If you are familiar with a minimum difference in cats and dogs you will know that dogs pant and cats don’t, usually. But, if your cat is breathing heavily while sleeping or simply snoozing it may be a clear indicator that she is suffering from some underlying health problem.
So, understanding the reasons for this appearance is crucial for maintaining good health in your feline.
Cat Is Breathing Heavy
In general, you should never hear the cat breathing heavy. That's not how their breathing movements work. Cats always breathe with small movements of their chests. And unlike dogs, as mentioned earlier, cats should generally never pant.
Breathing difficulties in cats are both a symptom and cause for distress, both throughout the cat's body and in the respiratory system. And as a life-giving system that affects the entire organism, changes in the cat's breath may stem from issues in almost any part of the cat's body.
Breathing heavy can appear for different reasons and in most cases, it's connected with stress or exercise. So, if your feline is panting after running around outside on a hot day or playing with a favorite toy, this may lead to expected heavy breathing.
In some cases, cats will breathe heavily when they have to ride in the car. In some cases, cats will hold their mouth open or only partly open when they breathe, and in most cases, this is a clear indicator that your cat is congested in her nose or sinuses. In this case, you can even hear your feline breathe more loudly than normal.
Cat's Normal Breathing
Air enters the cat's body through their nose and moves into their lungs, transferring oxygen into the cat's blood and nourishing the organs. As oxygen enters the cat's body through the nostrils, carbon dioxide moves out and into the atmosphere.
The movement of breath in cats is always controlled by the respiratory center in the cat's brain and a long line of nerves in their chest.
When your cat's body is in balance, your cat's breath is smooth and moderate, without wheezing, halting, or any form of excessive stomach movement. So, changes in your cat's breathing pattern have several root problems. They might involve a disorder or direct trauma in the respiratory system.
What Is The Normal Respiration Rate For A Cat?
Try to sync your breath with your cat's. If you do, you will see that cats breathe more rapidly than humans. An adult's resting respiration rate ranges from 12-16 breaths per minute, while in cats it is between 20 and 30 breaths every minute.
So, to measure your cat's respiration rate, count the number of breaths your cat takes while sleeping. Remember: each breath is defined as one inhalation and one exhalation. Count the breaths for 30 seconds, then multiply by two to get the number of breaths your cat takes each minute.
Good to know: Some healthy cats take fewer than 20 breaths per minute while resting. However, a number higher than 30 is reason for concern.
Types Of Heavy Breathing In Cats
When it comes to cats' heavy breathing, you should understand that this form of breathing is manifested in different forms. There are three common types of heavy breathing in cats and it can be broken down into three classifications: dyspnea, tachypnea, and panting. Bear in mind that this occurrence is totally different than regular cat sounds.
1. Dyspnea – Labored Breathing
Dyspnea occurs when your cat finds it hard to breathe. Furthermore, your cat will exhibit symptoms such as:
- Chest and belly moving strongly while breathing.
- Open mouth while breathing.
- Noisy breathing.
- Nostrils might flare open with each breath.
- Cat will be restless and have difficulties sleeping.
- You will notice the extension of the neck and head while breathing.
What Causes Dyspnea In Cats?
Dyspnea in cats may appear due to several different disorders, including (but not limited to) tumors, elongated soft palate, and foreign objects stuck in the throat. Some of the causes may include:
- Nasal disorders, such as bleeding, tumors, infections, or undersized nostrils.
- Different disorders, such as disorders in the chest wall, including chest paralysis or physical trauma due to poisoning.
- Disorders associated with the belly, such as an enlarged liver, fluid buildup, and bloating.
What To Do If Your Cat Has Labored Breathing?
This type is the most troubling type of heavy breathing in cats. If you think that your cat is breathing heavily, make sure that you take her to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Tachypnea – Rapid And Shallow Breathing
Dyspnea feels uncomfortable in cats, while the cat can be completely blind to her rapid breathing. Rapid breathing is followed by symptoms such as:
- A bulish tint seen in gums and mucous membranes. This is also known as cyanosis.
- Fatigue: this is a common result of tachypnea. If your cat has trouble breathing, she will be reluctant to move or exercise.
- Cats with tachypnea don't breathe through their mouth.
What Causes Tachypnea In Cats?
Several reasons may lead to tachypnea in cats. Some of them are:
- Strongly reduced oxygen due to heartworms, anemia, pneumonia, heart failure, blood loss, heart murmur, or even metabolic acidosis.
- Anemia is one of the most common causes that may lead to tachypnea.
- Fever can cause tachypnea.
- Cats may breathe fast when nervous.
What To Do If Your Cat Has Tachypnea Breathing?
As mentioned earlier, the normal resting respiration rate is up to 30. However, if your cat's sleeping respiration rate is higher than 40 breaths per minute, for a significant amount of time, you should call your veterinarian. But, if your cat is breathing rapidly while out for a walk on a busy city sidewalk, you're probably looking at a temporary stress response.
Make sure that you monitor your cat closely, keep her at cool and calm if possible. If the rapid breathing doesn't decrease after you' he removed obvious stressors, you may need to take your cat to the veterinarian.
3. Panting – Rapid Breathing with the Mouth Open
Simply said, panting is identical to tachypnea just with the open mouth. Here we come to one similarity that cats have with dogs, and that's that they do pant a little when they are exposed to excessive heat. Of course, panting can be a sign of underlying health conditions, including lung disease and heart.
What Causes Panting In Cats?
- Cat's can pant if they are too hot. Just like dogs, they use panting as a thermoregulation mechanism. This open-mouthed rapid breathing helps your cat to manage their body temperature in hot weather.
- Interestingly, when they are excited cats may pant. If your cat played for a long time you can see her panting. This is especially common if your cat is overweight.
- One of the most common triggers is stress. This usually happens when your cat is on her way to the veterinarian.
- Heart problems are one of the most common reasons for cats panting.
- If your cat suffers from asthma she might be painting.
What To Do If Your Cat Panting?
In most cases, heave breathing is a clear symptom of underlying problems. Usually, this symptom is accompanied by other symptoms of distress. All in, this should be a clear sign that you should take your dog to the veterinarian.
How Cat Breathing Problems Are Diagnosed?
You may notice some symptoms, but your veterinarian is the one who will be able to set the right to diagnose. You need to take your feline to your veterinarian who will run the proper tests, and even perform a chest x-ray if needed. Your veterinarian may:
- Drain a sample of the fluid from the chest: in case of pleural effusion.
- An echocardiogram: this is an ultrasound of the heart and can tell a lot about the structure of the heart.
- An x-ray: this will be performed in case the veterinarian suspects that your feline has asthma.
Also, if there are any doubts that your cat's airway has an obstruction, your feline may need to be sedated for an oral exam, neck x-rays, or an exam of the ears.
What Treatments Are Available?
The exact treatment will depend on the underlying cause. However, in reality, some treatments will have to be started to ease the breathing before an exact diagnosis is made. But the most common treatment includes:
- Cat inhaler if your cat is diagnosed with asthma.
- Steroid medications if your cat is diagnosed with any form of upper respiratory tract infection.
- Oxygen and a diuretic medicationsuch as furosemide in case your cat is diagnosed with pulmonary edema.
However, if your cat is diagnosed with cancer the treatment may be limited and you should work on keeping your cat as comfortable as possible. However, you can try with other approaches, indignity using CBD oil to ease the pain.
Early Identification Is The Best Cure
The sooner you react the sooner you will be able to help your cat and ease her pain. So, if you think that your cat is breathing 'strong', 'funny' or unusual in any form, make sure that you contact your veterinarian.
Moreover, you should treat this condition as an emergency. It's the best thing that you can do to your cat, to react at the first sign of heavy breathing. Close attention to your feline means that you will be able to react at the right time and keep him safe in years to come.
Cat Is Breathing Heavy - The Key Takeaway
Cats are known for being so quiet that you can't even feel that they are around (at least, when they don't want you to know that they are around), and the same goes for their breathing. So, if you notice that her breathing is different and sounds strange, make sure that you contact your veterinarian on time.
Knowing your cat's normal breathing is a first step is identifying when something is not OK with your furry feline.