Diseases in Cats
My cat has a bad cough and seems to be unwell. What could it be?
It could possibly be a case of Bortedella Bronchiseptica, or Bb. This is one of the infectious agents which may be involved in FURTD, or feline upper respiratory tract disease.
How did this disease come about?
Bb was first discovered in 1910 and was, incorrectly, thought to be the cause of canine distemper. Scientists only found out some years later that it caused illness in other mammals, including cats, dogs and pigs. Several viruses and bacteria were found to be responsible for such diseases. Respiratory disease is usually the result of several pathogens.
What sort of conditions cause Bb?
Often, overcrowding can be involved in cats contracting this disease. So cat rescue centres, catteries, shelters and households with several cats. Stress is also a factor in the cause of this illness.
What about kittens?
Bb can be more serious in small kittens who may contract the disease from their mother during the first weeks of life. They may also pick up a more serious form of Bb in the form of bronchopneumonia, which may be fatal.
What are the symptoms and signs of Bb?
FURTD may present with other signs, seen in other agents that may be responsible for FURTD. Studies have shown that when Bb is the sole cause, the symptoms include sneezing, fever, nasal discharge and coughing, which often start 3-5 days after infection.
The symptoms are usually mild and the cat recovers after about 10 days. But some cats become long-term carriers and may be infectious for up to 19 weeks after exposure. In some cats, especially kittens, it can develop into bronchopneumonia, which may be fatal.
How can I treat and prevent this disease?
There is, in some countries, a vaccine available against Bb, such as Nobivac® Bb in South Africa. You should discuss this, and other options, with your vet, if you are worried about your pet.
Antibiotic therapy may be given to help treat Bb, but it may not completely eradicate the disease from your cat. If you have several animals the infection may, of course, be passed from one to another.
However, with the help of your vet, you will probably be able to treat this disease at home.
Can my cat pass this disease on to me?
It is very unlikely that you will catch Bb from your pet, but it is potentially a zoonotic pathogen which can, in theory, be passed from animal to human. There is an increased risk of catching this disease from animals if a person’s immune system is compromised.
If you take certain precautions at home, to reduce your chances of catching Bb from nursing a sick cat, wash your hands frequently and avoid getting close to your pet’s face.
Chat to your vet about the precautions you should take to avoid your cat catching Bb. They are the best people to ask for help and advice about preventing your cat from catching this disease.
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