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My cat is breathing heavy, should I be worried?

While panting is usual for dogs, cats rarely pant or breathe heavily. If your cat is breathing heavily, it could indicate an underlying health issue. Our Danbury vets take a look at some of the reasons why cats may pant or breathe heavily and when to take them to the vet.

Heavy Breathing Cat

Heavy breathing in cats typically indicates an underlying health problem, and they should receive prompt veterinary care.

If you observe your cat breathing heavily, evaluate the situation based on the criteria below. If you are concerned about your cat's heavy breathing or any other worrying symptoms, it is safer to seek emergency veterinary care right away.

Times When Heavy Breathing is Normal for Cats

Although rare, panting may be normal behavior for cats. Consider what your cat was doing or experiencing before you noticed their panting.

Like dogs, cats may pant due to being overheated, anxious, or after engaging in intense exercise. Once the cat calms down, cools down, or rests, the panting should subside.

Since panting and heavy breathing are less frequent in cats than dogs, it is advisable to take your cat to the vet if you are unsure why they are panting.

Possible Causes of Heavy Breathing in Cats:

Our Danbury vets often hear from concerned pet parents wondering, "why is my cat breathing heavily?". Below are a few reasons why your cat may be panting or breathing heavily.


  • Signs of asthma in cats include heavy breathing with their mouth open, panting, wheezing, coughing, and an increased respiratory rate. Although asthma in cats is incurable, it can be effectively managed using corticosteroids or bronchodilators.


  • Heartworm disease can cause breathing difficulties in cats. Treatment involves providing supportive care with corticosteroids to decrease inflammation and oxygen therapy for severe cases. Heartworm disease is a severe and potentially fatal condition. As a result, our vets advise administering monthly heartworm prevention medication to your cat.

Hydrothorax & Congestive Heart Failure

  • Hydrothorax refers to the buildup of fluid in and around the lungs, leading to deep, rapid breathing, coughing, and panting. Treatment may involve draining the fluid and prescribing medication to widen blood vessels, remove excess fluid, and increase the strength of heart contractions.

Respiratory Infections

  • When cats develop respiratory infections, they may experience difficulty breathing normally, which can lead to heavy breathing or panting. These infections typically start as viral infections and may progress to secondary bacterial infections. Antibiotics may be necessary to treat your cat's condition and enable them to breathe more comfortably. Humidifiers and steam may be beneficial in loosening mucus and making nasal breathing easier while your cat recovers.

Other Conditions Which Can Lead To Cats Breathing Heavy

  • Anemia, neurologic disorders, trauma, abdominal enlargement, and pain can also cause cats to pant or exhibit heavy breathing.

Caring For Your Cat's Long-Term Health

If you are worried about your cat's breathing, seeking veterinary care is crucial. When it comes to your cat's health, it's better to be safe than sorry.

It is also essential to note that early diagnosis and treatment of any condition are the most effective ways to prevent conditions from developing into a more severe health concerns. Early treatment may also save you money in the long run and safeguard your cat's long term health.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Contact our Danbury vets right away if you are concerned about your cat's breathing.

New Patients Welcome

Are you looking for a veterinarian for your cat or dog in Danbury? Mill Plain Veterinary Clinic is now accepting new patients! Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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