Having observed not just once, but multiple times, you've grown concerned about your cat's excessive breathing. It's crucial to pay particular care to this since it's not typical for our feline companions to display such habits under everyday conditions.
So, why is your cat panting?
The reasons can range from common stress and anxiety issues to severe respiratory problems and diabetes. To understand the exact reason, you will have to look for specific symptoms in your furry friend.
However, if the little munchkin is finding difficulty in breathing, you must visit the vet immediately.
Why Is My Cat Breathing Heavy
Before searching for answers to why is my cat breathing heavy, make sure that your furball is actually breathing heavy. Look for signs indicating unusual breathing.
- Your feline’s sides are moving rapidly
- The abdominal movement has unusually increased
When Not to Worry About Cat Panting?
In some cases, your furry friend may be breathing heavily due to physical activities, leaving you with nothing to worry about. Alternatively, it may be the common flu – yes, cats have that too.
- Normal exertion as a result of playing around
- Rapid breathing due to stress
- Nose congestion
Therefore, you must observe the symptoms carefully before concluding on your furball’s condition.
Common Reasons for Heavy Breathing Cat – When You Need to Worry
While some causes of heavy breathing may not be worrisome, most of them are. That is because felines do not usually pant as much as other pets such as dogs do.
Check out a few common reasons behind your cat’s heavy breathing.
1. Airway Diseases
Airway diseases hamper the flow of oxygen into the bloodstream. Therefore, furballs may have to try harder to breathe, resulting in heavy breathing. Airway diseases may occur in different forms.
- Pulmonary Edema – fluid build-up in the lungs
- Pleural Effusion – fluid build-up in the chest (outside the lungs)
Causes: The primary reason for cat airway diseases includes viruses like herpes, calicivirus, and chlamydiosis. While cats bred in shelters and catteries are more likely to have such infections, up to 97% of cats get exposed to the feline herpes virus. Other major causes include cancer, heart failure, choking, and infections.
2. Upper Respiratory Tract Infection
If your kitty’s nasal congestion gets worse, chances are the furball is suffering from an upper respiratory tract infection (URI). Common symptoms include excessive nasal discharge, sneezing, conjunctivitis, and coughing, among others.
In case your four-legged friend suffers from URI, you can take a few steps to help the kitty recover.
- Hot steam
- Clean running nose with a cotton ball dipped in warm water
Note: Visit the vet in case the symptoms get worse.
Causes: This is also an airway disease and occurs for similar reasons – viruses like herpes, calicivirus, and chlamydiosis. Others may include tumor or cyst-like growth.
If your furball has gone through a trauma, breathing heavy indicates a severe problem. It can be anything from bleeding of lungs or another internal bleeding to hernia or punctured lungs. It is a serious situation where you must visit the vet immediately.
What Is Normal Breathing (Respiratory Rate) in a Cat
When your cat's respiratory system is perfectly healthy, its breathing pattern will be smooth. If you do not notice any fluctuations, halting, or extra stomach movement in their breathing, consider your kitty’s breath normal.
A cat's standard respiratory rate is anywhere between 20-30 breaths per minute. Yes, that is way faster than a human adult's – 12-16 breaths/minute, but that's what felines are like.
The good news is it's rather easy to measure your cat's respiration rate. When your furball is sleeping on your lap (or its favourite spot in the house), count its breath.
- Count a pair of inhalation and exhalation as one breath
- Do it for 30 seconds and multiply by 2 to get the number of breaths per minute
Voila! You have your cat’s respiratory rate.
Note: While a breath count slightly lower than 20 is acceptable, anything higher than 30 is a cause of worry. Take your furball to the vet in the latter case.
Types of Heavy Breathing in Cats – What’s the Next Step?
You have finally concluded that your cat is breathing heavier than normal. What's the next step? Yes, visiting the vet is one.
Besides, here are detailed insights into the three different types of heavy breathing in cats. Its symptoms, causes, and how you can take the required remedial steps.
1. Dyspnea – Laboured Breathing
If your cat is breathing irregularly heavy, without any exertion or physical activity, it is referred to as dyspnea. You can determine this condition through the following symptoms.
Symptoms of Dyspnea in Cats
- Noisy breathing
- Belly and chest move more than normal
- Flared-up nostrils
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Extending or stretching the neck to breathe
Causes of Dyspnea in Cats
- Problems in the trachea, including tumor, cyst, or a stuck object
- Nasal issues like extra-small nostrils, bleeding, infections
- Lung disorders including tumors, fluid inflow, heartworms, and infections
- Problems in the chest wall and lower windpipe
- Heart failure
- Abdomen disorders like bloating, expanded liver, and fluid build-up
Treatment of Dyspnea in Cats
While you cannot do much at home, make sure to carry your cat in a comfortable box. It will help minimize pressure on the lungs. The exact treatment depends upon the vet's diagnosis.
- Putting the cat on oxygen if needed
- Chest X-ray and physical examining
- Viral disease: Injecting steroids to reduce the effect of the virus
- Fluid in lungs: Removal of fluid from the chest through a needle
- Congestive heart failure: keeping the fluid levels in check with medicine
Most of these conditions require life-long care to ensure your feline's health. However, some diseases like severe viral infections prove to be fatal.
Prevention of Dyspnea in Cats
While you cannot do much to prevent these diseases, ensuring a nutrient-rich diet is certainly essential. Make sure to feed your furball with:
2. Panting – Rapid Breathing with the Mouth Open
Panting is common if your kitty is overexerted or exposed to significantly high temperatures. However, severe panting is bad news as it is an indicator of poor health. Here's how to look for signs of trouble.
Symptoms of Panting in Cats
- Excessive heavy breathing with the mouth open
- Labored breathing
- High respiratory rate
- Panting without having conducted a strenuous activity
Causes of Panting in Cats
- Heart disorders like bloated heart muscles
- Bronchial diseases
- Open-mouthed rapid breathing helps maintain body temperature when cats are too hot
- Furballs may pant after physical activity, especially if they are overweight
- They may pant in stressful situations or when they are in unknown locations
Treatment of Panting in Cats
Cats may pant after playtime, on long walks, or under warm temperatures. Here's how you can help your feline in such a condition.
- Take a break to cool down
- Let the furball drink enough water
- Take the cat to a cooler area
In case your furry mate pants despite having rested all day, consult your vet immediately. Further treatment will depend on the expert's diagnosis of the underlying problem.
Prevention of Panting in Cats
The prime causes behind severe panting in cats range from problems in the heart and lungs to other respiratory issues. To prevent this, make sure to provide a nutritious diet to your feline. Always opt for quality cat food and visit the veterinarian regularly for an overall health check-up.
3. Tachypnea – Rapid and Shallow Breathing
Did you know your cat may not be aware of its tachypnea condition? Since this disorder results in rapid but shallow breathing, even you may not be able to identify it with ease.
Symptoms of Tachypnea in Cats
- A dash of blush in the gums indicates inadequate oxygenation
- Visible signs of fatigue
- Breathing through the nose, and not the mouth
Causes of Tachypnea in Cats
- Low blood oxygen level
- Heart disorder or heartworms
- High fever
- Stressful situations
- Tumor growth
Treatment of Tachypnea in Cats
If your cat's respiratory rate is higher than usual, here's what to do.
- Look for a resting place and let the furball relax
- Monitor the cat's respiratory rate/minute
- Try to keep the kitty cool and calm throughout the day
Note: If you see any usual breathing behaviour, contact a veterinarian immediately
Prevention of Tachypnea in Cats
The best way to prevent your feline from getting tachypnea is by maintaining a healthy routine.
So, what does ‘heavy breathing cat‘ mean? It refers to one of the many conditions wherein the feline breathes excessively heavily.
Though dyspnea, panting, and tachypnea are slightly different, they may occur due to similar reasons.
While you can give immediate treatment like providing a cool temperature to let the cat relax, visiting the vet is quintessential.
But why does it occur? It all boils down to your cat’s overall health.
Also, visit the vet regularly and make sure your furball does not become obese.
FAQs About Heavy Breathing Cats
When your cat's breathing rate is anywhere higher than 30 breaths/minute, you must visit the vet immediately. Besides, if it's abnormal in any aspect – rapid, slow, or with sounds, know that there is an underlying medical condition.
If your cat is breathing heavily due to strenuous activities or warm temperatures, let the furball calm down in a cool area. However, if your kitty’s breath is abnormal without any activity, visit the vet immediately.
Note: Place the furball in a box or another carrier to ensure you do not pressurize their chest or stomach.
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