Cat Susceptibility to Canine Bordetella


I am considering adopting a dog from my local shelter, but they have informed me he has kennel cough and that I should isolate my other animals. My children have a kitten who has complete run of our home. Is kennel cough transferable between the dog and the cat?


Dr. Nichol:

Kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis) causes a persistent hacking cough in dogs that usually persists several weeks. An organism called Bordetella is one of a handful that are involved in this infection of the windpipe and throat. In a kennel environment it spreads fast and furious in a matter of a couple of days.


To get the latest, I consulted a board certified internist, who is also a leading authority on infectious disease. The same strain of Bordetella that infects dogs can also infect cats.  But of cats with upper respiratory disease, fewer than 3% actually have this organism. Even in those cases Bordetella usually plays only a minor role.


Bordetella can be a real problem for cats in crowded indoor environments such as catteries or shelters. Very old cats and those who are immune compromised could be at risk if exposed to coughing, sneezing dogs or cats. There is a feline Bordetella vaccine that is useful in those situations but it is unnecessary for your healthy kitten.


Your children’s kitty should be perfectly safe with a coughing dog. She’ll think he’s crude and ill mannered but that’s because she’s a cat.