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Dr.Fiona, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 6273
Experience:  Small animal medicine and surgery - 16 years experience in BC, California and Ontario
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Cat breathing problems

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My cat is having breathing problems - he sounds like he's got a really bad cold and has been under my bed since last evening.

Welcome to JustAnswer! I would like to help you and your cat with this problem, but need a bit more information in order to better assist you.

Is your cat sneezing?

Can you please look at him closely (with a flashlight if needed if he is still under the bed) and tell me how many breaths per minute he is taking?

Does he seem to be having more effort than usual to breathe?

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
No sneezing. He's breathing about 36 breaths per minute - seems to have relax a little in the past few minutes.

Any coughing?

Can you pull him out from under the bed and check his gum color for me please. Lift his lip above his canine (fang) tooth. Is the gum there, about 1/4inch up from the tooth a deep bubblegum pink, or is it paler, or even slightly muddy colored or blue-ish?

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
It's paler pink - I've checked it against my other cat and they look fairly similar in color to me.

What about his tongue? is it the same colour pink as your other cat? or lighter?

Does his breathing sound wet? Gurgly?

Has anyone ever mentioned a heart murmur?

Customer: replied 8 years ago.

His breathing does have a little gurgle at the end his out-breath.

No mention of a heart murmur. I couldn't get a good look at his tongue. His breathing is not 'wet', but it does sound a little congested.

There are a number of things that could be going on with your cat - but trouble breathing really worries me! Any time an animal has difficulty breathing, he should be seen by a veterinarian immediately!

At first, I was wondering whether he might have an upper respiratory tract infection, as these are common in cats (it is the cat version of a cold virus in us). But with this, cats are usually sneezing a lot, and you mentioned that your boy is not sneezing.

With the further information you have given me, I am worried that your kitty may have congestive heart failure. In cat, this could be caused by a few different things, but hypertrophic cardiomyopathy would be the most common. With HCM, cats are born with this heart problem, or may develop it secondary to other disorders such as hyperthyroidism. Either way, the heart muscle is thicker than is should be, which means that there is less room witihin the heart chambers for blood. That is because the walls are thicker, pressing inwards. So, when the heart beats, there is a smaller volumer of blood ejected from it. The heart then has to beat faster to get the needed blood around the body. This is a lot of work for the heart, and it can start to fail. When this happens, not all of the blood inside it is pushed forward. So, now you have more blood coming in, PLUS that blood that didn't go out, so the pressure builds up inside the heart. This then backs up so there is increased pressure in the blood vessels in the lungs. Because of the increased pressure, fluid gets squeezed out of the blood vessels and into the lungs. With water in the lungs, it is very difficult to get oxygen across the lungs into the blood stream.

Here are some links to more information about congestive heart failure (CHF):

This disease is something which needs prompt veterinary attention. Your cat may need injections of a diuretic (such as Lasix/furosemide) to quickly move the fluid out of his lungs so he can breathe more easily. The vet would likely get x-rays of the chest to see how much fluid is there, and what size his heart is.

Once he is stabilized, he would likely go home with Lasix in pill form so that the fluid doesn't build up again, as well as something called an "ace inhibitor" to help the heart function more effectively.

Blood tests might be needed to determine if this problem is due to hyperthyroidism, which is a very treatable disorder of the thyroid gland in which it produces too much hormone.

Here is more about Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy which is the most common heart problem in cats, and the most common reason they develop pulmonary edema and congestive heart failure:

It sounds as though your kitty is having a rough time right now, and it must be distressing to him to have trouble breathing. Please get him to a veterinarian as soon as possible! I realize that this may mean seeing an emergency veterinarian on this holiday Monday, but I do think you should do that since this condition is life-threatening.

Dr.Fiona and 2 other Cat Veterinary Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Thank you - I'll get him into the car now.

Good luck! And please update me when you get back! You can "reply" to this thread at any time, no further charge. I would love to hear how he is doing - I always worry about about the animals I "meet" on here!


Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Just got back from the emergency vet - they took a couple of x-rays and were glad to see the heart was not enlarged and there weren't any blockages in his gastrointestinal tract. There was some inflammation in his lungs - they wanted to keep him for observation but allowed me to take him home with antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory drug. I will monitor his progress and take him back tomorrow for a check-up.

Oh, that's great! I'm so glad he was seen and is home with you! :-)

I hope that he is feeling better soon!

What did the vets think the diagnosis is?

What are the names of the medications he is on?

Hope he is feeling much better soon!


Customer: replied 8 years ago.
They weren't sure without blood work, which I could not afford. Allergies or perhaps a fungal infection. He's on Aminophylline (100mg #12 - 1/2 tablet every 8 hours) and Baytril (22.7mg - 1 tab daily). He got a injection (SQ/IM?) to begin treatment, and I'm to start the Aminophylline tonight, and the Baytril tomorrow.

Thanks for your follow-up!

I hope that he is feeling better soon, poor boy! Fiona