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 Rochester vets discuss cat bordetella and what you can do to spot and stop it.


Bordetella bronchiseptica causes respiratory illness in a wide range of animals. It has been linked to Bordetella pertussis, which causes "whooping cough" in humans, and is therefore classified as a rare zoonosis (disease transmissible from animals to humans). It is a disease-causing agent in dogs, cats, pigs, and rabbits, and can occasionally cause illness in humans.

How Bordetella Spreads

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 of this disease between cats.

Although the bacteria are susceptible to disinfectants, they are likely to survive for 1-2 weeks in the environment. If not maintained and meticulously cleaned, the surroundings, bedding, food bowls, grooming equipment, and so on can all be sources of illness.

Symptoms of Bordetella in Cats

Bordetella infection causes mild sneezing, coughing, nasal and ocular discharge, and fever in cats. However, in rare cases (particularly in young kittens and under extreme stress), the infection can be severe and potentially fatal. If your cat is infected with Bordetella, the symptoms will usually last 7 to 10 days.

Diagnosing Bordetella in Cats 

Once you or your vet suspect Bordetella to be the cause of your cat's illness, your vet will want to conduct thorough diagnostic testing to confirm the diagnosis. 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! Antibiotics are generally very effective at treating infections. The most effective treatment is likely to be doxycycline (or another fluoroquinolone antibiotic). However, because some bacteria are resistant to certain antibiotics, it is frequently preferable to conduct sensitivity testing in a laboratory. Keep in mind, however, that a severe infection may necessitate hospitalization and additional supportive care.

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 vaccination is available and administered through drops in the nose. Vaccination is an important part of providing your cat with protection against Bordetella and other serious 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 believe your cat is suffering from bordetella? Contact our Rochester vets today for diagnosis and treatment options.