Feline Bordetella bronchiseptica aka Bordetellosis in Kittens

Bordetella bronchiseptica infection is a bacterial infection that is most often seen in catteries or shelters and is related to the "kennel cough" in dogs. Queens (mother cats) with no signs of disease may be carriers and it has been speculated that the stress of giving birth may cause these cats to pass Bb to their kittens.

Bordetella is extremely dangerous for young kittens, as their immune systems are not developed, and can be rapid in its onset with its progression to pneumonia and death in a matter of a few hours. Often a kitten that seems fine, other than possibly showing the signs normally attributed to an upper respiratory infection (URI), can die overnight. The sharp and immediate decline in health is really shaking. This is essentially what happened to a feral kitten we rescued.

Signs & symptoms of Bordetella bronchiseptica:

  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • difficulty breathing
  • discharge from nose
  • discharge from eyes
  • lack of energy / listlessness / lethargy
  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • rales (rapid series of short loud "crackling" sounds from the lungs)
  • submandibular lymphadenopathy (enlarged / swollen lymph nodes under the lower jaw)

For the most part, these signs are seen with many respiratory pathogens. When coughing is present, it is the most telling sign as it is not common with most respiratory infections.

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