Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team
Difficult or labored breathing is a very serious and potentially life threatening emergency that requires immediate medical attention.
Signs of Difficult or Labored Breathing
- Open mouth breathing
- Abdomen heaves with every breath
- Fast and short breaths (hyperventilating)
- Breathing is noisy (raspy or congested)
- Gum color is grey or blue instead of pink
- Tongue is blue or purple instead of pink
What You Can Do Until an Emergency Veterinary Visit
- Make sure that your cat has a clear airway. Check for objects stuck in the back of the throat, gently wipe away any discharge coming out of the nose, etcetera.
- Cats who are having trouble breathing are usually very stressed and anxious. Avoid doing anything that might cause additional stress to your cat (e.g., chasing your cat, restraining him/her while he/she is struggling to get away from you).
Common Causes of Difficult or Labored Breathing
- Upper respiratory infection with severe nasal discharge
- Heart disease
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
Treatment of Difficult or Labored Breathing
- Treatment of the underlying medical issue.
- Cats with severe difficulty breathing difficulties may require supplemental oxygen, which will involve a stay at a veterinary hospital.
- Medication to help your cat breathe (e.g., bronchodilators, steroidal anti-inflammatories) may be given. This medication may be oral or may be administered via an inhaler.
- Activity restriction, at least until the breathing problem is significantly improved.