Heavy breathing and panting are often associated with dogs because that's how they cool down. However, this behavior isn't usually seen in cats. Here, our Nashua vets explain the reasons why your cat could be breathing heavily/panting and when you should call your vet.
Heavy Breathing & Panting In Cats
There are situations when it is normal for your cat to be panting however, sometimes it could be a sign of a serious condition that requires immediate veterinary care.
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.
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.