Everyone knows that dogs pant. Dogs are unable to sweat much so they pant in order to cool themselves down. But sometimes cats pant too. Cats pant for different reasons – some are quite normal and some are more serious. It is important to understand the possible reasons so that you can seek further advice if necessary. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons and what to look out for.
Your Cat May Be Hot
Some cats do use panting as a cooling mechanism like dogs. When they pant, water evaporates from their mouth and tongue, and they breath out warm air, and breath in cool air. However, cats are much better at dealing with heat than dogs. They are generally smaller and are better at regulating blood flow to the skin. To prevent overheating, cats usually just rest and may also groom themselves as the evaporation of saliva from the grooming helps to cool the skin. Cats only pant due to heat as a last resort, usually after vigorous exercise. Panting because of heat, or excitement is more common in younger cats and kittens. If it is really hot and your kitten or young cat has been running around lots they may pant to cool themselves down. If this happens, make sure your cat is in a cool room, use a fan if possible and give him a damp towel to lie down on. Once he cools down, he should stop panting and his breathing will return to normal.
Your Cat May Be Anxious
Some cats pant when they are anxious or stressed, often on car journeys or vet’s waiting rooms! If your cat is panting, take a look around their environment to look for any things that may be causing them stress and if possible, remove the stressors. If this is not possible, stay calm and keep your cat as relaxed as possible. Natural pheromone sprays can help to relax your cat. They can be sprayed on your cat’s bedding or on a towel placed near them. If your cat is panting due to stress, it will usually stop panting quite quickly when they are removed from the stressful situation.
Your Cat May Be in Pain
Some cats will pant when they are in pain. If your cat is panting but is not hot or stressed, you should check them for any other signs of pain. There may be changes in their eyes – dilated pupils, a blood shot appearance or squinting, they may be eating, drinking or grooming less than normal. They may be lethargic or they may hide away more often. They may also flinch, scratch or bite if you touch them in certain areas. If your cat is showing any sign of pain it is important to get them checked out by your vet.
Your Cat May Have an Underlying Medical Condition
There are many medical conditions that can cause difficulty breathing in cats. Some of the most common are asthma, respiratory infection, congestive heart failure, and heartworm. Let’s look at these more closely.
Asthma is an allergic reaction that can cause panting, coughing and wheezing. It is usually treated with medication.
- Respiratory Infection
A respiratory infection makes it difficult for your cat to breathe, causing panting. Respiratory infections are usually viral but sometimes a secondary bacterial infection may develop, which could be treated with antibiotics. Your cat may also be given something to help loosen mucus and make it easier for them to breathe.
- Congestive Heart Failure
Fluid can accumulate in and around the lungs which can cause breathing difficulties, coughing and panting. Treatment can include medication and draining some of the accumulated fluid.
Heartworm is more common in dogs but cats can get it too and this can cause breathing difficulties. Treatment includes medication and in more severe cases, oxygen therapy. Heartworm disease can be fatal, so it is important to ensure that your regular cat wormer prevents heartworm.
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When to Call the Vet
If your cat only pants occasionally, and it is usually after running or vigorously playing, it is usually nothing to worry about. If your cat pants more persistently, or if they are showing any other signs of being unwell, such as being lethargic or off their food, it is best to get them checked out by your vet. Your vet will listen to your cat’s heart and lungs and make sure there is no heart murmur or other abnormality. If anything unusual is suspected, your vet may recommend further tests including an x-ray or an echocardiogram (a special ultrasound scan of your cat’s heart) to rule out any of the conditions above. If in any doubt, call your vet!