Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

Heavy Breathing in Cats

You may be aware that dogs pant as a way to cool down, but panting is much less common in cats and could be a symptom of an underlying health problem. Here, our Douglasville veterinarians and team share some of the reasons why cats pant, and when to head to the vet.

My Cat is Breathing Heavy

Since cats don't typically pant, heavy breathing can be an indication of a serious health concern that requires prompt veterinary care. 

If you notice that your cat is panting or breathing heavily start by assessing the situation based on the criteria below. If you are at all concerned with your cat's heavy breathing or if they are displaying any other troubling symptoms, it's best to err on the side of caution and head to the vet for emergency veterinary care right away. 

When Heavy Breathing is Normal for Cats

While uncommon, in some cases, panting is normal behavior for cats. Take a moment to consider what your cat was doing or experiencing immediately before you noticed their panting.

Cats, like dogs, may pant if they become overheated, anxious, or after engaging in strenuous exercise (such as being chased by a dog). If your cat is panting for any of these reasons, the panting should stop once the cat has had a chance to calm down, cool down, or rest.

As mentioned previously, panting and heavy breathing are much less common in our feline friends than it is in dogs. So if you're not entirely sure why your cat is panting, it’s worth a visit to your vet.

Why is my cat breathing heavy?


  • Common signs of asthma in cats include heavy breathing with mouth open, panting, wheezing, coughing, and increased respiratory rate.  While asthma in cats may not be cured, it can be successfully managed with corticosteroids or bronchodilators.


  • In cats, a heartworm can cause breathing problems. Heartworm treatment includes supportive care with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and, in more severe cases, oxygen therapy. Because heartworm disease is extremely serious and can be fatal, our veterinarians recommend that you keep your cat on a monthly heartworm preventative medication.

Hydrothorax & Congestive Heart Failure

  • Hydrothorax is a condition in which fluid accumulates in and around the lungs, causing deep, rapid breathing, coughing, and panting. Treatment may include draining the fluid as well as medications to dilate blood vessels, eliminate excess fluid, and force the heart to contract more strongly.

Respiratory Infections

  • If your cat has a respiratory infection, it may be difficult for them to breathe normally. In cats, respiratory infections can cause heavy breathing or panting. These infections usually begin as viral infections, but they frequently progress to secondary bacterial infections. Antibiotics may be necessary to treat your cat's condition and allow them to breathe easier. As your cat recovers, humidifiers and steam can help loosen mucus and make nasal breathing easier.

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.

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.

Is your cat breathing heavily or panting? Call our Douglasville vets at Kay Animal Hospital right away for assistance. 

We're Always Welcoming New Patients

At Kay Animal Hospital, we can't wait to welcome you and your four-legged friend into our veterinary family. Learn more about the services we offer and the difference our care and compassion make by booking your first appointment today!

Learn More

Book Online (770) 949-7030