Appointments: (02) 6251 1444
16-18 Purdue St, Belconnen, ACT
(Parking via Gillott Street)
Mon - Fri: 8:30am - 5:30pm
Saturday: 8:30am - 1:00pm
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Canberra Cat Vet Blog

Breathing difficulty

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

If you notice that your cat is having any breathing difficulty call us immediately on 6251 1444. Cats hide chest problems until they are verging on life threatening so do not hesitate to make it an emergency.

A cat is having breathing difficulty if she is mouth breathing, and/ or crouched down with elbows out. A blue tongue with laboured or noisy breathing is very serious. Some cats will stick their tongues out in an effort to open up the airways even more.

The cat in the picture is concentrating on getting a breath. He has his elbows out and his mouth is open (although we can't quite see it). His pupils are also widely dilated as he is very worried.

Some chest diseases like asthma, some cancers or pneumonia cause a cough. Others cause a buildup in fluid around the lungs making it difficult for the cat to expand the lungs and get a good breath.

It is vital to keep the cat as calm as possible on the way to the vet and to let the vet know that you are coming so that we have oxygen ready. Keep handling to a minimum and speak gently and reassure your cat as much as possible. Cats with breathing difficulty often get worse when stressed - but will die if not treated.

Young cats are prone to pyothorax and Feline Infectious Peritonitis, which cause a buildup of pus and fluid in the chest cavity. Older cats are more likely to have heart disease or lymphoma cause a build up of fluid in the chest cavity. The fluid must be drained to relieve the breathing difficulty and then treatment targeted at the underlying disease.

Diseases of the nose, mouth, throat and sinuses sometimes cause noisy or open mouth breathing but the cat is not usually unduly distressed by it and will happily eat and run around despite the snuffles and sneezes. However, if you are in any doubt please phone and clarify the situation.

The cat is this video has pyothorax and is having a lot of trouble breathing.

The cat in the next video is not so distressed - but is breathing rapidly and heavily and could become as distressed as the last cat if stressed.


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A calm, quiet haven for cats and their carers staffed by experienced, cat loving vets and nurses.

Canberra Cat Vet 16-18 Purdue St Belconnen ACT 2617 (parking off Gillott Street) Phone: (02) 6251-1444

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