When you think of heavy breathing and panting, you probably think of dogs. But did you know cats can exhibit this behavior too? Sometimes, it's normal, and sometimes, it's not. Here, our Cumming vets discuss why your cat might be breathing heavy, what you can do about it, and when you should be concerned.
Heavy Breathing & Panting In Cats
Panting can be normal in cats, but it isn't as common in felines as it is in dogs. This is why it's important for owners to be able to recognize when their cat's heavy breathing could be the result of an underlying issue.
If you see your cat breathing heavily, start assessing the situation following the criteria listed below.
Bring your kitty in for veterinary treatment if their heavy breathing is out of the ordinary or if it's been happening for a long time period.
Normal Panting in Cats
Sometimes panting is normal for cats. Think about what your cat was experiencing or doing right before you noticed the panting.
Like dogs, cats can pant when they are overheated, stressed, anxious, or after exercising. This kind of panting should resolve once the cat calms down, cools down, or rests.
Although, this type of panting in cats is significantly rarer than it is in dogs. So if you aren't completely sure why your cat is panting, visit your veterinarian.
Abnormal Panting in Cats
If your cat isn’t stressed, too warm, or tired from exercise, heavy or labored breathing can be a sign of a serious medical problem. In this situation, emergency veterinary care could be required.
Asthma can also be a reason for cats panting, wheezing, and coughing, it can also increase their respiratory rate. Asthma is treatable in cats and often requires medications called 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. Since heartworm disease can be fatal for cats, it's essential to keep your kitty on monthly heartworm preventatives.
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.
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.
Trauma, anemia, neurologic disorders, abdominal enlargement, and pain can also cause cats to pant or exhibit heavy breathing.