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What is Wheezing?

If your cat is wheezing, it could mean that there is a medical issue that should be investigated. Wheezing can be described as a whistling sound when your cat is breathing, and in some cases it may seem like your pet is having an asthma attack. Although this can be alarming, in most cases there is no need to panic. Many causes of your cat wheezing can be cured easily by your vet. Some of the causes for wheezing can be:

  • Hairball
  • Bone structure of the face (cat is flat faced)
  • Lungworms and heartworms
  • Allergies
  • Asthma

Although many of these illnesses are not serious if caught early, wheezing is something that should not be overlooked. If your cat’s wheezing is persistent, then you may want to consider taking your feline for a visit to the vet as it could mean something serious. If ignored, some of the causes, for example worms and blood clots, can become very dangerous for your cat’s health.

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Why Wheezing Occurs in Cats

Wheezing is an abnormal sound that is caused by a narrowing of your cat’s airways due to constriction, partial blockage, inflammation or other health issues. Cats of all breeds and ages are susceptible to wheezing, depending on the cause. Wheezing can be caused by:

Hairballs

Hairballs are common and usually not dangerous for cats. They occur when your cat grooms itself, and some of the hair will accumulate in their stomach. They will eventually need to cough it up, or it will get blocked. The symptoms will include coughing, vomiting and wheezing. In most cases, hairballs are natural and completely harmless. Hairballs are more common in long haired breeds, like Persian and Maine Coon, for example, as well as cats who groom very often or shed a lot. As cats get older, they become more adept at grooming themselves, so you may notice that your kitten will develop more hairballs as it gets older. If you notice that your cat has developed a lack of appetite, lethargy, diarrhea, constipation or is vomiting or gagging continuously without producing a hairball, you should contact your vet immediately as it could mean that your pet has a blockage that could potentially be life threatening.

Facial Bone Structure

Believe it or not, the shape of your cat’s face can actually cause breathing abnormalities. For example, if your cat has a flat face, like the Persian or Himalayan does, the bone structure could sometimes make it harder for them to breathe. This can make their airways sound obstructed, which could mimic a wheezing sound, or it could actually cause wheezing. These flat-faced breeds (called brachycephalic) also often have wet and runny noses that can contribute to the wheezing by clogging up the airways. 

Lungworms or Heartworms

Both lungworms and heartworms are dangerous parasites that can live in your feline’s lungs. They can cause many symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, weakness, loss of appetite, vomiting and lethargy. These symptoms are also common in many respiratory problems, which can keep the parasites undetected for a long time. This can be very dangerous, as heartworms in cats can cause heartworm associated respiratory disease. This condition causes coughing, labored breathing and wheezing. Heartworms are transmitted through mosquitoes and the condition can be fatal if not taken care of.

Allergies

Allergies in cats usually occur when the immune system is overly sensitive and starts identifying some substances as dangerous. Common allergens are inhalants like dust, pollen, chemicals or smoke that cause nasal congestion. They can also cause your pet to get itchy skin, hair loss, rashes, limb swelling, sneezing, wheezing and coughing. These symptoms can sometimes be seasonal, depending on the allergy. Some cats can even be allergic to foods, which means, once diagnosed, that you will have to avoid feeding your cat anything that contains these foods.

Asthma

Asthma is a reaction to inhaled allergens that trigger the immune system and cause the airways to constrict. They can be triggered by pretty much any airborne particle, but dust, molds and pollen are some of the most common. If serious, asthma attacks can be fatal. It is important to get your cat checked and to know the signs of an asthma attack. They usually occur after long periods of exercise, and the cat will show signs of coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. Asthma attacks can sometimes become worse and more common in the wintertime due to the dryness in the air. Cats are usually diagnosed between the age of 4 and 5.

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What to do if your Cat is Wheezing

If your cat seems to be wheezing often then a veterinary visit is warranted. If the wheezing does not persist, you should pay close attention and monitor the symptom, but going to the vet may be unnecessary as your cat could have just had a hairball.

If by looking at the symptoms you believe that your cat has a different illness, like lung worm or heartworm, is having a severe asthma attack, or is showing great difficulty breathing in any way, then you should bring them to the nearest vet immediately. Some hairball remedies include grooming your cat regularly, discouraging excessive grooming, giving them products and laxatives that are meant to help the hairballs pass through the digestive tract, or even hairball remedy foods.

There are also medications for your cat’s allergies. For example, if your cat has an allergy to airborne pollens, there are cortisone and steroids that may be prescribed by your vet, as well as allergy injections. Fatty acids can also help reduce your pet’s itchy skin. Treatments for asthma include corticosteroids that will help reduce inflammation in the lungs.

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Prevention of Wheezing

If it has been determined that your cat has an allergy, you should keep your cat from having contact with the allergen in order to prevent the symptoms. Antihistamines, like Benadryl, can also be used as a preventative before your cat has come into contact with the allergen. 

To prevent hairballs, discourage your cat from over grooming or give them a specialized product or food that is designed to help the hairballs pass. Giving your pet a diet that is high in fibers may also help. Sometimes, letting your cat eat grass can aid in vomiting hairballs. At this time there is not any known medication for heartworm in cats. In mild cases, your vet may decide to wait for the parasite to clear on its own, but severe cases may require oxygen, bronchodilators and prednisone in order to reduce the inflammation in the lungs. Prevention of heartworm is crucial in felines. Lungworms can be treated with anti-parasitic medications like Levamisole, Ivermectin, Fenbendazole and Praziquantel. If your brachycephalic cat seems to be experiencing difficulty breathing due to its flat face, you should bring them to the vet to get advice on treatment.

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Cost of Wheezing

Depending on the cause of your cat’s wheezing, treatment range moderately priced to expensive. The average cost if your cat is having trouble with hairballs is $150. Heartworms can be dangerous, and pricey to take care of. The average cost for treating heartworms can be $1000. To treat your cat for lungworm it will cost about $250.

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Wheezing Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Princess

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Ragdoll

dog-age-icon

3 Years

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

Mild severity

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2 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Wheezing. Nose Dischargew

My cat has ongoing wheezing with a runny nose. We have took her to the vets before for a course of antibiotics which worked for a couple of months but it coming back, I have other cats that have no issues and I don't know wether to keep taking her back for more antibiotics or get her a supplement

Aug. 11, 2018

Princess' Owner

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2 Recommendations

It is possible that Princess is picking up a small infection which requires a course of antibiotics, however if this is a regular occurrence we would be thinking about checking for any other underlying issues and to test to identify the infection and the most suitable antibiotic for that infection in case the broad spectrum antibiotics are just suppressing the infection but not curing it. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 12, 2018

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Rookie

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domestic short hair

dog-age-icon

5 Months

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Wheezing
Sneeze

My five month old kitten occasionally wheezes like she is going to cough up a hairball and then doesn't. She wheezes for about a minute and is then back to normal. Most recently it happened immediately after she sneezed. This isn't a persistent issue, I've seen it happen three times in six weeks. What could be causing this (and how worried should I be)?

July 27, 2018

Rookie's Owner


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1 Recommendations

There are many possible causes for the symptoms you’re describing which may or may not be serious; airway obstruction, laryngeal disorders, nausea among other causes may lead to wheezing. If it is infrequent and Rookie isn’t struggling to breathe you should keep a close eye but if it gets worse or more frequent you should visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 28, 2018

My cat has been wheezing for 2 days whilst breathing and he just doesn’t seem to be himself. He doesn’t even eat or go out much in the past two days

Aug. 1, 2018

Taylor W.

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Bob

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Tiger

dog-age-icon

2 Years

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

Moderate severity

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2 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Coughing
Breathing Difficulty
Lack Of Appetite
Breaths Faster At Rest

My cat has been lethargic for 1-2 weeks and I have gradually noticed, as at first I thought it was the heat. Today he started making this croupy dry coughing noise and seems to be breathing funny. He is not eating like usual and seems sicker than previous days. He is 2.5 years old with no prior health problems. What could be going on?

July 17, 2018

Bob's Owner

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2 Recommendations

If Bob is having some breathing difficulties you should visit your Veterinarian regardless as the cause for the breathing difficulty needs to be determined and managed; causes for breathing difficulties may include infections, parasites, heart failure, poisoning, anaemia, pain among many other conditions. Without examining Bob and having a listen of his chest I cannot say what is specifically going on. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 17, 2018

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Indigo

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DSH Black

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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

Wheezing

My indoor/outdoor cat was sneezing last week and recently started having wheezing. He sometimes has hacking attack but it's not hairballs. He's eating ok, no discharge in eyes or nose. A friend who shares same vet as me gave me chlorphenirisine to try for allergies. She doesn't open till Monday so I'm worried. He's had URI's in the past and I got antibiotic and symptoms went away.

July 14, 2018

Indigo's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

If Indigo's breathing has progressed to wheezing, it would probably be a good idea to have him seen at a 24 hour clinic before Monday, as some respiratory diseases can quickly become problems and he may need treatment. Without seeing him, I'm unfortunately not able to examine him, and he may be fine, but I tend to error on the side of caution when dealing with breathing issues.

July 14, 2018

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Paru

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moggy

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

My cat on occasion seems to be struggling for air, the tongue hangs out and even started going blue at some point. Then he’s ok-ish and vomits. He’s done this twice today, once a couple of days ago. Food seems not digested, he’s not lethargic and is still eating and drinking. He’s about 10 years old. He’s had these These symptoms for a number of years but very occasionally. It’s seems to be more frequent now. He’s a heavy breather but not laboured. I can hear him breathing when he’s relaxed and sleeping.

July 14, 2018

Paru's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Any case where an animal is struggling to breathe should be seen by your Veterinarian, without examining Paru I cannot narrow in on an underlying cause for the respiratory difficult as I cannot listen to his chest. Given the severity of the respiratory symptoms you should visit your Veterinarian or an Emergency Veterinarian to determine the underlying cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 14, 2018

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Isla

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Ragdoll

dog-age-icon

20 Months

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

Last night around two am, I woke up to my cat making a wheezing sort of sound. In my opinion, I thought it sounded like a cough with a slight kazoo mixed in. It lasted for 20 seconds then stopped. Around 8 this morning, she did it again on the bed. I thought it might be a hair ball. I bought her Homeopet Furball to give to her. Once I did, she didn’t throw up; however, she made the wheezing sound again. I haven’t been monitoring her heavily, but she hasn’t done it since I have been around her. She is acting more shady then normal (I.e. hiding under the bed a lot). She is eating, drinking, and going to the bathroom normally. She is also playing.

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Sullivan

dog-breed-icon

tabby

dog-age-icon

2 Years

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

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Sneezing
Wheezing
Vomiting (Not That Often)

My cat, Sullivan, is 2 years old at the beginning of August. He is very healthy and active. I just noticed today hes been wheezing and I've heard him sneeze a few times. Hes also been vomiting. Not a whole lot but like 3 times in the last 2 weeks. We just recently got a new cat, so I just figured it was from stress and didnt think twice about it. Hes never had any health problems. Honestly, I've never seen him have a hairball but i work a lot so he might when I'm not here. But i do know he gags a lot, especially after drinking water. But he usually doesnt vomit ever after gagging. I dont know if these events are correlated. I'm worried about the wheezing thought because I've never heard it before and I've had since since he was a young kitten. I dont have a lot of money, but if he needs it I will definitely take him to the vet. Anyone have any advice on what I should do?

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Floof

dog-breed-icon

Fluffy fur

dog-age-icon

9 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

Stuffy Nose
Wheezing
Sometimes Coughing

My kitten, Floof, has been wheezing for a while. We have been giving him medicine and it works but than it doesn't. I was wondering what advice you have to stop his wheezing. He rarely coughs but when he breaths it sounds like he has a stuffy nose. We thought about taking him to the vet but that might be expensive and we are kind of poor right now. So I was wonder if anyone had advice to help.

dog-name-icon

Reggie

dog-breed-icon

ragdoll siamese cross

dog-age-icon

13 Years

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

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, Wheezing, Gurgling

For a while now (year-ish) Reggie has been coughing and wheezing which later turned to some gurgling alongside the other symptoms. He's getting on a bit but is still active (run-like jog and low jumping) and meows a lot. His breed is unsure but we believe him to be a Ragdoll crossed with a Siamese due to colouring and the fact he doesn't have a button nose. He's a good weight and is a very good eater still. We're scared to take him to the vets (which he hates and gets very worked up about) with him being old and for us then to be told he is dying and/ or will need very expensive treatments (which would be a problem). He lives a very happy life, in a rural farmhouse surrounded by wildlife and 3 other cats which all love him (and his long fur which they like to snuggle into!) as they look to him like their moma. He loves attention and cuddles and is always where people are in the house/ outside. We've accepted that he may be dying but know that he'll be better to stay here then get inspected somewhere else and cause him a lot of stress. Any suggestions on what may be wrong with mama Reg would be a great deal of help so we can ensure he lives out the rest of his life happily.

dog-name-icon

Milli

dog-breed-icon

Unknown

dog-age-icon

6 Weeks

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

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Weakness
Wheezing

I have a kitten who is very small and has been wheezing for a little while now, it wont drink milk from its mother anymore. Her eyes have green nasty gunk in them and can't see unless I clean her eyes. She whines a lot and wont move very much and her body is very limp most of the time. Any suggestions?

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