Prepare for unexpected vet bills

Youtube Play

What is Noisy Breathing?

Although noisy breathing itself is not life-threatening, the underlying condition might be. If airway obstruction is to blame, total blockage of the airway can happen quickly resulting in complete respiratory failure. The blockage, narrowing, or other issues that result in noisy breathing can occur almost anywhere in the respiratory system, including the nose, mouth, throat, larynx, bronchi, or smaller airways within the lungs. Cats that are experiencing noisy breathing should be seen by a veterinarian right away to diagnose or rule out potentially serious medical conditions. 

The term 'noisy breathing' is used to describe any condition in which breathing is abnormally loud. This includes breathing than can clearly be heard without the use of veterinary equipment. Noisy breathing may sound like wheezing, snoring, or squeaking.

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

Compare plans
advertisement image

Noisy Breathing Average Cost

From 226 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$300

Symptoms of Noisy Breathing in Cats

The primary symptom of noisy breathing in cats is breathing that is audible. The noise can range from a lower-pitched snoring sound to a higher whistling or squeaking noise. It may be accompanied by breathing changes or difficulty breathing. The noisy breathing may be associated with numerous other symptoms depending on the underlying cause of the condition. Associated symptoms can become very severe and may even be fatal. 

Symptoms include:

  • Loud breathing sounds
  • Trouble breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Open-mouth breathing
  • Panting or rapid breathing
  • Movement of belly and chest while breathing
  • Flared nostrils
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Breathing with neck extended or elbows sticking out
  • Squeaking sounds during breaths
  • Snoring sounds even when awake
  • Voice changes
  • Hoarseness
  • Inability to vocalize or meow
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Weakness
  • A cough producing mucus
  • Nasal discharge
  • Pain and related vocalizations
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Behavior changes
  • Restlessness
  • Fever

Severe symptoms include:

  • Lethargy
  • Inability to breathe
  • Seizures
  • Collapse or fainting
  • Coma
  • Sudden death

Types

There are two primary types of noisy breathing. The type is determined by where the breathing disruption is, and can often be identified by the sound the cat is making while breathing. The types of noisy breathing are:

  • Stridor: Noisy breathing with a high-pitched sound, which is usually caused by a blockage or issue in the larynx or windpipe
  • Stertor: Noisy breathing with a low-pitched sound that often occurs when inhaling, and is usually caused by an issue in the nose or throat
arrow-up-icon

Top

Causes of Noisy Breathing in Cats

A large number of conditions can cause noisy breathing in cats, ranging from congenital abnormalities to infections, foreign objects, and a variety of diseases and disorders. Determining if either stridor or stertor is present may help in identifying the problem because they affect different parts airways. Certain underlying causes can result in both types of noisy breathing, however. Common causes of noisy breathing in cats can include:

  • Airway obstruction
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Asthma
  • Buildup of fluid in the chest or abdominal cavities
  • Lung disease
  • Blood disorders
  • Congenital heart failure
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Heart disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Cancer e.g. lymphoma
  • Brachycephalic upper airway syndrome, which occurs in flat-faced animals
  • Poisoning 
  • Pneumonia
  • Narrowed nostrils, nose, or throat
  • Lesions in the nose, throat, or respiratory passages
  • Laryngitis
  • Laryngeal paralysis
  • Trauma 
  • Acromegaly
  • Side effects of anesthesia or sedation
  • Inflammation of the throat caused by vomiting or toxins
  • Shock
  • Fever
  • Strong emotional responses like anxiety or fear
  • Electrocution
arrow-up-icon

Top

Diagnosis of Noisy Breathing in Cats

With the large number of potential causes of noisy breathing, diagnosis of the underlying condition can require a variety of diagnostic methods. Much of the process will involve confirming or ruling out likely causes using a process of elimination. Be prepared to discuss your cat’s full medical history and describe any symptoms you have observed. Your veterinarian will conduct a full physical examination and collect samples of urine and blood for analysis. Your pet’s blood oxygen level will be measured using either blood gas analysis or pulse oximetry. If the noisy breathing is accompanied by difficulty breathing or if blood oxygen levels are low, oxygen therapy may be provided to stabilize the cat while other diagnostic measures are used to identify the underlying cause of the condition. 

With the animal stabilized, diagnostic analysis can begin. Urinalysis and common laboratory blood tests will be conducted on your pet’s samples. This may include blood and urine cultures, complete blood count, and biochemistry and electrolyte profiles. Your veterinarian will listen to the airways with a stethoscope to determine the location of the noise in the nose, throat, or windpipe. Diagnostic imaging, including x-rays or ultrasounds, may also be used to look at the respiratory system and sinuses for indications of a foreign object, tumor or growth, or other issues. A scope may also be used to examine the nose, throat, and airways. In some cases, fluid, mucus, or tissue samples may also be taken to aid in diagnosis.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Treatment of Noisy Breathing in Cats

The treatment for cats with noisy breathing will focus primarily on treating the underlying cause. For example, if a tumor is found to be the cause of the cat’s noisy breathing, surgical removal or other cancer therapies may be used. Noisy breathing, especially with an indeterminate cause, that does not impact the function on the respiratory system may not require any treatment. Some of the possible treatments for noisy breathing in cats include:

Oxygen Therapy 

Providing oxygen can aid in respiratory function and help maintain healthy blood oxygen levels. Oxygen may be provided using tubes, a mask, or an oxygen cage. This is a relatively low-risk therapy but is administered on an inpatient basis under supervision to monitor for potential issues. 

Fluid Therapy 

Intravenous (IV) fluids may be used to treat pets with noisy breathing, particularly if dehydration or mucus are factors. Administered fluids can help thin out mucus and make coughing more productive. This therapy is considered a low-risk treatment and is usually only provided on an inpatient basis. 

Antihistamines 

This category of drug is commonly used to treat allergies and allergic reactions. It can aid in breathing, even when allergies are not the only cause. Proper dosing is essential to reduce the risk of side effects. 

Steroids

 

This category of drug is also commonly used for breathing difficulties, including asthma. Steroids carry a moderate risk of side effects and will generally not be prescribed to cats that have poor immune function. 

Antibiotics 

Respiratory and other bodily infections are often contributing factors in noisy breathing. Antibiotic medications help to remove the infection and aid the immune system in overcoming illness. Proper dosing is essential for reducing the risk of side effects. 

Diuretics

Diuretics can be used if fluid is present, to help the body clear the fluid and improve oxygenation. diuretics may be needed in cases of e.g. heart failure.

Surgical Intervention 

In the event a tumor, injury, or foreign object are obstructing an airway and causing noisy breathing, surgery may be necessary. Surgery carries a moderate risk of side effects. If surgical intervention is required, your cat will likely be hospitalized to reduce the risk of complications. 

arrow-up-icon

Top

Recovery of Noisy Breathing in Cats

Your pet’s prognosis will depend on the underlying cause of noisy breathing. If treatment is possible, the prognosis is better. Some animals will be able to lead a normal life, even if noisy breathing is never cured. While your cat is recovering, avoid sudden dietary changes, environmental changes, and stressors. If dietary changes are recommended to aid in your cat’s recovery, make changes gradually to avoid increasing stress and anxiety. Ensure their living space is protected from cold, dampness, drafts, and dust to maintain good air quality. Monitor your pet for symptoms and seek veterinary assistance if they return or worsen. Be sure to follow all of your veterinarian’s instructions regarding care, medications, and follow-up appointments. 

It can be useful to measure your cat's breathing rate when they are resting. Fast breathing is typically classed as >30 breaths/minute and usually indicates there is an underlying issue. It is best, in this case, to contact your cat's vet right away.

 

arrow-up-icon

Top

*Wag! may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Items are sold by the retailer, not Wag!.

Noisy Breathing Average Cost

From 226 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$300

arrow-up-icon

Top

Noisy Breathing Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

question-icon-cta

Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Manx cat

dog-age-icon

Four Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

33 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing-Stertor, Runny Nose, Loud Meowing

I have a male orange tabby Manx cat that suddenly started making a snoring sound on inhale while awake, he also has an occasional runny nose, increased eye boogies, and sometimes he just walks around the house meowing loudly-long sorta complaining sounding meows. Otherwise he behaves normally, very playful and lovable, no litter box issues, & always wants fed, but this has been going on for a little while without clearing up and while it hasn't gotten any worse, I'm worried it could. *Couldn't enter Lactilose as needed for occasional constipation due to being Manx

Sept. 30, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Sara O. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

33 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear your cat is having problems. This may be due to allergies or an upper respiratory infection. There is not much that can be done over the counter for cats. If you have any strong scents or dusty litter try to find something else. Sometimes this can be irritating your cat's nose. If this continues, it would be best for your vet to look at your cat. They can prescribe the medications that your cat may need.

Sept. 30, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Russian blue

dog-age-icon

Six Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

thumbs-up-icon

8 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing/ Cough

My cat has noisy breathing the last tree weeks and has been coughing only during mornings, sometimes coughs daily, he also has been scratching and linking. I took to veterinary the firts week and said it was a mild athsma, he wanted to put corticosteroids but he didn't do any other test, he also said that the cat looks well and we can wait and see. I swithched his food from chicken to rabbit but both foods are based in potato, he is intolerant to cereals, he had breathing problems because of that but no cough, he eats well. Is corticosteroids first option? I don't want him to get worst, Thanks

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

8 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. A short course of steroids may not be a bad idea, as there are many conditions that that would help. Allergies, asthma, or upper respiratory infections can all improve with a low-dose short-term steroid course. Since your veterinarian has examined your cat, it would be best to trust their judgment on that, and ask them if you do have any questions about that treatment. I hope that everything goes well for your cat.

Sept. 29, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

Noisy Breathing Average Cost

From 226 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$300

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

advertisement image
ask a vet placeholder
Need pet insurance?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install