ocular discharge, and fever. However, in rare situations (particularly in young kittens and under intense stress), the infection may be more serious and end in death. Symptoms often persist for 7 to 10 days.
How is Bordetella in Cats Diagnosed?
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.
Is there 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.