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Can Cats Get Kennel Cough?

Can Cats Get Kennel Cough? | BetterVet

Many dog parents will be aware that our canine companions can get kennel cough, but can cats get kennel cough too? Let’s find out more about kennel cough – what it is, how it’s treated, whether it affects cats, and what you should do if you have a coughing cat.

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is an upper respiratory infection affecting the upper airway, primarily the trachea (windpipe). Its medical name is Infectious Tracheobronchitis, and in dogs, it is caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria. It causes a persistent cough which is often followed by a retch, where some phlegm or froth may be expelled. A diagnosis can often be made based on a dog’s history of recent exposure to a crowd of dogs as well as eliciting a cough on exam. Although they cough, dogs with kennel cough generally feel well otherwise.  If there is any uncertainty about the diagnosis, your vet might suggest swabbing the throat for testing and/or taking  x-rays of the chest.

Can Cats Get Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is much more common in dogs than cats. While Bordetella is one of many contributing factors to kennel cough in dogs, it is the causative agent of  kennel cough infection in cats.Cats and dogs can catch kennel cough from each other if Bordetella is the cause. You can learn more about kennel cough by reading Kennel Cough: Symptoms and Treatment.

What Are the Symptoms of Kennel Cough in Cats?

If your cat has kennel cough, you might notice the following symptoms:

  • Coughing a hacking cough that may sound like your cat needs to clear his/her throat.
  • Gagging – it’s common for cats with kennel cough to gag or retch during or at the end of a bout of coughing.
  • Vomiting – occasionally cats will vomit or regurgitate after coughing, especially if they have eaten or drank very recently.
  • Lethargy – your coughing cat might feel poorly and not want to move around much.
  • Reduced appetite – if your cat runs a fever, or if their throat is sore from coughing, he/she might not want to eat.
  • Breathing changes – in rare instances, your cat’s breathing may be quicker or more labored. (NOTE: if this is the case you should make contact with a veterinarian immediately).

How is Kennel Cough Treated in Cats?

Kennel cough is often self-limiting, and you may find that your cat gets over it without treatment if their symptoms are mild. However, if they develop a fever, stop eating, or their breathing is affected, they will likely need medication. A veterinarian can prescribe a course of antibiotics to treat the Bordetella infection, as well as an anti-inflammatory medication to lower their temperature and reduce soreness in their throat. In rare situations, the infection can spread to the lower airways, and in this case, your cat might need to stay in the veterinary hospital for a few days for close monitoring.

Can Kennel Cough in Cats be Prevented?

If you have a dog, you might be aware of the kennel cough vaccination for dogs. There’s also a Bordetella vaccination for cats, but it's not used very often. This is because kennel cough in cats is not very common and rarely causes severe symptoms. However, if your cat is more at risk, perhaps due to regularly going into a cattery or having contact with a lot of of cats in an indoor environment, book an appointment to speak to a member of our team about the vaccine.

What Should You do if Your Cat is Coughing?

If your cat is coughing and you’re not sure of the cause, it’s always best to book an appointment with your veterinarian. Many cases of kennel cough in cats will resolve quickly with only mild symptoms. However, other causes of coughing include feline asthma, allergies, heart disease, and foreign bodies like grass blades in the nose or throat. Therefore, it's important to get a diagnosis from a vet and discuss appropriate treatment options. If your cat seems unwell or their breathing is different from normal, make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately.

In conclusion, although it's not as common as in dogs, cats can also be affected by kennel cough. Knowing the symptoms to look out for and when to seek veterinary advice will help you keep your feline friend as healthy as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can kennel cough transfer to cats?

A range of viruses and bacteria can cause kennel cough in dogs. Only one of these pathogens, the bacterium Bordetella, can transfer to cats and cause kennel cough.

How long does kennel cough last in cats?

The duration of kennel cough symptoms will vary depending on your cat's immune system, age, and general health. However, it's unusual for the symptoms to go on for more than a couple of weeks.

Is kennel cough contagious to cats or humans?

Kennel cough can be transferred between cats and dogs if it is caused by the bacterium Bordetella. Although rare, it is possible for humans to contract kennel cough from their pets, especially in immune-compromised people.

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