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Heavy Breathing Cats

Heavy Breathing Cats

Heavy breathing in cats is not very common and may be a sign of a serious issue. Our Lebanon vets share some of the reasons why your cat may be breathing heavily and when to seek emergency care. 

Heavy Breathing in Cats

If you notice your cat breathing heavily, it may indicate a serious issue that requires prompt veterinary care. 

If your cat begins panting or is showing signs of laboring in their breathing, start by taking stock of the situation following the criteria we will explain below. 

While there are some instances where panting in cats isn't a cause for concern, if you are worried at all about your cat's breathing, you should err on the side of caution and contact our Lebanon vets right away.

Normal Panting in Cats

In some cases, panting is normal behavior for cats. Take a moment to consider what your cat was doing or experiencing immediately before you noticed the panting.

As with dogs, some cats may begin panting as a means of regulating their temperature when they are overheated or have just exercised. Others may pant when they feel anxious. If your cat's panting is caused by any of these reasons, they should resolve themselves relatively quickly when they have a chance to cool down or calm down. 

However, it's important to note that this sort of panting is much rarer in our feline friends than it is in dogs. So if you're not entirely sure why your cat is panting, it’s worth a visit to your veterinarian.

Causes of Heavy Breathing in Cats:


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


  • 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 it can breathe easier. Humidifiers and steam can also help to loosen mucus and clear up your cat's nasal passage. 

Other Conditions

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

If you are concerned about your cat's heavy breathing, bring your cat in for emergency care at Cumberland Animal Hospital today for rapid and expert veterinary care.

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

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