Have you ever noticed if your cat is breathing fast? If the answer is yes, then you better pay attention to it because usually, a cat doesn’t breathe fast or pant. A healthy cat breathes 20 to 30 times per minute. You can check your cat’s heart rate by feeling over the left side of her front leg.
Use a stopwatch and you will get 140 to 220 beats per minute if your cat is healthy. If the rate is higher than usual then your cat is unable to fill its lungs with enough oxygen. This heavy or rapid breathing can become fatal sometimes.
There are also some other indicators to show if your cat is having any problem.
Check the following symptoms in your cat:
- Blue tinged tongue, lips, or nose
- Coughing or gagging
- Unwillingness to move
- Lack of energy
- Open-mouth breathing
If you see your cat is breathing fast, it can be broken down into three main probable reasons- dyspnea, tachypnea, and panting. Take a look at each type of heavy breathing.
1. Dyspnea – Labored breathing
Cats with dyspnea show the following symptoms.
- Belly and chest move faster while breathing.
- They sometimes open their mouths to breathe.
- Noisy breathing.
- They might flair their noses with each breath.
- Restlessness/ unable to sleep.
- They might extend their head and neck while breathing.
What causes dyspnea in cats?
- Trachea disorders, tumors or an elongated soft palate including any staff stuck in the throat.
- Nasal disorders including infections, tumors or bleeding.
- Fluid in the lungs, heartworms or tumors.
- Congestive heart failure and disorders in the chest wall such as physical trauma and paralysis.
2. Tachypnea – Rapid and shallow breathing
If your cat is showing following symptoms of rapid or swallow breathing then the cause might be tachypnea.
- A bluish tint to the mucous membranes and gums is the indicator of inadequate oxygenation which is also known as cyanosis.
- Fatigue, reluctant to exercise or move.
- Cats with tachypnea doesn’t breath through mouth.
Reasons for tachypnea in cats:
- Hypoxemia (low oxygen levels)
- Heart failure
- Anemia (decreased red blood cell count)
- Space-occupying tumor
Cats might have fever while suffering from tachypnea. They rapid breathe to cool down their bodies.
3. Panting – Rapid breathing with the mouth open
Cats can pant while they are exposed to excessive hit or they run for a long time. But panting may also indicate serious underlying conditions, such as heart problems and lung disease.
What causes panting in cats?
Just like dogs, cats pant when they are too hot. Cats pant as they use it as a thermoregulation mechanism. They can even pant when they are excited or play. Overweight cats can also pant when it is too hot.
But stress in cats is a common trigger. They pant while they are in the car or at the veterinarian. Heart problems can also be the reason behind their panting.
What to do if your cat is panting?
If your cat is panting after playing or on the way to the vet, then there is nothing to worry about. You can cool down your cat by talking or petting. Water and air conditioning can also bring your cat back to normal breathing.
But if your cat’s heavy breathing is accompanied by other symptoms then it is time to visit the vet.
Other causes of fast breathing in cats.
If your cat is breathing fast, there might be some other reasons too.
- Allergic reaction
- Pulmonary oedema
- Respiratory infections
- Shock or stress and
There is another important thing to know. Cats purr because of happiness but it sometimes may be accompanied by distress. Cats breathing fast and purring together could also mean cardiac disease or asthma. If you notice such a thing, visit the vet as soon as possible.
What you should do when your cat is breathing fast?
Breathing difficulty can indicate a life-threatening emergency for a cat, so it’s crucial to seek a veterinarian’s help as soon as possible if your cat breaths faster than normal. The vet might ask for the detailed history of your cat’s health, oncoming symptoms, and potential incidents that probably have led to this state.
The veterinarian will look for signs of fluid in the lungs or heart murmur through observing the breathing pattern, and heartbeat of your cat.
S/he will also evaluate the gum color, which can determine if your cat has a low red blood cell count (anemia) or it’s getting enough oxygen distributed to the vital organs (hypoxemia). The vet might also press on your cat’s windpipe to make it cough. If the breathing difficulty is extreme, the vet will provide it with oxygen to ease the breathing before performing any more tests.
Usual tests also include urine analysis, complete blood count, and biochemical profiling. These tests will help the vet to find out whether your cat has caught an infection or suffering from the low red blood cell count. The tests will also help to find out if your cat’s internal organs are performing at the optimum level.
In order to find out the severity of the feline’s breathing problem, the vet will also collect a blood sample to check the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. This blood test will also help to determine if the problem is in the lungs or anywhere else in the cat’s chest.
A blood test will also determine whether your cat got heartworm. To see if the cat has an enlarged heart (which may lead to heart failure), and whether its lungs look normal, the vet may use X-ray. S/he might also use this method to see the current internal condition of the cat’s abdomen.
If the vet finds out that there is an accumulation of fluid in the cat’s lungs, chest, or belly – s/he may draw some of that to analyze. This process may appear painful for the cat, but you need to keep calm because these short-lived pains can save your cat from a long-term illness, or even save its life.
If it looks like your cat has a heart problem, the vet may recommend an electrocardiogram (ECG) to evaluate the electrical activity and tempo of the heart, in order to find out whether the heart is operating normally.
If it seems like that the feline’s breathing problem is in its airways or nose, the vet may perform an endoscopy (using a very small camera to get a closer look in the potentially affected areas). While the vet performs the endoscopy, s/he may collect cells and fluid for a biopsic analysis.
If your cat is breathing faster, you should take it seriously and take him/her to the vet as soon as possible. A cat having breathing difficulty is a serious matter, and you shouldn’t take it lightly. The vet will run the necessary tests and recommend the medications that will save your cat from serious illness or even potential death.