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Heavy Breathing in Cats

Heavy Breathing in Cats

While it's common to see your dog pant if he needs to cool down, this behavior is much less common in cats and may point to an underlying health condition. Our vets in Everett share some reasons your cat may be panting or breathing heavily, and when you should seek emergency care for your feline friend.

Help! Why is my cat breathing heavily?

If you've noticed your cat experiencing heaving breathing, this could be a sign of a serious health issue that will need urgent veterinary care. 

If your cat has been showing symptoms of labored breathing or panting, begin by assessing the circumstances based on the points below. If you are at all worried about your cat breathing heavily or they are exhibiting any other concerning symptoms, it's best to be cautious and bring them in for emergency veterinary care as soon as possible. 

Normal Panting in Cats

Panting may be normal behavior for cats in some cases. Take a couple of minutes to think about your cat's activities or experiences immediately before you discovered the panting. 

Just like with dogs, cats may pant if they are anxious, overheated or have just had some strenuous exercise. Panting for these reasons should stop once your kitty has had an opportunity to rest, cool down or calm down. 

That said, it's important to keep in mind that this sort of panting is still much rarer in our feline companions than it is in dogs. So if you're not 100% sure why your cat is panting, it's worth bringing your pet to see 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 prevention medication.

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, coughing, and panting. Treatment may include 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 kitty has developed a respiratory infection it can be challenging for them to breathe normally. Respiratory infections in cats can lead to labored breathing or panting.

In cats, these infections typically begin as viral infections, but often develop into secondary bacterial infections. Antibiotics may be required to treat your cat's condition so that they can breathe easier. 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.

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 concerned about your cat's heavy breathing? Contact our office right away to schedule an appointment with one of our vets. 

New Patients Always Welcome!

Looking for a vet in Everett? Whether your pet needs routine wellness exams, surgery, geriatric care or emergency care, we look forward to welcoming you to our family at Broadway Animal Hospital located in Everett. 

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