Note for Pet Owners:

This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Bordetella bronchiseptica infection can be transmitted from animals to humans and so it is a Zoonosis . There are cases in which Bordetella that have been transmitted to people with immune problems from the modified live vaccine for dogs.  

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Bordetellosis is a respiratory disease that is seen in several species including the cat, dog, guinea pig, rabbit, rodents, wildlife, and humans.

The disease is caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica , a  gram-negative bacterium which inhabits the upper respiratory tract, but is associated with both upper and lower airway disease, including pneumonia. Often other respiratory infectious agents are present at the same time (e.g. viral - e.g. canine distemper virus, canine adenoviruses 1 and 2 , canine parainfluenza virus or canine herpes virus - or mycoplasma infections). The organism is resistant in the environment surviving some 3 weeks in water

Breed Occurrence
There is no specific Breed predisposition reported


Animal to animal by direct contact and airborne transmission. Incubation period is 3-10 days (average 6; in dogs). Infected animals (e.g. dogs) may shed the Bordetella organism for 3-4months after apparent recovery from the disease.


The clinical signs are of a cough with varying degrees of difficulty in breathing which depends upon the severity of the infection. Bronchopneumonia with complications can lead to death.

Dogs : Bordetella bronchiseptica is the most common bacterial agent associated with tracheobronchitis (known as "kennel cough") in dogs. Disease outbreaks frequently occur during the summer vacations and at other times when dogs are kenneled away from home, come into contact with infected carriers, and then spread it around their neighbourhood when they come out.

The typical acute onset cough sounds like a "honk" to owners who often think the dog has something stuck in it's throat. Sometimes there is a nasal discharge and mucus may be coughed up - which can be confused for retching or vomiting.

Cats : Bordetella bronchiseptica is a significant cause of pneumonia and mortality in cats and kittens (especially when kept in colonies)

Guinea pigs : Bordetella bronchiseptica is the most common bacteria causing respiratory disease in guinea pigs. It results in abnormal respiratory sounds, sneezing, a nasal discharge, inappetance, depression, weight loss and in severe cases death.


Secondary infection can occur leading to pneumonia


Presenting history . No vaccination history.

Transtracheal aspiration of fluid - identify neutrophils in exudate and bacterial culture. Culture of swabs taken from the mouth, throat or upper airway are not reliable.

X-rays may be helpful if there are signs of pulmonary damage - hyperinflation, atelectasis, consolidation of lung lobes.


Dogs : Intranasal vaccinations are reasonably effective with few side-effects, although some dogs develop a cough a few days after vaccination. The vaccine produces local immunity and for this reason maternal antibody does not interfere with it. Therefore puppies as young as 2 weeks of age can be given the vaccination if they are likely to come into contact with dogs with the disease (such as in a boarding kennel environment). Because immunity takes 5 days to develop following the vaccine administration dogs should be dosed a week before they are likely to be exposed to the infection. For routine prevention the vaccine should be administered every 6 months.


Guinea pigs : Use of pig B.bronchiseptica vaccine and the use of an autogenous vaccine have both been tried in guinea pigs - with success. Unfortunately vaccinated animals become carriers of the infection.



Dogs : Antibiotics may reduce the duration of the illness. Use amoxicillin clavanulate - 12.5-25 mg/kg body weight by mouth every 12 hours for 14 days. OR Trimethoprim-sulphonamide combination at 15mg/kg body weight by mouth every 12 hours for 14 days. Glucocorticoids may reduce the cough - prednisolone at 0.25-0.5mg/kg by mouth every 12 hours for 3-5 days. Aerosol therapy is sometimes helpful in cases with severe bronchial fluid accumulation - 6-10ml sterile saline nebulized over 15-20 minutes 1-4 times a day with the oxygen administered at 3-5L/min.

Guinea pigs : Therapy is often unsuccessful even when started early. Broad spectrum antibiotics are otherwise indicated e.g. chloramphenicol 20mg/kg body weight intramuscularly twice a day, OR chloramphenicol 50mg/kg body weight three times daily by mouth. Unfortunately animals that survive the acute stages become carriers of the infection


Guarded in some species

Long term problems
Carrier state in some species


Updated October 2013