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Treating Kennel Cough (Bordetella) in Cats

Source: PetWave, Updated on December 22, 2015

Therapeutic Goals

The goals of treating bordellosis in companion cats – which is an infection with the highly infectious bacterium, Bordetella bronchiseptica – are to eliminate the organism from the cat’s bloodstream, typically using antibiotic therapy, providing supportive care and relieving the animal’s clinical symptoms, including the productive moist cough that often accompanies this disease.

Treatment Options for Feline Bordetellosis

Bordetellosis in cats usually can be successfully treated by using antibiotic therapies. Treatment of affected cats coming from multi-cat households should include treating all cats for the disease and using proper disinfecting measures. Uncomplicated cases of feline bordetellosis are best treated on an outpatient basis, both for the welfare of the affected animal and equally importantly to prevent cross-infection of other hospitalized cats. A number of oral antibiotics are available to treat this disease in cats and kittens, normally over a 10-to-14 day course of therapy but possibly longer. Cats with complicated disease, including those that actually develop pneumonia, should be treated as inpatients in a veterinary hospital, as they likely will require intravenous fluid and intravenous antibiotic therapy. Cough suppressants can also be helpful, although they can reduce clearance of infectious organisms and typically are not recommended for cats with pneumonia. Because bordetellosis is very contagious and rapidly progressive in kittens and cats that have weak or compromised immune systems, many veterinarians will begin antibiotic treatment for suspected Bordetella bronchiseptica infection even before laboratory results to diagnose the inciting organism are completed. All cats that have come into contact with an infected cat (or with environmental areas frequented by the infected animal) should be placed on antibiotic treatment as well. Owners should not wait until their cats begin to show signs before starting antibiotic therapy. Feeding dishes, water dishes and living spaces should also be thoroughly disinfected. Cats and kittens that are diagnosed with Bordetella bronchiseptica infection should be quarantined from all other cats until their treatment is finished. Enforced rest for the duration of treatment, and often for up to at least 21 days, is highly recommended. Adequate hydration is essential as well.

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