Feline Bordetellosis
Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Feline Bordetellosis symptoms are similar to those of other feline upper respiratory tract diseases.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica is the bacterium responsible for causing Bordetellosis.

signs and symptoms

Cats suffering from Bordetellosis present with the following symptoms:

  • Rhinitis is an inflammation of the nasal mucosa which causes nasal discharge (runny nose)
  • Sneezing is caused by an irritation of the nasal mucosa and results in air being forcefully expelled from the nose and mouth thereby spreading nasal discharge via droplet infection.
  • Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva (inner mucus membranes of the eyelids) and sclera causing swollen, red eyes accompanied by eye discharge.
  • Fever – raised temperature
  • Coughing
  • Tachypnea which is rapid and labored breathing
  • Sub-mandibular lymphadenopathy is an enlargement of the lymph nodes which are situated beneath the lower jaw (the mandible).
  • General malaise, lethargy and loss of appetite


In cats with healthy immune systems, these signs are mild and may subside within a week to 10 days.

Unfortunately, in kittens (which are most severely affected), older cats and immuno-compromised cats, these symptoms can become progressively worse.

In many instances these cats develop broncho-pneumonia which is a life threatening disease with a high mortality rate.

In the chapter on cat flu we provide an overview on Upper Respiratory Disease in cats, the causal organisms and the signs and symptoms.

There is an overlap of symptoms in cats infected with Feline Herpes Virus, Feline Calicivirus, Feline Chlamydia and Bordetella.

feline bordetellosis | diagnosis

Many of the signs and symptoms of Bordetella Bronchiseptica mimic those of other upper respiratory tract diseases.

The veterinarian will need to do a physical examination and take oro-pharyngeal (throat) swabs and swabs of nasal discharge.

These swabs will be sent to a veterinary laboratory for analysis and diagnosis.

feline bordetellosis | treatment

Feline Bordetellosis infection can be treated with antibiotics like tetracycline, doxycycline or amoxicillin/clavulanic acid.

Treatment will also be supportive:

  • An eye ointment or drops may be prescribed to treat the eye infection.
  • Saline eye wash is ideal to clean the eyes of crusts and mucus.
  • Apply petroleum jelly (Vaseline) to the nose to soften any crusts caused by nasal discharge and then wipe it off with swabs dampened with luke-warm water.
  • The nostrils and eyes must be cleaned of all discharge as often as required (3 - 4 times per day).
  • Nasal decongestants may be prescribed to unblock the nose.
  • Mucolytics will assist with breaking down and clearing any mucus in the respiratory tract.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to assist with pain and inflammation.
  • Provide nourishing and appetizing food to encourage the cat to eat.
  • Food and hydration are essential to 'build' the cat's strength and encourage recovery.
  • The cat must be kept hydrated.
  • The cat will need to be isolated from other cats and barrier nursed to prevent the disease from being transmitted to other cats
  • Keep kitty indoors and keep him warm and comfortable.

prevention | control

To understand the prevention and control of the disease, it's important to be aware of the transmission of bordetella and which cats are at greatest risk.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica infection can be prevented by:


  • An intranasal Bordetella vaccine is available in some countries.
  • It should be considered for use in preventing Bordetella outbreaks in catteries or to help prevent respiratory disease in cats that come into contact with other cats and dogs. 

In catteries and shelters the best preventative methods are:

  • the avoidance of stress and
  • practicing excellent hygiene,
  • providing good nutrition, sanitation, ventilation and
  • ensuring parasite control and control of other respiratory pathogens to minimize the occurrence of the disease.

As Bordetella does not live outside the cat for extended periods and because it is destroyed by common disinfectants, a good hygiene routine is sufficient to prevent disease spreading through the environment.

Related Pages:

Feline Calicivirus

Feline Herpes Virus

Feline Chlamydia

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