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What is Rapid Breathing?

A normal healthy cat will take 20-30 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 breath rate increases and often becomes irregular, or shallow. This can often 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.

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, if not impossible, to actually count the number of breaths your cat is taking. There are a number of other indications, either gradually occurring over time or 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
  • 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
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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
  • Tumors in chest or throat
  • Respiratory infections
  • Pulmonary edema (lungs filling with fluid)
  • Pneumonia
  • Asthma
  • Allergic reaction
  • Foreign objects lodged in windpipe or other airway obstruction
  • Pain, stress or shock
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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 potential 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. 

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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 shock or 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 and ongoing medication dosage in the case of seasonal or non acute reactions. 

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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.

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Rapid Breathing Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$500

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Rapid Breathing Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Domestic shirt hair

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3 week

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Unknown severity

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5 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Rapid Breathing

My kitten threw up and is breathing rapidly very lethargic

Aug. 24, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question, I'm sorry your kitten is not feeling well. Your kitten may be suffering from a parasite, and infectious disease, or dietary indiscretion. Since I cannot see your kitten or Sherman what might be going on, it would be best to have your kitten seen by a veterinarian. They can examine your kitten and see what might be happening and give treatment. I hope that everything goes okay with your kitten.

Aug. 24, 2020

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Tabby cat

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Three Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Rapid Breathing

Can I give my cat Albuterol through a nebulizer to help with rapid breathing associated with a recent pneumonia diagnosis? She was initially treated with Clavamox, and most recently Gentamicin by nebulizer.

July 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Without examining your kitten, unfortunately, there is no way that I can advise giving a Nebulizer with albuterol. If your veterinarian has recently seen the kitten, that would be a great question to call and ask them, as they have a history and a relationship with you and your kitten. I hope that all goes well with your kitten and that she recovers from her pneumonia as well.

July 27, 2020

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domestic shorthair

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Ten Weeks

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Heavy Breathing, Purring While Breathing, Laying Down, Eyes Closed

we’ve been traveling for the past day and he’s been doing very well up until now. it just seemed to completely change out of no where. his whiskers recently fell off like a day or two before we started to travel. what do you do???

July 23, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Stress can be very hard on kittens, and can cause the Resurgence of viral diseases or infections. It is hard to say without seeing your kitten if he is just really tired or if he has something wrong with him, unfortunately. I would probably keep a close eye on him over the next few days, make sure he is eating and drinking, and make sure that he seems generally playful when he's not sleeping. If he is more lethargic, sleeping all the time, vomiting, having diarrhea, or not eating, then I would find a veterinarian near where you are traveling to have him seen. I hope that all goes well for him and he gets home safely.

July 23, 2020

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Chen Chen

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Calico

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8 Weeks

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Rapid Rising And Falling

My 20 year old brother stepped on our cat, she was laying down before but still alive, now she's acting normal but she's breathing rapidly, I don't know what to feed her as well as I'm scared it might hurt her teeth or something, I can't afford a vet either, she's probably 7-8 weeks old.

Sept. 7, 2018

Chen Chen's Owner

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Chen Chen

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Calico

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8 Weeks

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Moderate severity

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2 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Rapid Rising And Falling Chest

Hello, my 20 year old brother stepped on our [probably] 7-8 week kitten, she's breathing rapidly now, I don't know what to feed her but it's been at least a while since she was squished, she's acting normal but still is breathing oddly, I don't know what to feed her as well cause I'm scared it might damage her teeth or something, and I can't afford a vet.

Sept. 7, 2018

Chen Chen's Owner


I also don't know how severe it could be, her ribs are okay

Sept. 7, 2018

Chen Chen's Owner

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Evee

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Mix

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5 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Rapid Breathing

My 5 year old female cat has had sudden onset of rapid breathing. She is behaving completely normal otherwise. I have checked that she takes about 30 breaths per minute, her temp is fine, her gums and lips are perfectly pink. When should I worry?

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Frankie

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Domestic medium hair blue lynx point

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4 Months

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Rapid Breathing. 60 Bpm O 90

I have a 4.5 month old kitten who appears normal except for her rapid breathing. 60 bpm is the low end. She sometimes appears to be panting. We moticed this a few weeks ago. I gave a vet appr. in a few days. She gapes her mouth throughout the day. But she runs and plays like a normal kitten. She never mouth breathes. She got diarrhea right after I brought her home and had it for a month. During that time she lost .5#. In the last few weeks, though, she has nearly doubled her weight.

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Chubby

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Calico

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16 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Heavy Breathing

my cat, chubby, is 16 years old. she's a relatively healthy cat and doesn't have any issues but i've been noticing that she's been breathing very heavy and fast, not like my other cats. we went to the vet to do a checkup and they said she might have some kidney failure but seems to be doing well. i'm worries she might have asthma or some sort of breathing problem. she's going in for another checkup soon and i would love some feedback for her😊

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Doodles

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Ginger tabby

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15 Months

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Rapid Breathing

Noticed rapid rise and fall of tummy while my cat rested. He was in no distress, had no other symptoms but it is very warm at the moment 25°C+. He's in excellent health, drinking plenty of water and not coughing or reluctant to touch. So I'm going to watch him closely.

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Iby

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Calico

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12 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Fast Breathing
Fast Breaththing Lethargic
Fast Breaththing Lethargicfever

My girl Iby was breathing heavier then normal. She had a high temp (I checked her ears) and her breathing was 35 to 40 breaths a minute. I wet down her ears and made sure the fans were on her as she didn’t want to move. I wet a towel and wrapped it around her. She’s quite old and as she ages I worry more and more for her. This time was just because of the heat, googling was a good idea as it was late when I noticed it happening to her but at the same time it’s scary. Always check to see if it’s stress or heat before thinking it’s something bad

Rapid Breathing Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$500

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