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What You Should Do If Your Cat Is Panting

What You Should Do If Your Cat Is Panting

Although dogs often pant to cool themselves down, in cats panting is much less common and may be an indication of an underlying health problem. In today's blog our Somerset County emergency vets share a few of the reasons your cat may be breathing heavily, and when to seek emergency care for your kitty.

Heavy Breathing & Panting In Cats

While it's true that panting may be seen in some healthy cats, it is more likely to indicate an underlying health problem in need of prompt veterinary care. If you notice that your kitty is panting or seems to be having difficulties breathing, take a moment to assess the situation based on the criteria below.

Normal Panting in Cats

On rare occasions, panting can be a normal behavior for cats. If your feline friend is struggling to catch their breath, take a moment to consider what your cat was doing or experiencing immediately before you noticed the panting.

Cats may begin to pant when they are overheated, anxious, or following strenuous exercise. If your cat is panting for any of these reasons, it should resolve itself once the cat has had an opportunity to calm down, cool down or rest.

That said, it's important for pet parents to note that this sort of panting is much rarer in cats than it is in dogs. So if you aren't sure why your cat is panting, it’s worth a trip to the vet.

Dyspnea - Abnormal Breathing in Cats

If your cat isn't hot, stressed, or tired from exercise, but their breathing is labored, it could be a sign of a serious underlying medical issue. If you think that your pet may be suffering from any of the conditions below, a trip to the emergency veterinary hospital may be needed.

Respiratory Infections

  • A respiratory infection can make it difficult for your cat to breathe normally, leading to labored breathing or panting. In cats these infections will often start out as viral infections, then develop into secondary bacterial infections. Antibiotics may be necessary to treat your cat's infection so that they can breathe more easily.


  • Panting, wheezing, coughing, and increased respiratory rate are all common symptoms of asthma in cats. Treatment for asthma in cats may not be curative, however, asthma can be successfully managed with corticosteroids or bronchodilators.


  • Breathing difficulties can be a sign of heartworm in some cats. Treatment for heartworm includes supportive care with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation combined with oxygen therapy in more serious cases. Because heartworm disease can be fatal, it is important to keep your cat on a monthly heartworm preventative medication.

Hydrothorax & Congestive Heart Failure

  • Hydrothorax is a serious health concern in cats characterized by the accumulation of fluid in and around the lungs. Symptoms of hydrothorax can include deep, rapid breathing, panting and coughing. Treatment for this condition may include draining the fluid, as well as medications to dilate blood vessels, get rid of excess fluid, and make heart contractions stronger.

Other Conditions Which Can Lead To Panting in Cats

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

If your cat is panting or showing other symptoms of breathing difficulties, visit our Somerset County veterinary emergency hospital to receive urgent care for your cat. Any time of the day or night, our emergency vets are here whenever your pet needs us.

Caring for Pets in Somerset County

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