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Help! Why is my cat breathing heavily?

Help! Why is my cat breathing heavily?

When dogs become too hot they often pant to cool down however, this behavior isn't that common in cats and could be a sign of an underlying health problem. Today, our Visalia vets discuss the possible causes of your cat's panting or heavy breathing and when you should take them to an emergency vet.

Is Your Cat Breathing Heavy?

If your cat is breathing heavily, it could be a symptom of a serious health condition that needs veterinary care quickly.

If you see your kitty panting or displaying labored breathing, you should start by assessing the situation depending on the criteria below. If you have any concerns about your cat's heavy breathing or if they are exhibiting any other symptoms, you should err on the side of caution and take them to the vet for emergency veterinary care immediately.

What is Normal Panting in Cats?

Sometimes, panting can be a normal cat behavior. Take a minute to think about what your cat was doing or experiencing just before you found them panting.

Like dogs, cats might pant when they are overheated, anxious, or after strenuous exercise. If your cat is panting for any of these reasons it should resolve on its own once your cat has had time to calm down, cool down, or rest.

Although, you need to know that this kind of panting is rarer in cats than it is in dogs. So if you aren't completely certain about the reason why your cat is panting, it’s best to take them to a veterinarian.

What Can Cause Heavy Breathing in Cats?


  • A few of the most common symptoms of asthma in cats are panting, coughing, and wheezing, as well as an increased respiratory rate. While asthma in cats can't be cured, it can be successfully managed with corticosteroids or bronchodilators.


  • Heartworm could cause breathing difficulties for cats. Treatment for heartworm could include supportive care with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and in more serious cases oxygen therapy. Since heartworm disease can be fatal, it is important to keep your cat on a monthly heartworm preventative medication.

Hydrothorax & Congestive Heart Failure

  • Hydrothorax is a condition that is recognized by an accumulation of fluid in and around the lungs, it can cause deep, rapid breathing, panting, and coughing. Treatment could 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 they may have a hard time breathing normally. Respiratory infections in cats can cause labored breathing or panting. In cats, these infections generally start as viral infections but often develop into secondary bacterial infections. Antibiotics might be needed 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.

Are you worried about your cat's heavy breathing? Contact our Visalia vets immediately or bring them to our 24-hours animal hospital for emergency care.

Compassionate Emergency Care for Pets

Tulare-Kings Veterinary Emergency Services is an after-hours emergency animal hospital providing urgent care to cats and dogs from Visalia and surrounding areas. Contact us right away if you are experiencing a veterinary emergency.

(559) 739-7054 Contact