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Why is my cat breathing heavy?

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 Blountville vets provide some reasons your cat might be breathing heavy and when to seek medical care.

Heavy Breathing In Cats

While heavy 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 Breathing in Cats

Panting is sometimes considered normal cat behavior. Consider what your cat may have been doing or experiencing just before they began panting.

Cats, like dogs, can become anxious, overheated, or feel the need to pant following strenuous exercise. Any of these causes of panting should subside once your cat has had a chance to cool off, relax, or calm down.

However, it is important to note that this type of panting is less common in cats than in dogs, so if you notice your cat panting on a regular basis, you should see your veterinarian.

Abnormal Breathing in Cats (Dyspnea)

If your cat is breathing laboriously but not overheated, stressed out, or exhausted from exercise, he or she may have a serious medical condition. When that happens, emergency veterinary care may be required. Cats' abnormal breathing can be caused by a variety of factors, including:


  • Some of the most common asthma symptoms in cats include panting, coughing, wheezing, and an accelerated respiratory rate. While it is impossible to cure a cat's asthma, corticosteroids or bronchodilators can help manage the condition.


  • A heartworm infection in cats can lead to breathing problems. Heartworm treatment consists of supportive care with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and, in more severe cases, oxygen therapy. Because heartworm disease can be fatal, it is critical to give your cat heartworm preventative medication on a monthly basis.

Hydrothorax & Congestive Heart Failure

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

Respiratory Infections

  • If your cat has a respiratory infection, he or she may struggle to breathe normally. Cats with respiratory infections may exhibit labored breathing or panting. These infections usually start as viral infections in cats, but they often progress to secondary bacterial infections. Antibiotics may be required to treat your cat's condition and help them breathe easier. Humidifiers and steam can help your cat recover by loosening mucus and improving 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.

Heavy breathing in cats should not be ignored, so contact our Blountville vets right away to get your kitty the help they need.

New Patients Welcome

Airport Pet Emergency Clinic is open weekday evenings, overnight, weekends and holidays to provide your pet with urgent care when needed. Our experienced Blountville vets are passionate about caring for companion animals.

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Contact (423) 279-0574