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Why is my cat is breathing heavy?

While panting is common for dogs, panting or heavy breathing in cats is rare. In fact, if your cat is breathing heavy it could be a sign of an underlying health concern. Here, our Mechanicsburg vets share a few of the reasons why cats may breathe heavy or pant, and when it's time to head to the vet.

Heavy Breathing Cat

Since cats don't usually pant, heavy breathing can be an indication of a serious health concern that requires prompt veterinary care. 

If you notice that your cat is 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 care right away. 

Times When Heavy Breathing is Normal for Cats

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.

Cats, like dogs, may pant if they become overheated, anxious, or after engaging in strenuous exercise (such as being chased by a dog). If your cat is panting for any of these reasons, the panting should stop once the cat has had a chance 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.

Possible Causes of Heavy Breathing in Cats:

Our Mechanicsburg veterinarians frequently receive calls from concerned pet parents asking, "Why is my cat breathing heavily?" Here are a few of the reasons why your cat may be panting or breathing heavily.

Asthma

  • Common signs of asthma in cats include your cat breathing heavy with their 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

  • 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.

Respiratory Infections

  • 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.

Caring For Your Cat's Long Term Health

If you are concerned about your cat's breathing veterinary care is important. After all, when it comes to your cat's health it's always better to err on the side of caution. 

It's also important to remember that treatment is most effective when a condition is identified early on, before it progresses to a more serious health issue. Early treatment may help to protect your cat's health and save you money in the long run.

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.

Contact our Mechanicsburg vets at Rossmoyne Animal Emergency Trauma Center right away if you are concerned about your cat's heavy breathing.

Walk-in Patients Welcome

At Rossmoyne Animal Emergency Trauma Center you never need an appointment to access our full complement of emergency services. We treat both walk-in patients and referrals for urgent veterinary care.

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