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Bordetella in Cats

Bordetella in Cats

Bordetella bronchiseptica is a type of bacteria that can cause upper respiratory illness in cats. This bacteria has a vaccine and there are antibiotics that can cure illnesses caused by Bordetella, but it can still be very concerning if it infects your cat. Our Southern Wisconsin vets discuss Bordetella in cats, how it can be detected and how to prevent it. 


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.

Symptoms of Bordetella in Cats

Symptoms of Bordetella often persist for 7 to 10 days in cats. Some of those symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Fever
  • Mild sneezing

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.

Treatment for Bordetella in Cats

Antibacterial medicines are typically extremely successful in treating infections caused by Bordetella. 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.

Do you suspect your cat has some sort of bacterial infection? Are they displaying any of the mentioned symptoms? Contact our Southern Wisconsin vets for an exam today.

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Badger Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients. Our team is passionate about the health of animals from across Southern Wisconsin. Contact our closest location to book your first appointment today!

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