VCA Animal Hospitals

Feline Bordetellosis

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Most dog owners are familiar with the condition commonly known as kennel cough, either from the distinctive, honking cough, or from the annoyance they feel when they realize they can’t drop their dog off at the kennel without getting the dog’s vaccines updated. But the disease is not exclusive to dogs. The easily contracted bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica can attack a cat’s respiratory system all the same. Signs of infection in cats include sneezing, runny nose, loss of appetite, fever, and enlarged lymph nodes. Treatment usually includes antibiotics and isolation of the infected cat, but hospitalization may be necessary in severe cases.


Feline bordetellosis is a contagious respiratory infection caused by the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica. Though this bacterium may be the primary cause of the disease, it can also be secondary to various viral infections. Cats of all ages may contract this disease, although it typically occurs in younger cats.

The infection is spread primarily through direct contact with an infected animal. Exposure to secretions from the nose, throat, or eyes of an infected animal may also result in infection. Infected cats, even if they don’t show signs, can shed the bacteria for months, and may be a source of infection for others. Dogs harboring B. bronchiseptica infection (kennel cough), may sometimes transmit the infection to cats. It’s also possible for people, especially those with compromised immune systems, to contract the infection from animals in the household.

Signs and Identification

Signs of feline bordetellosis can range from mild to severe. Infected cats may experience sneezing, nasal and eye discharge, loss of appetite, fever, and enlarged lymph nodes. If the bacteria invade the lungs, cats can develop pneumonia, resulting in more severe signs, such as difficulty breathing and coughing. In severe cases, infection may lead to death.

Respiratory infections may be diagnosed based on associated clinical signs. In some cases, the veterinarian may recommend that samples from the throat, nose, or lungs be submitted for culture (testing for bacteria) to determine the exact cause and most effective treatment. Blood test and chest radiographs (x-rays) may also be recommended.

Affected Breeds

No breed predilection for bordetellosis has been established in cats.


In cats with mild respiratory signs, the infection may be self-limiting, meaning that it may resolve on its own. Other cats are typically treated with an antibiotic. In some cases, cats may require hospitalization. All cats with respiratory infections should be isolated from other animals and susceptible people to prevent further transmission of the disease.


A vaccine to help prevent feline bordetellosis is available and may be given to kittens age 1 month or older. However, it is generally only used for cats and kittens with prior exposure to shelters, boarding facilities, or breeding sites where the potential for infection is high or to prevent infection when the pets will be exposed to other cats at groomers, boarding facilities, or cat shows.

This article has been reviewed by a Veterinarian.


General Practice

We have over 540 animal hospitals in 41 states that are staffed by more than 2,000 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 200 being board-certified specialists. The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments*: Wellness, Spay/neuter, Advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), Internal medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Cardiology, Neurology, Boarding, Grooming

*services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

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Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

We have twenty-eight specialty hospitals across the US so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology and surgery.

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Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is after hours, check with a local animal hospital emergency clinic.