Why Is a Cat Breathing Hard?

Cat sleeping

It is unusual to see a cat pant or breathing heavy, but it does occur when a cat is having respiratory distress (dyspnea). A panting cat does not look that different from a panting dog. Typically, the cat will stand or crouch with his elbows bent far from his chest and with head and neck extended. There are many different factors a cat may have abnormal breathing. Here are most common reasons of hard breathe in cats.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Fluid in the chest or hydrothorax describes the accumulation of fluid in the space between the lungs and ribs (pleural cavity). Common causes for hydrothorax consist of Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), burst thoracic duct, and heart disease due to cardiomyopathy.

  1. FIP is a viral disease that the body can not remove, and that causes fluid to collect in the chest and abdominal area.
  2. Among other things, the lymphatic system gathers excess fluid from throughout the body and some of the fat absorbed from the intestinal tracts. This fluid is gone back to the primary blood circulation by the thoracic duct connecting to among the large veins near the heart. If this duct ruptures, then the fluid spills into the chest (called chylothorax), which in turn causes breathing troubles. The duct might rupture from trauma and other less clear causes.
  3. Cardiomyopathy, or bigger heart, often results in heart disease. This is insufficient pumping action by the heart, leading to fluid build-up in the chest and/or lungs.


Heart: without a doubt the most typical underlying cause of tachypnea are issues with your cat’s heart. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a condition where the heart muscle thickens, making it harder for blood to leave the heart. Shortness of breath is among the symptoms of this. Nevertheless, if your furball is an older cat and has only just recently started to breathe rapidly, then a more likely cause is heartworm. Your vet will carry out a variety of tests for this, including blood count, an antigen and antibody study, plus an ultrasound and X-ray, as this condition is hard to detect.

Asthma: it seems sensible that changes in breathing ought to be linked to a respiratory disease, such as asthma or bronchitis. When tachypnea is an outcome of asthma, then it’s likely that you’ll only observe her breathing rapidly during the time of an asthma attack. Episodic tachypnea is a possible indication that asthma or bronchitis are the source of the issue, but your vet might wish to think about other possible causes of fast breathing if there are other symptoms that don’t fit with a straightforward breathing disease.


Dyspnea describes labored or hard breathing. There might or may not be associated quick breathing (tachypnoea). For example, cats with nasopharyngeal disease (e.g. Catflu or Nasopharyngeal polyps) may have a significant inspiratory effort, however they can typically ventilate adequately by opening their mouths, although they might be reluctant to do this. This contrasts with cats with pleural effusion where little reserve remains once the signs of breathing distress are seen. Death from respiratory failure can happen following minor controls in these patients.

  • Inspiratory dyspnoea usually corresponds with occupying sores within the chest (difficulty in expansion of lungs).
  • Expiratory dyspnoea usually equates with pulmonary sores (trouble in compressing lung tissue).

Any cat suspected of having respiratory compromise should be recognized early, dealt with carefully and supported. The common step-wise method to the case must be adjusted and the clinician might need to continue, a minimum of at first, without the high-end of information acquired from a complete history and health examination. Observation of the patient and a minimally invasive physical exam are typically all that are required to localize the issue. The obstacle is to juggle stabilization, localization and owner communication while remaining vigilant for clues which permit ranking of the differentials to formulate a diagnostic plan.


Heart disease prevails in senior cats also. There are many different types of heart disease in cats which may cause hard breathing. One of the most frequently seen in cats is cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle. Degenerative valvular disease and other types of heart disease can be seen as well. No matter the underlying cause, the end result of heart disease is heart disease, or CHF, in which the heart’s capability to pump blood successfully and efficiently is jeopardized. Breathing problems can affect cats of any type or age, and the problem can quickly end up being harmful. If your cat is having problems with breathing it must be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.


Reyus Mammadli
Having engineering and medical education, in recent years actively engaged in the study of the development, reproduction of domestic animals. Special attention is paid to the treatment and prevention of diseases of Pets.
Pet Health
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  1. Christopher

    My cat is very old and breathing heavily. Our vet said nothing could be done about it. This is due to age.