Most people who own dogs have heard about kennel cough – but did you know that cats too can suffer from this highly contagious bacterial disease? Bordetellosis, which affects dogs so badly can also affect cats causing mild to very severe respiratory problems. Young cats and kittens are especially susceptible because their immune systems are still underdeveloped. Older cats with weakened immune systems can also be affected by this highly contagious disease which can sometimes prove to be fatal if left untreated.
A small air born bacterial micro-organism causes kennel cough in cats and it attacks their upper respiratory tract. Luckily, although cats may catch the disease, it is far less for them to do so than in dogs. Coccobacillus micro-organisms can be carried by cats but never actually affect them at all. In fact, the cat may even develop mild symptoms but soon recover which means it often goes unnoticed. However, young kittens may develop the condition and it can prove to be fatal if left untreated as it often leads to bronchopneumonia.
In cats the symptoms of kennel cough typically include the animal developing a fever, they will sneeze a lot and you may notice some nasal and ocular discharge which can last up to 2 weeks. Cats who have the condition soon lose their appetites and their lymph nodes become enlarged. Young kittens are particularly susceptible and if they do contract the disease and if left untreated may even die within 12 hours of the initial infection. The problem is the infection weakens a cat's immune system so much that other bacterial and viral infections take hold which prove fatal.
Because it's the same bacteria that infects both cats and dogs, it can be transmitted between the two. Dogs infected with the kennel cough bacteria can transmit it to cats and visa versa. The bacteria is air born which means it can be transmitted very easily from animal to animal. If a cat sneezes or even meows, they spread the bacteria through the air which then infects other animals they come in contact with.
There is a vaccination for feline bordetellosis although it is mostly given to dogs and cats who are come into contact or will be in contact with lots of other animals, namely in kennels or catteries. As such it is not one of the vaccinations that a cat would be given if the animal lives on its own in a home environment. Although with this said, a cat or dog can pick up kennel cough by drinking from a puddle in a park that another infected animal has taken a drink out of.
Because kennel cough is such a contagious disease, by far the best way to prevent your cat from getting it is to make sure they do not come into contact with a dog or another cat who has been infected with the bordetellosis bacteria. Prevention is always much easier than cure. If you have just adopted or bought a cat from a pet shop or kennel, it is always a good idea to keep them away from any other pets you may have in your home. In brief, quarantine the new-comer for a while to make sure they are not carrying the disease before you let them mix with the other animals.
If you notice any of the symptoms shown below and believe it to be the start of kennel cough, then you need to isolate your cat from any other animals you may have in your home immediately. This is to prevent the bacteria from spreading to them as well. Next, you must call your vet immediately and discuss the symptoms with them. The symptoms to watch out for include the following:
When it comes to treating kennel cough in cats, your vet will normally prescribe some antibiotics which they will base on how severe the infection actually is. If your cat has a severe infection, the vet may even put them on IV fluids to maintain their electrolyte balance. To help with the cough, your vet will also prescribe some sort of expectorant or cough suppressant – but again this will depend on the severity of the bacterial infection and the symptoms your cat might be exhibiting.
Your cat will go off their food when they are suffering from the condition which can be a problem because they will be on antibiotics and need to eat. So you should feed them on highly nutritious pet food or their favourite food which if you warm up slightly will make it more palatable.
As already mentioned, the bacterial micro-organism that causes kennel cough in both cats and dogs is highly contagious. As such if your cat is suffering from the condition they will need to be kept away from any other pets in your home. However, you also need to dispose of the faeces and urine from the infected pet in the safest way possible to prevent the disease from being spread in that way. Any towels used to wipe nasal and eye discharge, have to be disposed of as quickly as possible or washed immediately at a high temperature to kill off any bacteria. Any bedding used for the infected cat needs to changed regularly and washed at high temperatures for the same reason too.
You need to make your cat as comfortable as possible and keep them somewhere nice and warm in a stress-free environment. You should also make sure you read the instructions on any medication a vet prescribes for the treatment of kennel cough, and in particular any side effects that might occur when your cat is given the medication. If you see any side effects, you must contact your vet immediately and stop giving the medication to your pet until your vet advises otherwise.
Because cats may become carriers of kennel cough for life after they have recovered from the condition, it is really important to make sure your pet's immune system is always supported. You can do this by giving them vitamin and nutrient supplements with their normal daily food. The supplements will go a long way in helping your cat from developing any auto immune disorders and they will also help them fight off any other life threatening illnesses. If you are unsure of which type of vitamin or nutrient supplement to give your cat, you should talk to your vet who will be able to advise you which would be the best to support your cat's immune system.