Your cat’s health is of the utmost importance, and at some point most owners are faced with a confusing medical issue they must confront.
If you’ve found yourself looking at your furry friend and wondering “My cat is breathing fast – what should I do?”, your next step is to make an informed decision of how to react to this respiratory difficulty.
But sometimes deciphering between a serious situation and a temporary ailment can be incredibly difficult. Cats breathing fast for only a few minutes is natural, but any longer may pose as a real underlying problem.
Cats are generally very guarded when it comes to displaying signs of illness, so owners must be especially vigilant to notice signs of what is medically referred to as Tachypnea.
Owners experiencing this for the first time with their pet can get very worried, but fear not. If acted upon swiftly, this potentially critical situation can be remedied and your little furball will be back to normal.
What is Tachypnea?
Tachypnea is a serious medical condition in which your cat’s breathing pattern becomes incredibly rapid, but shallow. This is sometimes combined with other symptoms, but it is key to watch out for its early stages.
Your cat’s breathing may increase if they become over excited after exercise, but this should decrease after a few minutes. If it does not subside, or gets worse, it is a sign of a much more serious condition. It has also been known as air hunger.
A cat’s normal resting respiratory rate is between 20-30 breaths per minute, so anything higher should be taken seriously. Check if your cat’s breathing pattern appears different, but also look for a change in their body movements.
What are the main symptoms and causes?
Although Tachypnea can manifest itself through many different symptoms, the main ones to look out for are:
- Incredibly quick, shallow breathing
- Panting with tongue out of mouth
- Coughing and wheezing
- Blue coloring of gums (due to lack of oxygen)
- Loss of appetite
Cats primarily breathe through their noses, so a cat breathing or panting through its mouth has a serious medical condition or is under lots of distress –> either way it’s important to get to the cause of the heavy breathing or panting.
It can be difficult to diagnose, but your cat will . The best thing to do is look out for anything that seems out of place with your cat’s normal behavior. This is because, if left alone, it can soon turn into a respiratory issue far more dangerous.
Underlying causes of Tachypnea are varied and can often be incredibly complex, so it can be difficult to determine what exact health issue your cat has. The two main causes are usually certain forms of heart disease (heart worm), or a respiratory infection.
Heart worm can be easily treated, but it should be diagnosed swiftly before the infection progresses. It was once mainly associated with dogs, but it can be much more harmful to cats.
With a respiratory infection, your cat’s airways may be finding it difficult to get oxygen into the bloodstream.
There are a variety of respiratory infections that can cause this quick breathing, all of which are easily treatable.
Some other potential causes are:
- Feline asthma
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Heart failure
- Inflammation of the nostrils
- Fluid on the lungs
- Heat stroke
What action should I take next if my cat is breathing fast?
If you still find yourself worrying “my cat is breathing fast”, and the symptoms haven’t subsided or have gotten worse, the best thing to do is to call your veterinarian immediately. They should be able to access your cat’s medical situation over the phone, and will most likely tell you to bring the cat to the vet hospital.
By calling them first they may also be able to arrange transport to the hospital, as not to prolong your cat’s medical situation any longer. With respiratory distress it is best to try and keep your pet calm as much as you can, but travelling can be especially stressful for a cat. Your vet will be able to advise you on how best to transport your pet if they can’t arrange transport themselves.
In the worst case scenario, if your cat stops breathing entirely before you reach the hospital, you can perform CPR. If you don’t have time to read CPR instructions for cats online, your vet will be able to give you more specific instructions through the phone.
Once at the hospital, your veterinarian will assess the stage of your cat’s Tachypnea, what has caused it, and will provide your pet with a steady supply of oxygen. After a physical examination and diagnosis is made, they will decide upon what the best form of treatment will be.
Depending on the severity of your cat’s condition, they may be put in an oxygen or ICU cage. The vet will also advise you on how to best care for your cat once it can be brought home.
Final thoughts: My cat is breathing fast: What should I do?
When you find yourself thinking “My cat is breathing fast”, make sure to act quickly. Tachypnea is a very serious medical condition, and is best taken care of as soon as the problem presents itself. Pay close attention to your cat, monitor their breathing carefully, and take action when you feel it’s necessary. Remember that when something seems unusual about your pet’s health, it probably is. Once the main condition (or conditions) that caused the Tachypnea are diagnosed and treated, it will resolve itself quickly.
Some of the ways you can try to prevent your cat from developing a serious case of Tachypnea is provide them with lots of water in hot weather, keep them away from toxic chemicals and minimize any potential stressful situations they might be in.
Though, the most common form of prevention is to organize regular veterinary visits so that your pet is given a full medical check-up once a year at least.
Your cat’s health is vital, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.