Most people are aware that dogs pant as a way to cool down, but panting and heavy breathing is much less common in cats and could be a sign of an underlying health problem. Below, our vets discuss possible causes of cat heavy breathing and what you should do.
Why is my cat breathing heavy?
Cat panting is not a normal behavior for cats in most cases. In fact, heavy breathing can be an indication of a serious health concern that requires prompt veterinary care.
If you notice that your cat is panting or breathing heavily start by assessing the situation based on the criteria below. If you are at all concerned with your cat's heavy breathing or they are displaying any other troubling symptoms, it's best to err on the side of caution and head to the vet for emergency veterinary care right away.
Is cat heavy breathing ever normal?
While uncommon, in some cases, panting is normal behavior for cats. Take a moment to consider what your cat was doing or experiencing immediately before you noticed their panting.
Just like their canine counterparts, cats may pant if they become overheated, anxious, or following very strenuous exercise (such as being chased by a dog). If your cat is breathing heavy due to any of those reasons the panting should resolve itself once the cat has had an opportunity to calm down, cool down or rest.
As mentioned previously, panting and heavy breathing are much less common in our feline friends than it is in dogs. So if you're not entirely sure why your cat is panting, it’s worth a visit to your vet.
What are some possible causes of heavy breathing in cats?
- Common signs of asthma in cats include heavy breathing with mouth open, panting, wheezing, and coughing, and increased respiratory rate. While asthma in cats may not be cured, it can be successfully managed with corticosteroids or bronchodilators.
- Heartworm in cats can cause breathing difficulties. Treatment for heartworm includes supportive care with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and oxygen therapy in more serious cases. Heartworm disease is extremely serious and can be fatal, which is why our vets recommend keeping your cat on a monthly heartworm preventative medication.
Hydrothorax & Congestive Heart Failure
- Hydrothorax is is a condition characterized by the accumulation of fluid in and around the lungs which can cause deep, rapid breathing, coughing, and panting. Treatment may include draining the fluid, as well as medications to dilate blood vessels, get rid of excess fluid, and make the heart contract more forcefully.
- If your feline friend has developed a respiratory infection it may be difficult for them to breathe normally. Respiratory infections can lead to heavy breathing or panting in cats. These infections typically begin as viral infections, but often develop into secondary bacterial infections. Antibiotics may be required to treat your cat's condition so that they can breathe easier. Humidifiers and steam can help loosen mucus and make nasal breathing easier as your cat recovers.
Other Conditions Which Can Lead To Cats Breathing Heavy
- Anemia, neurologic disorders, trauma, abdominal enlargement, and pain can also cause cats to pant or exhibit heavy breathing.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.