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Why Is My Cat Breathing Heavy?

Why Is My Cat Breathing Heavy?

In cats, heavy breathing is not usually a normal behavior and could be a sign of an underlying medical problem. Today, our Memphis vets discuss some of the potential reasons why your cat may be breathing heavily (or panting) and what you can do.

Cats Heavy Breathing

Is your cat breathing heavily or with their mouth open? It may be a sign of a serious health problem that requires immediate veterinary attention.

If you discover your cat exhibiting labored breathing or panting you first need to evaluate the situation using the following criteria. If you are worried about your cats breathing or if they are showing other symptoms it's best to be cautious and bring your kitty to the vet immediately for emergency care.

Normal Panting for Cats

There are some situations where it is normal for cats to pant. Take a moment to think about what your furry friend was experiencing or doing just before you found them panting.

Similar to dogs, cats could start panting when they get anxious, overheated, or after strenuous exercise. If your kitty is panting for one of these reasons, the issue should resolve on its own after your cat has had a moment to cool down, calm down, or rest. 

But, it's imperative to point out that this kind of panting is much rarer in cats than it is in dogs. So if you're not completely sure why your feline friend may be panting, we reccomend calling your vet.

Reasons for Heavy Breathing in Cats


  • Some of the most common symptoms of asthma in cats include panting, coughing, wheezing, and increased respiratory rate. While asthma may not be curable in our feline companions it can be managed successfully with corticosteroids or bronchodilators.


  • Another potential cause of breathing difficulties in cats is heartworm. Treatment for heartworm includes supportive care with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and oxygen therapy in more serious cases. Because heartworm disease can be fatal, it is important to keep your cat on a monthly heartworm preventative medication.

Hydrothorax & Congestive Heart Failure

  • Hydrothorax is a condition characterized by the accumulation of fluid in and around the lungs, symptoms could include deep, rapid breathing, panting, and coughing. Treatments for this condition consist of 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

  • If your cat has gotten a respiratory infection it could be difficult for them to breathe normally. Respiratory infections in cats can result in panting or labored breathing. Usually, when cats develop these infections it starts as viral infections, but often develops into secondary bacterial infections. Antibiotics might be needed to treat your cat's condition so they can breathe more easily. Humidifiers and steam can help loosen mucus and make nasal breathing easier as your cat recovers.

Other Conditions

  • Anemia, neurologic disorders, trauma, abdominal enlargement, and pain can also cause cats to pant or exhibit heavy breathing.

Are you worried about your cat's breathing? Contact our vets in Memphis immediately. Our vets are available evenings and weekends to provide your feline friend with emergency care when they need it most.

Animal Emergency Center in Memphis

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