Kennel cough, caused by the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica, is a highly contagious disease that affects the upper respiratory tract in dogs and cats. While dogs are more susceptible to contracting the disease, cases of kennel cough in cats are slightly rare.
The disease is common in cases where cats are kept in large groups, such as in breeding households and rescue centers. It’s also worth noting that kennel cough is a zoonotic disease, which means dogs and cats can pass it to one another as well as to humans. So, can cats get kennel cough and how does it spread?
Can cats get kennel cough?
Yes, cats can get kennel cough. The disease is caused by the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica and affects the upper respiratory tract causing bronchitis, and in severe cases pneumonia. Kennel cough in cats is common in colony situations, such as breeding establishments and rescue centers.
Symptoms of kennel cough in cats
Symptoms of kennel cough in cats are quite similar to severe cold or influenza. Cats rarely get a cough, so if you notice your cat is coughing then it advisable to seek veterinary help. These are the symptoms that will help you know your cat has kennel cough:
- Runny eyes (ocular discharge)
- Nasal discharge
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty breathing
The cat’s health condition and age determine the severity of the disease, which can range from mild to severe. Cats lose appetite largely due to enlarged lymph nodes.
How does kennel cough in cats spread?
Infected cats spread Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria through saliva and nasal secretions when they cough or sneeze. A cat will be infected when she comes in contact with an infected cat or inhale infected sneeze or cough droplets. Oral and nasal secretions from infected cats can also contaminate surfaces and contact with such surfaces is another means of transmission.
The bacteria are likely to survive for up to 2 weeks in the environment. This means you need to keep the place scrupulously clean, including the bedding, feeding bowls, toys, etc. Keep in mind that kennel cough can spread between cats and dogs, and if one is already sick then there’s a high likelihood the other will soon contract the disease.
How to treat kennel cough in cats
Treating kennel cough in cats is similar to treating the same disease in dogs. Treatment usually includes:
- Cough suppressants
- Increased fluids, sometimes intravenously
- Nutritional supplements to boost the immune system
Cats at higher risk of kennel cough disease
Although any cat that comes in contact with Bordetella bronchiseptica can contract the disease, some cats are more susceptible than others. Kittens and cats with compromised immune systems are more at risk. Very young kittens who contract kennel cough disease can die within 12 hours after presenting symptoms. On the other hand, cats whose immune systems have been compromised by conditions such as leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus are more likely to contract the disease.
How long is kennel cough contagious?
Cats can remain infected with kennel cough for several months even after symptoms have subsided. This means cats that have recovered from kennel cough can still be contagious for months. Furthermore, contaminated surfaces can also be contagious for up to 2 weeks unless scrupulously cleaned.
How long is kennel cough incubation period?
Kennel cough’s incubation period is two to 14 days. Keep in mind that some cats can be carriers for months without presenting any symptoms.
How long does kennel cough last in cats?
Kennel cough in cats lasts for about 7-10 days, but severe cases can last for more than two weeks. Severe cases of kennel cough can result in life-threatening bronchitis or pneumonia, with young kittens and cats with compromised immune systems at greater risk of dying.
Does kennel cough go away on its own?
In some cases, kennel cough will go away on its own within 2-3 weeks without the need for any treatment. However, medications speed the recovery and minimize symptoms & spread during the course of infection. Young kittens and cats with weak immune systems will definitely need medications.
Is cat kennel cough contagious to humans?
Yes, kennel cough can be transmitted from dogs and cats to humans. However, it is very rare and Bordetella bronchiseptica bacteria only infect people with weakened immune systems. Generally, feline and canine viruses cannot affect humans and there’s little evidence indicating humans can contract kennel cough.
What antibiotics are used for kennel cough in cats?
The most widely used antibiotics for kennel cough in cats are tetracycline and doxycycline. Some strains of the Bordetella have shown significant resistance to antibiotics, and that’s why you need to seek veterinary help if your sick cat is in severe condition.
Is there a vaccine for kennel cough?
YES. Bordetella vaccine is an intranasal vaccine for dogs and cats to protect them from kennel cough. It requires a few drops in the nose. Only two percent of cats show reactions to the vaccine, which include sneezing, coughing, and fevers.
Should I vaccinate my cat for kennel cough?
You should vaccinate your cat if it regularly comes into contact with other cats, especially those from multi-cat households, pet shelters, or catteries. The vaccine is administered once every year and helps protect cats from kennel cough disease.
Kennel cough in cats is a rare disease. The zoonotic disease is spread through contact with infected cats, contaminated surfaces, or inhalation of infected nasal and oral secretions. It is advisable to vaccinate your cat if she regularly comes in contact with cats from multi-cat households, pet shelters, or catteries. Click here for more information on cat health.