Rapid Breathing in Cats

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Rapid Breathing in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Rapid Breathing in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Rapid Breathing?

A normal healthy cat will take 10-30 regular breaths per minute. The air travels into your cat’s lungs and is used to oxygenate the blood, which is then circulated throughout your cat’s vital organs. When a cat is suffering from rapid breathing, this breathing rate increases and breaths often becomes irregular, or shallow. This can be an indication that your cat is not able to bring enough oxygen into the lungs to supply their body’s need. Rapid breathing is a symptom that can be caused by a number of illnesses or injuries. Since regular breathing is vital, if your cat is suffering from rapid breathing (also known as tachypnea) it is a serious and life threatening condition and you should seek immediate veterinary care.

Youtube Play

Rapid Breathing Average Cost

From 364 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$500

Symptoms of Rapid Breathing in Cats

It can be difficult for an inexperienced person to actually count the number of breaths your cat is taking. There are a number of other indications, either gradually occurring over time or that are acute (or sudden) in onset, to watch for that would indicate your cat is having difficulties breathing. These include:

  • Blue tinged tongue, lips, or nose
  • Coughing or gagging
  • Wheezing
  • Lethargy or unwillingness to move
  • Lack of energy
  • Rapidly rising and falling stomach or chest
  • Open-mouth breathing
  • Lowered heads with extension of neck and body forward, indicating difficulty in bringing in oxygen
arrow-up-icon

Top

Causes of Rapid Breathing in Cats

Rapid breathing is a symptom with a number of underlying illnesses and injury as potential causes. The most common of these include:

  • Trauma or injury (leading to e.g. lung contusions or a diaphragmatic hernia)
  • Tumors in chest or throat
  • Respiratory infections
  • Pulmonary edema (lungs filling with fluid)
  • Pleural effusion
  • Pneumonia
  • Asthma
  • Lungworm or Heartworm
  • Allergic reaction
  • Foreign objects lodged in windpipe or other airway obstruction
  • Pain, stress or shock
arrow-up-icon

Top

Diagnosis of Rapid Breathing in Cats

Diagnosis of rapid breathing in your cat will require your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause. This will involve diagnostic tests that may not seem related to breathing, such as blood work, urinalysis and other extensive systemic exams. Given the lengthy list of potential conditions, it will be important for you to provide your veterinarian with a thorough physical and medical history of your cat. If your cat is allowed outdoors, has recently suffered from a traumatic injury, or could potentially have fallen from a high surface, this will be important information to help identify potential trauma or pain. You should also provide your vet with a history of progression of symptoms such as approximate time of onset and any worsening or improvement. This will help your veterinarian narrow down potential causes.

Blood work will identify the presence of any infections and will involve a quick needle stick procedure, done in your veterinarian’s office. Depending on the results from a preliminary physical exam, review of symptoms, and blood work, your veterinarian may wish to order imaging of your cat’s chest area. Images such as x-rays or an ultrasound will help identify any fluid buildup, foreign objects, or potential tumors, masses or foreign objects that may be causing the heavy breathing. Depending on your cat, your vet may order a mild sedative be given to your cat to potentially limit movement. Your cat remaining calm and still will have a large impact on the clarity of the images.

If heartworm is suspected, your vet will be able to perform a simple in office blood test to confirm whether your cat is infected with the parasite. 

arrow-up-icon

Top

Treatment of Rapid Breathing in Cats

Treatment of rapid breathing in your cat will be tailored to the specific cause of the condition. In the case of infections, pneumonia, or fluid filling the lungs, your vet will prescribe strong antibiotics to help fight off the infections. In many cases, your cat may need to be hospitalized so that they can be provided round the clock supportive care such as fluids, IV antibiotics, and administration of oxygen.

If your cat is suffering from pain as a result of trauma, if no broken bones are detected your vet will often take a conservative approach and allow your cat to be released to go home with a prescription for pain medication. You will need to provide a safe, warm and quiet place for your cat to heal and recover. 

Allergies will be treated with antihistamines or steroids and ongoing medication dosage in the case of seasonal or non acute reactions. 

arrow-up-icon

Top

Worried about the cost of Rapid Breathing treatment?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Recovery of Rapid Breathing in Cats

Long term prognosis for recovery of your cat will vary from cause to cause. Infections and pneumonia are serious illnesses that need a high degree of specialized veterinary care. In all cases, your cat’s chances for a full recovery will increase if immediate veterinarian care is sought as soon as initial symptoms are detected. Additionally, given the seriousness of lung and breathing issues, you should follow up after symptoms in your cat have resolved in order to prevent potential recurrence.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Rapid Breathing Average Cost

From 364 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$500

arrow-up-icon

Top

Rapid Breathing Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Persian

dog-age-icon

Six Years n

thumbs-up-icon

13 found helpful

thumbs-up-icon

13 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Fast Breathing

My cat has a temperature of 102.6 deg.C and he is breathing very fast approx 43 breaths per minute what should I do? please tell me the possible reasons and treatment

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

13 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. There are many reasons for fast breathing - if he is hot, that might be causing it, or he may have a problem with his heart or lungs. That is not a markedly high temperature for a cat, and if the breathing continues to be a problem, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian who can examine him to see what might be going on. I hope that all goes well for him.

Oct. 5, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

Tabby

dog-age-icon

Five Months

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

thumbs-up-icon

0 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Rapid Breathing

We just trapped a feral kitty and got her fixed yesterday. She is very sweet and we are going to keep her. I am noticing with her laying on me that she is breathing heavy. I’m sure she is stressed I am just a little worried.

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

answer-icon

Dr. Michele K. DVM

recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I hope that she is okay, and that she recovered from her surgery normally.

Oct. 9, 2020

Was this experience helpful?

Rapid Breathing Average Cost

From 364 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$500

Need pet insurance?
Need pet insurance?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.