This is Why Your Cat Breathes Heavily! It Could Be Dangerous!
Riddle me this: When is a dog like a man’s suit? The answer is: When it has a coat and pants. Dogs are known for panting, but that is not something cats normally do.
A cat breathing heavy means something is very wrong and you have to find out what.
What is the normal respiration rate for a cat?
If your cat is taking more than thirty breaths in a minute, she is experiencing dyspnea, the technical term for heavy breathing. In order for you to take your cat’s respiratory rate, she has to be standing and relatively calm. Focus on the movement of your cat’s chest wall and abdomen. Count the number of movements in sixty seconds.
A very relaxed cat may take less than twenty breaths per minute without cause of concern. You should worry if the number is higher than thirty. When breaths bring oxygen into a body faster than the lungs can process it, this can lead to trouble.
Symptoms of Heavy Breathing in Cats
If a cat is having trouble breathing, she may stand or crouch with the joints on her front legs splayed and her head and neck stretched away from her body. Her breaths may come shallow, short or noisy often with flared nostrils and exaggerated movements of her chest and stomach.
Her breaths may be raspy or rattling. Like any cat who generally isn’t feeling well, she may feel the need to hide. She will have a loss of both appetite and energy.
A heavy breathing cat may experience other symptoms. Cyanosis, a bluish tint to the mucous membranes and gums, is a sign that your cat is not getting enough oxygen. A cat that can’t breathe is a cat that has trouble moving without difficulty. This means fatigue is a common symptom of heavy breathing.
If your cat has tachypnea, rapid and shallow breathing, she may not breathe through her mouth. A cat breathing heavy with mouth open who is panting.
Causes of Heavy Breathing in Cats
It is possible that your cat is only breathing heavily because she’s nervous. You can try calming her down with a treat, some petting or gentle play or take her away from the stressful situation if possible.
More serious ailments include anemia, pneumonia, heart failure, blood loss, heartworms, a heart murmur, metabolic acidosis, hypoglycemia and heart failure.
Overweight cats and cats bred to have flat faces (Persians for example) are prone to breathing problems. If your cat has tear stains on her face, she may have brachycephaly, trouble breathing and draining her eyes due to a too short skull. If the cat heavy breathing comes with coughing, wheezing and hacking the cat may have asthma.
Your furry friend may have an upper respiratory infection if she has sneezing fits, runny eyes and coughing or gagging with nasal discharge or audible congestion.
How Are These Problems Diagnosed?
Your veterinarian might be able to diagnose which one of many medical conditions your cat may have based on a simple physical exam. For many ailments, a chest x-ray will be necessary. If your pet has chronic labored breathing, it is possibly not safe for your veterinarian to immediately take an x-ray of the chest.
For cats that have pleural effusion, it is vital that your veterinarian must drain a sample of the fluid from the cat’s chest. Sometimes, this can aid in diagnosing the problem. However, it can make your cat feel better as well.
If your vet suspects congestive heart failure, it may be recommended that your cat gets an echocardiogram. This is an ultrasound of the heart. In this way, much more can be learned about the structure of the heart when compared to an x-ray. Feline asthma can often be diagnosed on an x-ray. However, in more critical cases, it may be necessary to refer the feline patient to a specialist for special cultures and bronchoscopy.
If your vet thinks that an obstruction of the airway or a nasopharyngeal polyp is the culprit, your cat may need to be given a sedative for ease in performing an oral exam. The cat may need to be sedated if the vet wants to examine the skull, ears or take neck x-rays.
What Treatment Is Available for My Cat?
If your cat shows symptoms of an upper respiratory infection, you could treat it like you would the common cold in a human. You can make it easier for her to breathe by exposing her to a humidifier or taking her in the bathroom and running the hot tap until steam forms. (Don’t expect her to want an actual shower! Though, she might not say no to some chicken soup.) You can use a cotton ball soaked in warm water to help her clean her nose.
If she’ll stand for it, a little dab of menthol treated petroleum jelly under her nose might help. For anything more serious, you will want to visit a veterinarian.
Many breathing problems necessitate admittance into the hospital until the problem of taking in enough oxygen has been solved. Your cat will most likely be given oxygen to help her breathe and to get oxygen into her lungs. Medications may be administered, either orally or intravenously (IV), to aid your pet in breathing. The prescribed medication will vary depending on the underlying cause of the animal’s breathing problem.
Your cat will need to be kept as still and calm as possible until the breathing problem is remedied or at least greatly improved. Cage rest may be the best choice if there is no other way to limit your cat’s mobility.
A cat that wheezes while breathing may has asthma, also known as chronic bronchitis. In order to diminish the severity of symptoms, the vet may decide your cat must be given anti-inflammatory drugs. Bronchodilator therapy, which are medicines that help the muscles around the airway relax, may be presented as a viable option.
As soon as your cat is able to go home with you, it will be very essential that you follow your veterinarian’s instructions to the letter. Administer all of the medications as directed, and stick to the scheduled follow-up progress check-ups with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will do over many of the tests and exams that were carried out when your pet was first diagnosed.
This will include x-rays of the chest, complete blood counts and biochemical profiles. All of these are crucial in figuring out how your cat is responding to the treatment she is receiving.
Heavy breathing is cause for concern in your cat. In the best case scenario, she has a little kitty cold that you can treat at home or an allergy that can be treated by keeping her away from her triggers. Many times, though, veterinary assistance is required. The very first step is knowing your cat so that you know what behaviors are abnormal for her. Make sure to have her looked over by a veterinarian at least annually.
Don’t forget to keep her prescriptions for heartworms, fleas, and ticks current. Do not let your cat become overweight as breathing problems will only be one of many problems a too fat feline can develop. Brachycephaly is often a result of irresponsible breeding to get a cat with a certain look without considering how this will affect the animal’s quality of life. Get your furry friend from a responsible breeder or better yet an animal shelter.
- Treatment of Feline Allergic Asthma By Carol Reinero, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (SAIM) at www.americanveterinarian.com
- Reinero CR. Advances in the understanding of pathogenesis, and diagnostics and therapeutics for feline allergic asthma. Vet J. 2011;190(1):28-33. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2010.09.022.
- Diagnosing and treating feline asthma (including the use of inhalants) (Proceedings) By Philip Padrid, DVM
- Breathing Difficulties in Cats at PetMD.com
- Breathing problems and difficulties in cats at www.vets-now.com
- Breathing Difficulties in Cats at wagwalking.com
- Dyspnea (Difficulty Breathing) at Cornell Feline Health Center Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
- Obesity at Cornell Feline Health Center Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine