What to Do About Your Cat’s Heavy Breathing

Heavy breathing is something that you often see in dogs. Dogs typically pant when feeling stressed or when they are hot. However, this same kind of breathing isn’t as common in cats. If your cat is breathing heavily, then it could be a sign of a serious health problem. If you notice your cat has heavy breathing, then you should have them checked over by their vet as soon as possible.

Breathing issues in cats generally come from one of two areas of the respiratory system: 

There are a few warning signs that you should watch out for when your cat is breathing heavily. If you spot one or more of these signs, you’ll want to take them to the vet immediately. 

In most cases, heavy breathing can be easily treated by a vet. However, you should contact them for an appointment right away regardless. Breathing issues that start out minor can become much more severe in a short amount of time.

How can I tell if my cat’s breathing is normal or not?

Your cat’s breathing can vary depending on their activity. Just like you, they will breathe heavier if they’ve recently been exercising. Once they rest, their breathing should return to a normal rate. You can check their breathing rate yourself at home to see if it’s within a normal range.

Grab a watch or set a timer on your phone for one minute. Then sit quietly with your cat and count how many breaths they take in that minute. This means a full breath in and a full breath out. A normal rate for cats should be around 30 breaths per minute when they are at rest. If they are purring or have recently had some exercise, your count may be inaccurate. However, if you count more than 40 breaths within that minute, then you’ll want to contact your vet. 

Counting your cat’s breath when they are healthy can be very helpful, too. It can give you a good baseline of what is normal for your cat. Then you can easily compare that normal rate with a concerning one if they start to show signs of breathing trouble. 

What could be causing my cat’s heavy breathing?

You’ll need to take your cat to their veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis regarding breathing issues in your cat. However, here are some common diagnoses depending on where the breathing issues originate: 

Your vet will need to perform a series of tests to determine the underlying cause of the breathing issues. These tests could include physical examinations, blood tests, and x-rays. Your vet will go over the tests with you before they begin so that you understand what’s happening to your cat every step of the way. 

What should I do if my cat is breathing heavily?

If your cat is struggling to breathe, you’ll want to contact your vet right away. If it seems to be an upper respiratory issue (see the symptoms listed above), then ask for an appointment in the next day. If you suspect it’s a lower respiratory issue, though, treat it as an emergency and ask your vet to see your cat right away.

Tips for safely and comfortably getting your cat to the vet: 

If you have pet insurance, you’ll want to bring that information with you to the veterinarian’s office. Pack a small shirt that you’ve recently worn in with your cat, too. Smelling you may make them more comfortable and help them stay calm, especially if they have to spend the night at the vet’s office. 

What will happen when I take my cat to the vet?

The first thing your veterinarian will do when you bring your cat into the office is to give them a thorough examination. Veterinary staff or your vet will get your cat’s health history and ask you questions about their recent behavior, including their diet, changes in their activity, and what’s been happening at home.

Next, the veterinarian will administer treatment depending on the severity of your cat’s breathing issue. Treatments could include:

Your vet’s top priority will be to discover the underlying cause of your cat’s breathing then treat it accordingly. Your cat may need to spend the night at the veterinarian’s office to give staff more time to perform tests and monitor their breathing. Your vet will keep you informed of test results and give you updates on your cat’s condition periodically if you need to leave your pet at the vet’s office.

It’s important to know that heaving breathing can be a sign of a serious medical issue for a cat. In most cases, though, your vet can treat the issue quickly and get your cat back home with you, happy and healthy. The sooner that you take action, though, the better off your cat will be. So at the first sign of breathing trouble, contact your vet. This can reduce the strain on your cat’s respiratory system and help them recover much sooner from breathing problems.