Panting may be less common in cats than in dogs, but that doesn't mean cats never pant. However, heavy breathing in cats can sometimes be a symptom of a health problem, so it's important to understand when a cat's heavy breathing is normal and when it's worth a visit to your Johns Creek veterinary clinic.
Heavy Breathing & Panting In Cats
While sometimes panting may be seen in some healthy cats, more often than not heavy breathing in cats is more likely to indicate an underlying health problem in need of prompt veterinary care. If you notice that your feline friend is panting or breathing heavily, take a moment to assess the situation based on the following criteria.
Normal Panting in Cats
On rare occasions, panting can be normal behavior for cats. If your cat is struggling to catch their breath, think about what your cat was doing just before you noticed the heavy breathing.
Cats may begin to pant when they are overheated or anxious or if they've just done strenuous exercise (like the zoomies!). If your cat is panting for any of these reasons, it should resolve itself once the cat has had an opportunity to calm down, cool down or rest.
That said, it's important for pet parents to note that this sort of panting is much rarer in cats than it is in dogs. So if you aren't sure why your cat is panting, it’s worth a trip to the vet.
Dyspnea - Abnormal Breathing in Cats
If your cat isn't hot, stressed or tired from exercise, but their breathing is labored, it could be a sign of a medical issue. If you think that your pet may be suffering from any of the 5 conditions below, a trip to the emergency veterinary hospital may be needed.
1. Respiratory Infections
- A respiratory infection can make it difficult for your cat to breathe normally, which can result in heavy breathing or panting. In cats, these infections will often start out as viral infections then develop into secondary bacterial infections. Antibiotics may be necessary to treat the infection so that your cat can breathe more easily.
- Panting, wheezing, coughing and increased respiratory rate are all common symptoms of asthma in cats. While the treatment for asthma in cats may not be curative, you can help your cat successfully manage their asthma with corticosteroids or bronchodilators.
- In some cats, heavy breathing could be a sign of heartworm. Treatment for heartworm includes supportive care with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. In more serious cases of heartworm, your cat may also require oxygen therapy. Because heartworm disease can be fatal, it is important to keep your cat on a monthly heartworm preventive medication.
4. Hydrothorax & Congestive Heart Failure
- Hydrothorax is a serious health concern in cats. It's characterized by a build-up of fluid in and around the lungs. Symptoms of hydrothorax can include rapid breathing, panting and coughing. Treatment for this condition includes draining the fluid as well as medications to dilate blood vessels, get rid of excess fluid and make heart contractions stronger.
5. Other Conditions That Can Lead to Panting in Cats
- Neurologic disorders
- Abdominal enlargement and pain