Kennel Cough Symptoms in Cats

Identifying kennel cough symptoms in your cat is the key to prompt treatment and ultimately control of the infection. Kennel cough is an extremely common respiratory infection that occurs in cats, and while it is not often fatal, it can cause extreme respiratory discomfort and compromise the animal's immune system. In order to control the infection promptly, it is best for owners to be aware of kennel cough symptoms in cats.

Kennel Cough Explained

Kennel cough in cats is caused by a bacterium known as Bordetella bronchiseptica. The medical term for the infection is tracheobronchitis, which loosely translates to inflammation of the trachea and bronchial tubes. It has been coined with the more common term "kennel cough" because it spreads very quickly among cats that are kept in close quarters.

Kennel cough is extremely contagious among cats because it spreads through the air and through secretions. Cats that are housed together or kept in kennels are extremely susceptible to developing the infection. The kennel cough infection is not typically fatal to older cats. However, because kittens' immune systems have not yet developed their full strength at such a young age, they are at an elevated risk for death caused by kennel cough.

Signs and Symptoms

The best way to get the kennel cough infection under control is to be aware of the signs. Because cats are more independent by nature, they tend to hide and make themselves inconspicuous when they become ill, making it that much more difficult for cat owners to detect a problem. When the symptoms of kennel cough can be identified, though, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

The initial kennel cough symptoms in cats include the following:

  • Persistent dry hacking cough, which may be concluded with vomiting
  • Croup-sounding cough, sometimes identical to that of whooping cough
  • Watery or mucous discharge from the eyes and/or nose

As the condition progresses, the symptoms may change and be more pronounced, to include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Weakness and loss of desire in normal activities
  • Elevated temperature above 103 degrees (normal temperature in cats ranges between 100 and 103 degrees)
  • Sputum-productive cough

Once kennel cough symptoms in cats have progressed to include an elevated temperature, lethargy and loss of appetite, it is possible that pneumonia has developed, and veterinary attention should be sought immediately.

Treatment Methods

After kennel cough has been detected, the next step is to follow a treatment plan. The virus can still shed through a cat's secretions for up to 14 weeks, even after treatment has been implemented. For this reason, it is best to isolate a cat with kennel cough from other pets to prevent the spread of infection.

In mild cases of kennel cough, standard treatment consists of antibiotics and bronchodilators, which are used to help dilate the bronchial tubes and enable the cat to breathe more comfortably. When kennel cough is severe or the cat has developed pneumonia, a constant flow of intravenous fluids will be used in addition to antibiotics to encourage hydration and help flush the infection from the cat's system.