One of the ways that cats and dogs are different is that dogs pant for various reasons while panting in cats is relatively uncommon and can be a potential cause for concern. Our Doraville vets discuss heavy breathing in cats, what is normal and when you should consider seeking veterinary care for your cat.

Heavy Breathing in Cats

If your cat is experiencing heavy breathing, they may be experiencing a health condition that might require veterinary assistance right away. 

If you notice that your cat is panting or exhibiting labored breathing, start by assessing the situation based on the criteria below. If you are at all concerned with your cat breathing heavily or they are displaying any other symptoms, then you should consider visiting an emergency veterinarian right away. 

When Heavy Breathing in Cats Might be Normal

While it is fairly uncommon, there are instances where your cat breathing heavy might be normal. Take a moment to consider what your cat was doing or experiencing immediately before you noticed the panting.

As with dogs, cats may pant when they are overheated, anxious, or following strenuous exercise. Panting for these reasons should resolve itself once the cat has had an opportunity to calm down, cool down or rest.

However, it's important to note that this sort of panting is much rarer 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 veterinarian.

Some Common Causes of Heavy Breathing in Cats:


  • Some of the most common symptoms of asthma in cats include panting, wheezing, and coughing, and increased respiratory rate.  While asthma in cats may not be cured, it can be successfully managed with corticosteroids or bronchodilators.


  • Heartworm in cats can cause breathing difficulties. Treatment for heartworm includes supportive care with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and 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 condition characterized by the accumulation of fluid in and around the lungs, it can cause deep, rapid breathing, coughing, and panting. Treatment may include draining the fluid, as well as medications to dilate blood vessels, get rid of excess fluid, and make the heart contract more forcefully.

Respiratory Infections

  • If your kitty has developed a respiratory infection it can be challenging for them to breathe normally. Respiratory infections in cats can lead to labored breathing or panting. In cats, these infections typically begin as viral infections, but often develop into secondary bacterial infections. Antibiotics may be required to treat your cat's condition so that they can breathe easier. Humidifiers and steam can help loosen mucus and make nasal breathing easier as your cat recovers.

Other Conditions That Can Cause Heavy Breathing in Cats

  • Anemia, neurologic disorders, trauma, abdominal enlargement, and pain can also be a cause of heavy breathing in cats.

If your cat is breathing heavy and you think it may be time to seek veterinary care, contact our Doraville vets right away or visit the nearest emergency clinic.