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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 seekimmediate veterinary care.

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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
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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 (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
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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 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. 

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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 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. 

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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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Chen Chen

dog-breed-icon

Calico

dog-age-icon

8 Weeks

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

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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

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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dog-name-icon

Chen Chen

dog-breed-icon

Calico

dog-age-icon

8 Weeks

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

Moderate severity

thumbs-up-icon

2 found helpful

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

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

Was this experience helpful?

Rapid Breathing Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$500

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

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

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