Bordetella (Bb) in Cats

Bordetella, also known as Bordetellosis is one of the most common bacterial infection caused by the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria. Bordetella is related to Bordetella Pertusis and the Bordetella Parapertussis bacteria which is known to cause ‘Whooping Cough’ in humans.

These micro-organisms are known to thrive in rescue shelters, multi-pet household, high pet density areas. Bordetella can survive in the environment for up-to 2 weeks. Bordetella affects a variety of animals including, domestic animals, dogs, cats, rabbits and farm animals.

Cats are susceptible to respiratory infections be it viral or bacterial. It is a highly contagious bacterial infection which affects the upper respiratory tract (URT – consists of the nose, throat and sinus area). The severity of the disease depends on the age of the cat and its immunity response. Young cats especially kittens (age between 6 to 9 weeks) are at high risk, immuno compromised cats, senior cats, pregnant queens, cats with pre-existing conditions like Feline Calicivirus (FCV) or Feline Herpes Virus (FHV, or FHV-1), cats living in unhygienic or contaminated environments are susceptible to this disease.

Bordetella is a rare ZOONOTIC disease, which means humans can easily get infected.


Bordetella is caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria.

The primary mode of transmission is by inhalation. Inhaling particles from contaminated materials such as food bowls, bedding, toys, furniture, from direct contact with nasal secretions, sneeze droplets, saliva, direct contact with infected pets, kennels, catteries, multi-pet household and from low immunity response (existing conditions involving the respiratory tract).

Clinical Signs & Symptoms

The incubation period for Bordetella is 3 to 10 days.

Common symptoms seen are:
› Anorexia (Loss of Appetite)
› Pyrexia (Fever)
› Depression
› Lethargy
› Rhinitis (sneezing)
› Dyspnea (Trouble Breathing)
› Tachypnea (Rapid Breathing Rate)
› Coughing
› lymphadenitis (swelling of lymph nodes)
› Recurrent nasal discharges / runny nose
› Honk-like cough
› Weakness
› Ptyalism (Hypersalivation or Drooling)
› Mouth ulcers / Oral ulcers


Veterinarians will require a complete history of your cat which includes medical history, vaccination records, existing health concerns, current and previous medications, onset of symptoms, diet and exercise routine and any information which can help in establishing a correct diagnosis. Diagnosis is done with a combination of tests. These include routine lab examinations and special tests which can detect the presence of the bacteria. They are:
› Physical examination
› Biochemical profile
› Complete Blood Count (CBC) – This will show an increased number of neutrophils
› Urinalysis
› PCR test (Polymerase Chain Reaction)
› Bacterial culture test (done by taking swab samples from the throat, pharynx)


Bordetella can be successfully treated but this depends on the severity of the infection. Untreated bordetella can progress to life threatening pneumonia and other secondary illnesses.

Treatment consists of:
› Antibiotic medications
› Drugs to treat secondary illnesses and diseases
› Fluid therapy
› Use of IV fluids
› Cough suppressants
› Inhalant medications to ease breathing
› Antibacterial medications
› Cold water baths (in-case of fever)


Bordetella Bronchiseptica is a bacterial respiratory infection which has a worldwide presence. Preventing this infection from happening may not be easy. Vaccination is the single most effective way. A stronger immunity system can ward off the infection and will also help in a speedy recovery.

Home Care

Bordetella causes upper respiratory infection (URI) in cats. Home care should aim at improving the condition. Treatments can take a few days to weeks, depending on the severity. Cats usually recover within 8 to 12 days.If you observe any behavioral changes, or if the condition does not improve, please contact your veterinarian.

› Vaccinating your cat. Choice is generally nasal vaccines as they work faster.
› It is mandatory to provide a stress-free environment for your cat. Keep water and food bowls within reach. Avoid physical activity. Keep your cats away from any noise and commotions.
› You have to administer and monitor all prescribed medicine as directed by your veterinarian.
› Do NOT travel with your cat.
› Do NOT allow your cat to roam freely. This works two ways, firstly if the cat is infected, it greatly reduces the chances of risk of exposure to other pets and humans and secondly in-case of a healthy pet, it reduces the chances of contracting the infection. Do not allow your pet to go through garbage bins, water sources, fecal infected areas.
› Use of environmental disinfectants is recommended. Prompt disposal of any and all materials after use is suggested.
› Routine and regular checkups to access the progress, further tests may be advised this includes Liver and kidney function tests, blood tests. Monitor and administer all medications as directed by your veterinarian and complete the dosage.
› Humans, especially children, pregnant women and ones handling infected pets need to exercise caution. Wear gloves when dealing with a pet, wiping nasal discharges with damp cloth, cleaning the litter boxes, disposing any and all contaminated materials, garbage disposals etc. A thorough wash of hands is advised. Practice hygiene.
› Special emphasis needs to be given on diet. A well planned, healthy, nutritious and balanced diet is recommended. Try to avoid raw foods. Veterinarians usually suggest a low protein diet for liver and kidney recovery.
› There is high probability this infection can re-occur. Seek veterinarian advise post recovery on ways to prevent this from happening.
› Untreated Bordetella can progress into life threatening Pneumonia. Post recovery, a cat can shed the infection for up-to 20 weeks, Isolating your pet is highly recommended.

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