Breathing Issues in Cats

Breathing Issues in Cats

Health & Safety

If you notice your cat is having real difficulty breathing, you should not waste any time and get them to the vet as soon as you can. It's also very important to remain calm and not to stress your cat when they are having trouble breathing because it will just make their condition that much worse.

When a cat has difficulty breathing it can be quite frightening for them. Apart from it being a really uncomfortable situation for them to be in, it could also be life threatening which is especially true if not enough oxygen is getting into their lungs when they breath in. The same can be said if your cat cannot expel enough carbon dioxide from their lungs when they attempt to breath out.

What Causes Breathing Difficulties in Cats?

Cats can have problems breathing for all sorts of reasons, but in general it's because their airways or lungs have been compromised in some way. However, other reasons could include the following:

  • Their nose, throat or vocal cords have been compromised
  • There is an obstruction in their airways
  • Your cat is a brachycephalic breed like the Burmese or other flat-faced cat
  • Your cat inherited an airway abnormality which was present at birth
  • Laryngeal paralysis
  • Tumours or other masses have developed something along their airway tract which cause an obstruction
  • Tracheal collapse - cats often have a unique cough indicating there is a problem which needs to be checked out as soon as possible
  • An object is stuck in their windpipe

Cats can also experience trouble breathing when their lungs are impacted in some way which prevents them from functioning correctly. This could be due to bruising on or around their lungs. This often happens after cats have been in some kind of accident involving a car or other type of vehicle. Other reasons why their lungs could have been affected include the following:

  • Pulmonary oedema which is when a cat develops water on their lungs
  • Pneumonia which includes aspiration pneumonia something that often happens when a cat regurgitates their food and they inhale part of it into their lungs causing a bacterial infection
  • Cancer
  • Allergies and more especially feline asthma
  • A foreign body gets lodged in their lungs after having been inhaled

Signs to Watch Out for

When cats have trouble breathing it usually is quite obvious they are having trouble catching their breath. They appear to be heaving"" when they try to breath in and out. If they are having real trouble, a cat's gums will turn a bluish colour which is a condition known as cyanosis. Should this be the case, you need to get your cat along to the vet as a matter of urgency.

As previously mentioned, it is really important to remain calm and not put any more stress on your cat because it would make their condition that much worse. The vet would need to carry out specific tests before attempting to treat your cat without stressing them out too much although they would make sure your pet is made comfortable as quickly as possible during the initial examination. If a cat is having severe difficulty breathing, a vet might give them oxygen and administer specific medication to help stabilise their condition which can be very frightening for owners to witness.

If the vet finds your cat's lungs have been affected, they may need to remove any fluid or air that may have built up around their lungs which they would do by performing a thoracocentesis. The sort of tests a vet would need to carry out might well include the following:

  • An ultrasound
  • The vet might need to take some x-rays to find out what's causing the problem and/or they suspect hearth failure
  • A vet might need to use an endoscope which is a very small camera they put down a cat's throat to see if they can find a blockage or other reason why a cat might be experiencing difficulty breathing. This is a procedure that needs to be done under anaesthetic
  • Blood tests might need to be done
  • The vet might also recommend having a cat's faeces analysed

Treatment and Prognosis

Naturally when a cat is having trouble breathing in any way, they need to be given immediate veterinary treatment and depending on what the vet finds, they would be treated accordingly. In general, once they are allowed home, they need to be kept somewhere nice and quiet where it is warm and preferably this needs to be where your pet feels safe and secure. Exercise needs to be kept to a minimum for the first few days and sometimes even longer depending on the severity of their condition and the treatment they received.

As long as a breathing condition is caught early enough and the underlying cause is nothing too severe, the outlook is generally good. However, if a cat is suffering from a bigger health issue that's causing them to have difficulty breathing, the prognosis is often much poorer.


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