Can Cats Get Kennel Cough? Exploring Feline Respiratory Issues

Kennel cough, also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is a respiratory infection primarily associated with dogs. However, when it comes to cats, a similar condition exists known as feline infectious respiratory disease (FIRD). While kennel cough specifically affects dogs, FIRD encompasses a range of respiratory infections that affect cats, somewhat paralleling kennel cough in dogs.

Delving into the Reality of Cats and Kennel Cough

Cute gray kitten sits on a gray plaid. 

What is Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough, medically termed canine infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease primarily affecting dogs. It's characterized by inflammation of the upper airways, particularly the trachea and bronchi. The most common culprits behind kennel cough are the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica, along with various viruses like canine parainfluenza virus and canine adenovirus.

Dogs with kennel cough typically develop a persistent, dry, hacking cough, often likened to a honking sound. The cough can be triggered by excitement, physical activity, or even light pressure on the trachea. In addition to coughing, affected dogs might exhibit other symptoms such as sneezing, nasal discharge, mild fever, and in severe cases, loss of appetite or lethargy.

The term "kennel cough" originated because the infection spreads rapidly in places where dogs are in close quarters, such as kennels, shelters, boarding facilities, or dog parks. However, dogs can contract kennel cough in various environments where they come into contact with infected animals or contaminated surfaces.

While kennel cough is typically not life-threatening and often resolves on its own, veterinary attention might be necessary, especially if symptoms persist or worsen. Vaccination against Bordetella, along with other preventive measures, can help reduce the risk of kennel cough in dogs.

Can Cats Contract Kennel Cough?

Cats don't typically contract "kennel cough" in the same way that dogs do.

While cats don't contract kennel cough in the same way dogs do, they can suffer from similar respiratory issues caused by different pathogens.

Feline infectious respiratory disease (FIRD) encompasses a range of viruses and bacteria that affect cats' respiratory tracts. These include pathogens like feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus, which can cause symptoms resembling kennel cough seen in dogs.

Symptoms in Cats of Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough, a condition primarily associated with dogs, doesn't affect cats in the same way. However, cats can experience respiratory issues caused by various pathogens, some of which might exhibit symptoms resembling kennel cough in dogs. In cats, these symptoms can be part of a broader respiratory condition known as feline infectious respiratory disease (FIRD).

Here are some symptoms commonly seen in cats with respiratory issues:

Sneezing: Cats with respiratory problems often exhibit frequent and persistent sneezing.

Nasal Discharge: Discharge from the nose, which can range from clear to cloudy or even contain blood, might be present.

Coughing: Cats may develop a cough, which can be dry or produce mucus. It might not be as pronounced or as frequent as the cough seen in dogs with kennel cough.

Conjunctivitis: Inflammation of the eyes, characterized by redness, discharge, or excessive tearing.

Fever: Cats might exhibit a mild fever when they have respiratory infections.

Lethargy: A general lack of energy or increased sleepiness might be observed when a cat is unwell.

Family With Cat At Vets 

These symptoms in cats are indicative of a broader range of respiratory infections rather than kennel cough specifically. Feline herpesvirus and feline calicivirus are common culprits contributing to respiratory issues in cats, and these symptoms can vary based on the specific virus or bacteria involved.

Prevention in cats involves vaccination against common viruses that contribute to FIRD, along with maintaining a stress-free environment and good hygiene to minimize the risk of respiratory infections. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms, and in severe cases, veterinary intervention might include antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections or antiviral medications.

If your cat displays any of these symptoms, especially if they persist or worsen, it's crucial to seek veterinary care for proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

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