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Why Is My Cat Breathing Heavy?

Why Is My Cat Breathing Heavy?

Heavy breathing isn't a common behavior in cats and could indicate an underlying health condition. In this blog, our Mooresville vets discuss the potential causes for your cat's heavy breathing and when you should take them to the vet for emergency care. 

Heavy Breathing in Cats

If your cat is breathing heavily they may have a serious health issue that needs to be addressed by a veterinarian immediately.

The first thing you should do if you see your cat panting or displaying labored breathing is evaluate the situation, using the following criteria. If you have any concerns about your cat's heavy breathing, they are breathing with their mouth open or if your cat is exhibiting any other symptoms, it's best to err on the cautious side and take them to the vet immediately for emergency care.

Normal Panting For Cats

There are some situations where it is normal for cats to pant. Take a moment to contemplate what your kitty was experiencing or doing just before they started panting.

Similar to dogs, cats might pant when they are anxious, overheated, or after strenuous exercise. If your cat is panting for one of these reasons it should clear up on its own once your feline friend has the opportunity to rest, cool down, or calm down.

But, it's essential for you to know that this kind of panting is much rarer in cats than it is in dogs. So if you're aren't completely certain about the reasons why your cat is panting, you should take them to the vet.

Possible 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 could result in breathing difficulties. Heartworm treatments consist of supportive care with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and in more serious situations oxygen therapy. Since heartworm disease can be deadly, it's imperative for your kitty to stay on a monthly heartworm preventative 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 they can breathe easier. Humidifiers and steam can help loosen mucus and make nasal breathing easier as your cat recovers.

Other Possible Causes

Here are some other reasons why your cat may be panting:

  • Anemia
  • Neurologic disorders
  • Trauma
  • Abdominal enlargement and pain

Contact our vets in Mooresville immediately if you are worried about your cat's breathing. We are available to help your furry friend when they need it the most.

New Patients Welcome

Lake Norman at Mooresville Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our veterinarians are passionate about improving the health of cats, dogs and exotic pets. Book your pet's first appointment today.

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