Why Is My Cat Breathing Heavily?
Cats are known for being quiet and sneaky, so when their heavy breathing gets your attention, it is important to take notice. There are many different factors that can cause your cat’s breathing to be heavy, labored, or irregular.
Extreme stress, anxiety, and overheating or heat stroke can cause strange breathing behaviors in cats. Sometimes, cats will have a blockage in their nose or problems with their trachea that can cause heavy breathing. Issues with the major organs, such as your cat’s heart or lungs, can cause breathing problems too.
If your cat is breathing heavy, it is usually a sign that something wrong. Here are some common causes for your cat’s heavy breathing.
Causes For Heavy Breathing In Cats
There are many potential causes for heavy breathing in cats. The most common causes for this issue are extreme stress or anxiety, respiratory diseases, and heartworm infections. However, some more serious medical conditions can cause heavy or labored breathing in cats as well.
1) Extreme Stress Or Anxiety
In some cases, extreme stress or anxiety can cause a cat to breathe heavily. However, they will usually show other signs of severe anxiety or stress such as:
- Dilated pupils
- Flicking their tail or holding it close to their body
- Crouching low to the ground
- Holding their ears back against their head
- Attempting to escape or hide
- Hair standing on end
- Avoiding eye contact and moving their head away from you
- Aggressive behaviors like hissing, swatting, and biting
If your cat seems to have a problem with chronic stress or anxiety, then it is a good idea to consult with your veterinarian. They may be able to help you with reducing your cat’s stress, and there are prescribed anti anxiety medications for cats that could help as well.
Overheating is another very common cause for panting and heavy breathing in cats. This is because animals like cats and dogs can suffer from heat stroke much easier than humans can. This is especially true for cats with thick fur and flat faces. Some other signs of overheating in cats include:
- Excessive grooming
- A red tongue and gums
- Restless behaviors like pacing
- Sweaty paws
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Lethargy and difficulties with walking
If your cat seems to be overheating, then it is crucial that you get them to a cool room or car. Air conditioning is best, but a fan can also help in a pinch. If this is not possible then rubbing a wet cloth on your cat can help as well. You should check your cat’s temperature throughout this process and use cool, but not cold, water to prevent hyperthermia. Heat stroke is a life threatening condition in cats, so you should call the vet as soon as you have moved them to a cooler environment.
Heartworm infections frequently cause symptoms like coughing and heavy breathing. Unfortunately, heavy breathing is often associated with advanced stages of heartworm infections. In some cases, you may also notice lethargy in cats with heartworm infections as well.
Heartworm infections are life threatening, and cats have a better prognosis when the condition is caught in its early stages. As a result, giving heartworm prevention medication to your cat is crucial for keeping them healthy and happy.
4) Lung and Heart Issues
Considering they are vital organs, your cat’s lungs and heart may have something to do with why their breathing is heavy.
Lung infections can cause heavy breathing in cats, especially if they have just engaged in physical activity. This includes both bacterial and viral lung infections. If you suspect that your cat may be sick, then it is a good idea to contact your vet for guidance.
In some serious cases heavy breathing and coughing in cats can be a sign that there is a build up of fluid around the lungs. This is an immune system response to very serious conditions or illnesses such as an advanced heartworm infection.
Heavy breathing can also sometimes be a sign that a cat is having heart problems. Most notably, heavy breathing in cats can be a sign of heart failure.
5) Problems With The Nose and Trachea
Problems and blockages in the nose can cause a cat to breathe heavily simply because breathing is difficult for them. Things like foreign bodies and tumors in the nose could cause a problem like this.
Injuries like tracheal collapse can also make breathing difficult for your feline companion
When To See A Vet for Your Cat’s Breathing
If your cat is breathing heavily, it is crucial that you contact your vet right away. Heavy or labored breathing is often a sign that your cat is facing a serious medical condition that is potentially life threatening.
For pets in Lakeland, FL, Parkway Veterinary Emergency Clinic is here to help. If you suspect that your pet is having an emergency, give us a call at (863) 665-3199.
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At Parkway Veterinary Emergency Clinic, our team consists of experienced veterinarians and veterinary professionals dedicated to providing exceptional after-hours emergency vet care to the pet community of Lakeland.