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Heavy Breathing in Cats

Heavy breathing in cats is relatively uncommon and may point to a serious health issue. Our Douglasville vets share some reasons your cat may be breathing heavily and when to seek emergency care. 

Cats & Heavy Breathing

If you see your cat breathing heavily, this may indicate a serious health condition that needs prompt veterinary care. 

If your cat starts panting or is having challenges breathing, begin by following the criteria below to assess the situation. 

Though panting in cats isn't cause for concern in some instances, if you are worried at all about your cat's breathing, we recommend erring on the side of caution and bringing them in for emergency care right away. 

Normal Panting in Cats 

In some cases, panting is normal behavior for cats. Think about what your cat was doing or experiencing immediately before you noticed they were panting. 

Similar to dogs, some cats may start panting as a way to regulate their body temperature if they become overheated or have just exercised. Others may pant if they feel anxious. If your cat's panting is due to any of these causes, they should self-correct relatively quickly after they've had a chance to calm down or cool down. 

That said, sometimes cat owners come to our animal hospital after considering these potential causes to tell our vets, "My cat is breathing heavy. Why would this still be happening?"

it's important to note that this sort of panting is much more rare in kitties than it is in pooches — if a cat is breathing heavy with their mouth open, they may be extremely stressed, hot or be suffering from a health complication due to disease. So, if you're not entirely sure why your cat is panting or breathing heavy, consider seeing your veterinarian. 

Why is my cat breathing heavy?


Panting is one of the most common symptom of asthma in cats, along with coughing, wheezing and increased respiratory rate. While asthma in cats may not be curable, it can be successfully managed with bronchodilators and corticosteroids. 


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. 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 that is characterized by a buildup of fluids in and around the lungs of your cat.

This condition may cause deep and rapid breathing, panting and coughing. Treatments may include draining the fluid from your cat's abdomen and the prescription of medications to dilate your cat's blood vessels, encourage more forceful heart contractions and eliminate excess fluid.

Respiratory Infections

If your cat has contracted a respiratory infection, it may be quite challenging for them to breathe normally.

In cats, respiratory infections in cats may lead to labored breathing or panting. In cats, these infections generally begin as viral and then develop into secondary bacterial infections. Your cat's condition may require antibiotics to help with treatment so that they can breathe easier. Humidifiers and steam can also help to loosen mucus and clear up your kitty's nasal passage. 

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.

Are you worried about your cat's heavy breathing? Contact our Douglasville vets today for responsive and experienced veterinary care. 

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Douglasville Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Douglasville companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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