Diagnosing Kennel Cough in Cats

One of the most common respiratory diseases that affect cats is kennel cough. Cats always contract this disease as a result of close contact with an infected cat or dog. Kennel cough is caused when the Bordetella bronchiseptica species of bacteria infect the back of the mouth and throat. It is transmitted through the air, so it is extremely contagious. It is almost never a very severe disease in full-grown cats, unless the cat has a compromised immune system prior to infection. It can be fatal in small kittens.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough in Cats

As its name suggests, the most prominent symptom of kennel cough in a cat is a persistent, dry cough. It sounds similar to the coughing you'll hear when the cat coughs up a hairball. Along with most other upper respiratory infections, kennel cough can also cause:

Different cats can display different symptoms when they have kennel cough. Some cats show no symptoms at all, and only serve as carriers of the disease. Other cats, especially kittens, can show moderate to severe symptoms. Sometimes a cat with kennel cough will only have one or a few of the possible symptoms. How quickly the symptoms develop, and how severe those symptoms are, depends on the strength of the cat's immune system.

Which Cats Are Most at Risk?

The Bordetella bronchiseptica bacterium can spread to any cat easily but the severity of the symptoms depends on the cat's immune system. Very young kittens have not yet had time to develop a strong immune system, so they are at the most risk. In extreme cases, kittens have been known to die in as little as twelve hours after the first symptoms of kennel cough are noticed.

The Bordetella bronchiseptica bacterium is usually not fatal in itself, but it can weaken the immune system to allow more serious diseases, such as pneumonia, to take hold. Kennel cough can also be fatal to cats that are already affected by a severe condition that weakens the immune system, such as leukemia or feline immunodeficiency virus.

Treatment of Cat Kennel Cough

Since kennel cough is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotic therapies are the most effective treatment. However, if you have a fully-grown, healthy cat that does not display severe symptoms, it is usually safe to leave kennel cough infections untreated. The condition usually goes away without treatment in a few days to two weeks. If a case of kennel cough does not clear up after fourteen days, it's best to administer treatment.

Kennel cough is not usually a big problem for cats or their owners, but it can cause slight to moderate discomfort for the animal, and cause it to frequently make noise. It is generally not serious enough to make an appointment at the vet's office, but if your cat seems to be suffering excessively, you should seek veterinary attention.