This highly contagious, upper respiratory disease in cats is caused by a bacterium, it is mainly a problem where large numbers of cats are kept together such as catteries and rescue centres.
Bordetella is spread in the saliva and respiratory secretions of infected cats and transmitted by the sharing of food and water bowls, mutual grooming, and sneezing or coughing. Some cats are carriers, they shed the bacteria without showing any symptoms of the disease but can still spread the infection. Bordetella may be transmitted between dogs and cats.
The disease causes inflammation in the lungs and airways and the symptoms are very similar to a variety of other upper respiratory illness in cats.
- Discharge from the eyes and/or nose
- Poor appetite
- Low energy (lethargy)
- Coughing (wet or dry)
- Fever (high temperature)
- Noisy or difficulty breathing
- Swollen lymph nodes
Symptoms in most cats are usually mild and typically last 7 to 10 days, but this may be prolonged in more severe cases. Bordetella can be extremely serious, especially in kittens or old cats with weaker immune systems resulting in life-threatening pneumonia.
Treatment will vary based on the severity of the disease, but medication is usually required to overcome the infection.
Vaccination is important to protect your cat against this disease. We recommend that all cats have a Bordetella bronchiseptica vaccination as well as the normal annual booster if they are staying in a cattery. This separate vaccine gives protection against Bordetella for a full 12 months, it is given intra-nasally (up the nose). Ideally your cat should be vaccinated at least two weeks before arrival at the cattery.