We often associate heavy breathing with dogs, as panting is how they cool down. In cats, however, this behavior is not very common. Our Crystal Lake vets share some reasons why your cat could be breathing heavily and when you should be concerned.
Heavy Breathing & Panting In Cats
It isn't unheard of for cats to pant, so it isn't always an immediate concern. However, as this behavior is uncommon in our feline friends, its important for cat owners to rule out any medical concerns when they notice this behavior.
If you see your cat breathing heavily, assess the situation using the information below.
Normal Panting in Cats
Panting can be normal in cats. When you notice it, first think about what your kitty was just doing. Cats can breath heavily when they are overheated, stressed, or tired from exercise. This type of panting will usually taper off after a little while or after your cat enters a calmer environment.
If you're unsure what could have led to the panting, visit your veterinarian!
Abnormal Panting in Cats
If your cat is not stressed, overheating, or fatigued from exercise, heavy or labored breathing can be a sign of an underlying medical problem. In this case, emergency veterinary care could be required.
Here are 5 medical reasons your cat could be breathing heavily:
Asthma is a condition that can affect cats just as it affects humans. It can cause panting, wheezing, and coughing, as well as increase their respiratory rate. Asthma often requires corticosteroids or bronchodilators to treat in cats.
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. Since heartworm disease can be fatal for cats, it's essential to keep your kitty on monthly heartworm preventatives.
3. Congestive Heart Failure
When fluid builds up in and around the lungs, it can cause deep, rapid breathing, coughing, and panting. Treatment might include draining the fluid, as well as medications to dilate blood vessels, get rid of excess fluid, and make the heart contract more forcefully.
4. Respiratory Infection
Respiratory infections can make it very hard for cats to breathe, causing heavy breathing. Respiratory infections are usually viral, but when a secondary bacterial infection develops, antibiotics might be needed for treatment. Humidifiers and steam may help loosen mucus and make nasal breathing easier as your cat gets better.
5. Other Conditions
Trauma, anemia, neurologic disorders, abdominal enlargement, and pain can also cause cats to pant or exhibit heavy breathing.