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Why is my Cat Breathing Heavy & What Can I Do?

Why is my Cat Breathing Heavy & What Can I Do?

While dogs often pant and breathe heavily to cool down, this behavior isn't typical for cats. Our Turlock vets share reasons your cat may be breathing heavily or panting and when to bring your kitty in for emergency care. 

Heavy Breathing in Cats

While a cat may pant or breathe heavily in some circumstances, there are times when this can point to a serious health concern that requires emergency veterinary care. 

If you see your cat breathing heavily, begin by assessing the situation to find out if one of the circumstances below may be causing your feline friend's problem. If your cat's heavy breathing is abnormal or if it's been happening for a while, bring your feline friend in to see our vets in Turlock. 

Normal Panting in Cats 

You may be surprised to learn that it's sometimes normal for cats to pant. Consider what your cat was doing or experiencing right before you noticed their change in breathing. 

Like dogs, cats may pant after exercising or when they are stressed, anxious, or overheated. This type of panting should stop once your four-legged companion rests, cools down, or calms down. 

Even considering the circumstances above, this kind of panting is still significantly more rare in cats than in dogs. So, if you aren't 100% sure about why your cat is panting, it's time to consider bringing your pet in for urgent or emergency veterinary care.

Find animal hospitals in your area by typing 'emergency and urgent veterinary care clinics near Turlock' into your favorite search engine. 

Abnormal Panting in Cats

If your cat hasn't exercised recently, and they aren't stressed or too warm, heavy or labored breathing may indicate a serious medical issue. 

Respiratory distress or dyspnea are both umbrella medical terms for breathing problems. While not a disease in itself, problems breathing are a common clinical sign of many diseases. Emergency veterinary care may be needed in cases of dyspnea in cats. 


Asthma can also be a reason for cats panting, wheezing, and coughing, it can also increase their respiratory rate.  Asthma is treatable in cats and often requires medications called corticosteroids or bronchodilators.


Heartworm in cats can cause breathing difficulties. Treatment for heartworm includes supportive care with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and oxygen therapy in more serious cases. Since heartworm disease can be fatal for cats, it's essential to keep your kitty on monthly heartworm preventatives.

Congestive Heart Failure

When fluid builds up in and around the lungs, it can cause deep, rapid breathing, coughing, and panting. Treatment might 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 Infection

Respiratory infections can make it very hard for cats to breathe, causing heavy breathing. Respiratory infections are usually viral, but when a secondary bacterial infection develops, antibiotics might be needed for treatment. Humidifiers and steam may help loosen mucus and make nasal breathing easier as your cat gets better.

Other Conditions

Trauma, anemia, neurologic disorders, abdominal enlargement, and pain can also cause cats to pant or exhibit heavy breathing.

24-Hour Emergency Veterinary Care in Turlock

If your cat or dog is experiencing respiratory distress or another medical emergency, our vets at Taylor Veterinary Emergency are here to help. 

At our emergency veterinary clinic, we offer state-of-the-art emergency care for cats and dogs 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Our dedicated vets are committed to providing compassionate care to pets who may be experiencing life-threatening illness or injury. We are equipped to provide specialized diagnostics, a complete range of surgical services, and hospitalization. 

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.

Do you suspect your cat's heavy breathing is a veterinary emergency? Contact our Turlock emergency vets to get your pet immediate care.

New Patients Welcome

Taylor Veterinary Emergency is accepting new patients! Our experienced Turlock vets are passionate about the health of cats and dogs. Get in touch today to book your first appointment.

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Contact (209) 669-8600