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Why is my cat breathing heavy? What can I do?

It is very common for dogs to pant to cool down, but this can be alarming behavior when seen in cats and could be a sign of an underlying health issue. Our Rock Springs vets provide some reasons your cat might be breathing heavy and when to seek medical care.

Panting In Cats

While minimal panting, or breathing with their mouth open can be normal for cats, it may also be an indicator of serious health problems that need to be addressed.

If you notice that your cat is panting or exhibiting labored breathing, start by assessing the situation based on the criteria below.

If your kitty's breathing seems out of the ordinary, or if your cat's heavy breathing continues for a long period of time, it's time to seek veterinary care.

Normal Panting in Cats

There are some times when panting is normal behavior for cats. Think about what your cat might have been doing or experiencing right before they started panting.

Like dogs, cats can become anxious, overheated, or feel the need to pant after vigorous exercise. Any of these causes of panting should go away after your cat has had a chance to cool off, relax, or calm down.

However, it's important to note that this sort of panting is rarer in our feline friends than it is in dogs, so if you notice regular panting from your cat it is worth a visit to your veterinarian. 

Abnormal Breathing in Cats (Dyspnea)

A serious medical condition may be present if your cat is breathing laboriously but isn't overheated, stressed out, or exhausted from exercise. When that happens, emergency veterinary care might be necessary. Cats' abnormal breathing can have a variety of causes, including:


  • Panting, coughing, wheezing, and an accelerated respiratory rate are some of the most typical asthma symptoms in cats. While it is impossible to completely cure a cat's asthma, corticosteroids or bronchodilators can effectively manage the condition.


  • In cats, a heartworm can cause breathing problems. Heartworm treatment includes supportive care with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and, in more severe cases, oxygen therapy. Because heartworm disease can be fatal, it is critical to keep your cat on heartworm-preventative medication on a monthly basis.

Hydrothorax & Congestive Heart Failure

  • Hydrothorax is a condition characterized by the accumulation of fluid in and around the lungs; it can cause deep, rapid breathing, panting, and coughing. Treatment may include draining the fluid as well as medications to dilate blood vessels and remove excess fluid, allowing the heart to contract more forcefully.

Respiratory Infections

  • It can be difficult for your kitty to breathe normally if they have a respiratory infection. Cats with respiratory infections may experience labored breathing or panting. These infections typically begin as viral infections in cats, but they frequently progress to secondary bacterial infections. Antibiotics may be necessary to treat your cat's condition and allow them to breathe more easily. As your cat recovers, humidifiers and steam can help loosen mucus and improve nasal breathing.

Other Conditions

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

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Labored breathing in cats should not be ignored, contact our Rock Springs vets right away to get your kitty the help they need.

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Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Rock Springs cats and dogs. Get in touch today to request an appointment for your pet.

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