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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 and without notice, 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 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.

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
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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. Stridor or stertor noisy breathing may help in identifying the types of issues causing the issue because they affect different parts of the nose, throat, and 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
  • Thyroid issues
  • Cancer
  • Dehydration
  • Brachycephalic airway syndrome, which occurs in flat-faced animals
  • Poisoning or toxicity
  • Pneumonia
  • Narrowed nostrils, nose, or throat
  • Lesions in the nose, throat, or respiratory passages
  • Larynx collapse
  • Laryngitis
  • Laryngeal paralysis
  • Trauma injury or damage
  • 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
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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 will 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.

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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. 

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. 

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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 higher. 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 of they return or worsen. Be sure to follow all of your veterinarian’s instructions regarding care, medications, and follow-up appointments. 

 

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Noisy Breathing Average Cost

From 226 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$300

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Noisy Breathing Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Manx cat

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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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

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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2 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

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Russian blue

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Six Years

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Unknown severity

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1 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

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 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

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Domestic shorthair cat

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

I just adopted a cat from the shelter. His breathing sounds like purring constantly. He also has a sneeze. He is eating and drinking and using the litter box. He is very friendly and relaxed. Going to book a vet appointment Monday but just trying to get some reassurance. Thanks.

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay in answering, these emails are not set up for urgent messages. Cats are commonly affected by viral infections, and I hope that he is feeling better.

Oct. 14, 2020

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Tabby

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Noisy Breathing

Cat makes noise when exhaling.

Sept. 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay in answering, this venue is not set up to handle urgent emails. If your cat is still breathing louder than normal, there may be a problem with his/her nasal airways, and It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine your pet, see what might be going on, and get treatment for them if needed.

Oct. 17, 2020

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Domestic shorthair

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5 months (estimate)

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Fast Breathing

We took in a stray kitten about a week ago. I noticed he breathes a bit fast (~40 breaths per minute) while sleeping/at rest and faster when he is excited (like when he is purring when we pet him or after play). Otherwise he is very playful, eats normally and no digestive problems. I would say his gums are a bit pale and His belly looks a little bloated but I can’t tell if it is bc he is fed consistently now. We have a vet appointment in a week but I would like to know if I should get him checked up sooner.

Aug. 5, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Hello His breathing rate is normal for a kitten. If you are concerned about his gum color and bloated belly, you can try to get a sooner appointment. If he is eating and drinking well and playful, you can probably keep your original time next week. Good luck.

Aug. 5, 2020

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Snowy

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Ragdoll

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12 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Loud Breathing
Coughing
Snoring

So, I have been on this page 3 times now. You may have seen my comment about my cat snowy. How I came on this page, and ended up not going to the vet for her as I thought it was nothing, and was just her getting old. I was wrong. After many intakes of pills and steroids, she stopped eating, and soon enough. Stopped breathing. She got put down on the third of June 2020. Very hard to write down what has just happened as I have no idea myself. Please, for your cats, get off this page, and stop pondering whether you should go to the vet. Take the risk, because soon you may not have a buddy to take the risk with.

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Snowy

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Ragdoll

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12 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Loud Breathing
Snoring

Hiya, I have commented earlier on this, with my cat Snowy. We took her to the vet, and we did x-rays, blood tests, and looked for blockage in the lungs. She has supposedly got a lung infection. So, if you ever have a question, don't think it will be nothing, because it could be life-threatening. She is right now on steroids and 2 lots of pills. The vets have no idea what she has. Stay Safe! Bella Morgan

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Kashi

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American shorthair

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8 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing
Snoring
Wheezing
Breathing Heavy

Kashi is about to turn 9, and she's always been a loud sleeper. She snores like a house, and literally can wake me up. Lately, I've noticed that she will snort or cough during a purr session. I began to wonder if she has a deviated septum or something. Sometimes she will breathe audibly, with a squeaky sound. She never appears to have labored breathing, her mouth is not open and there is no sputum or anything. However, tonight her and the other kitty (Sheba, 4), played, and after a long session, they laid down to sleep and her respiration was way faster. Is this something serious?

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Cinder

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longhair domestic

dog-age-icon

12 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting
Breathing Difficulty
Poor Stool Control
Extra Thumbs
Pooping Outside The Box
New Vocalizations

My 12 year old 16lb longhair chonk Cinder is a purrer, all day every day. Always sittin there purring. But lately he’s been getting a lot more vocal and using some sounds I don’t understand, weird moans, and just kind of yelling at me whenever we’re not sitting down cuddling. And his purring sounds more like laboured breathing sometimes, with little chirps in it if I’m scritchin the good spots. He sleeps with me every night and I spoon him and purrs till he falls asleep. Tonight he was making the laboured breathing a little harder and wasn’t as cuddly. I did a body scan of him (cat massage) and he has a couple sore spots on his back. His ph is off balance rn (thanks PrettyLitter) so we’re eating his favourite ‘soups’ (Basic wet cat food, PC urine health dry food, warm water) to increase his water intake. I love this cat with my whole heart and me and him made a deal because I adopted him when he was 10, that he has to live to 20+ so I really just want to make sure he’s healthy.

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Storm

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Tabby Point Siamese

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3 Years

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Raspy Breathing, Wheezing Snore

Noisy breathing. Hello , i have a 2.5 year old tabby point siamese cat [storm] I've noticed his breathing getting louder when he's at rest or sleeping. He is very , very affectionate and must sleep on my lap numerous times a day . This is how i have heard a gradual change in tone and level of his wheezing or raspy breathing . Other then the days following his surgery to get him fixed, he hasn't experienced it before now . He has gained weight and is about 17.×× Lbs almost 10 LBS in a calendar year. Could this be a cause? Normally his daily routine and playfulness you wouldn't hear a thing. Same goes for his meowing . But if i have to put on headphones to drown out his freighter motor breathing . Should i be concerned? Other times when sleeping it sounds like a whining child.. until i reposition him . Sorry , I've never had a pet I have been off work for a couple years now and him and I spend every day together Kathy is one of my best friends and although I'm not wealthy... i would find a way to be able to get him any care he would require. Any help?

Noisy Breathing Average Cost

From 226 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$300

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