Heavy Cat Breathing

Cat breathing problems in felines is characterized by heavy, labored breathing and shortness of breath. Heavy cat breathing can be caused by a number of things, such as heart conditions and the accumulations of fluid in the lungs.

Common Causes of Heavy Breathing in Cats

  • Heart disease or heart failure
  • Lung cancer or tumors that press on the airway
  • Diseases in the lungs
  • Pneumonia or other infections
  • Airway obstructions
  • Trauma
  • Bleeding in the lungs
  • Fluid accumulation in the chest

Common Symptoms of Breathing Problems in Cats

  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heavy breathing
  • Lethargy or depression
  • Weight loss
  • Gasping for air

How Is Heavy Breathing Diagnosed in Cats?

A diagnostic test will need to be performed in order to determine what is causing your cat to have breathing difficulties. The common tests include the following:

  • A physical examination with emphasis on heart and lungs examination, paired with a complete medical history overview
  • Blood pressure measurement
  • Chest X-rays
  • Blood tests
  • An electrocardiogram
  • Examination of the heart through an ultrasound

Treatment for Heavy Breathing in Cats

The treatment of labored breathing will directly depend upon the cause of the distress. Treatment is usually given to help your cat breath easier, while tests are performed to understand the underlying cause of the cat's condition. Common treatments include:

  • Administered oxygen with hospitalization
  • Stress minimization
  • Diuretics, or water pills
  • Thoracentesis, or the draining of fluid in the lungs with a needle
  • Drug therapies
  • The drug known as digoxin

If heart failure is a possibility, treatments can include oxygen, a diuretic known as Lasix, and a nitroglycerin ointment.

Home Care for Heavy Breathing in Cats

Severe breathing difficulties in cats are usually a serious problem that needs medical attention promptly. When you first notice your cat having problems breathing, pay attention to his exercise capacity, interest in activities, and general demeanor. Take note of his appetite, breathing patterns, and the occurrence of coughing or wheezing.

The best treatment for breathing difficulties in cats combines both home and professional medical care. The best way to follow-up on care includes:

  • Always providing the proper amounts of water, unless instructed not to do so by a veterinarian
  • Give the proper medication the veterinarian prescribed, and follow directions precisely. Alert your veterinarian if you see any usual effects from the medication
  • Schedule regular examinations with a veterinarian. Always expect to answer questions about your cat's behavior, activity, appetite, sleeping patterns, breathing patterns, exercise tolerance, and general mood and disposition
  • Bring along medications to show the veterinarian, as dosage is important for heart-related medications

Emergency Situations

If your cat is seen exhibiting symptoms such as severe gasping or labored breathing, it is often an emergency situation and can be caused by something very serious, such as cardiac disease, heart failure, trauma, infection, pancreatitis, an allergic reaction or ingestion of poisonous material.  See a veterinarian immediately if your cat exhibits the following symptoms:

  • Gasping for air
  • Trouble urinating
  • Trauma
  • Problems walking or standing
  • Having seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Bleeding out of any bodily opening
  • Blindness
  • Abdominal difficulties
  • Trouble breathing

If left untreated, an emergency situation can easily become life-threatening and cause death quickly, so if you notice any of these symptoms, do not hesitate to contact veterinarian assistance.