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Cher, Feline Specialist
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 21417
Experience:  Feline Healthcare & Behavior Specialist 40+ years Experience
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My cat is breathing strange. He seems to almost gasp for ...

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My cat is breathing strange. He seems to almost gasp for air and breathes through his mouth when he purrs. My vet says that big cats in the wild commonly do that and not to worry. It seems to be getting worse over time. I think there is something wrong. Would an ultrasound or other test show a possible problem with his airway or lungs when he isn't purring? Would he have to purr to show where the problem is? This would be difficult because he might not purr while getting a test.
Hi, Susan,

I would definitely bring your cat to another vet for evaluation--preferably a feline-only vet, if possible--and a chest x-ray, plus any other diagnostic tests needed, to find the problem.

If this only happens when your cat purrs, he will most probably not be purring during the vet visit or x-ray, but if there's an underlying medical problem causing these symptoms you notice when he's breathing funny/purring, a qualified vet will find it.

Cats can develop asthma, pneumonia, chylothorax (fluid in the space between the wall of the lung and the heart), FIP (feline infectious peritonitis), which can cause fluid retention in the chest cavity, and other pulmonary problems which could be causing your cat's odd breathing. Also, domestic housecats do NOT normally mouth-breathe, unless there's a problem, and they feel like they're not taking in enough oxygen, ans/or they're very hot.

Your vet's mention of the big cat 'cousins' is true, if you see films, etc., of big cats in the deserts and jungles, sometimes they DO breathe through their mouths, or 'pant', because they're overheated, and this is how they help cool themselves off; however, there is very little comparison to that action and the symptoms your cat is displaying now.

Please do your best to find another, well-recommended vet who may specialize in felines, in your area, and schedule an appt. for your cat, ASAP. An evaluation will be done, a diagnosis made, and the appropriate treatment will be provided.

Would you please keep me posted on how your cat is doing and what the vet's findings are? Thanks!

I hope he'll be just fine!

Cher and other Cat Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 10 years ago.
Reply to Jessesmom's Post: If my cat (Buff) becomes anxious during the x-rays, tests, or exam, is it possible for him to gasp for air so much that he can die? There isn't a cat vet close by, but should I explain your suggestion to my vet? What special tests would you recommend that my cat receive? His breathing is normal when he is not purring, but I'm afraid that he might start gasping if he becomes anxious. What are the treatments for the possible problems you mentioned? Would they be invasive or painful? My vet is considered to be one of the best vets in the state....I don't know how he could miss this.
Customer: replied 10 years ago.
I accepted the answer, but requested more detailed information in a reply. Please let me know if the vet is still available. Thanks so much Dr. Jessesmom.
Hi again, and you're very welcome! : )

Please allow me to clarify that I'm not a vet, but a very experienced cat expert. In answer to your additional questions, the vet's staff (vet techs, etc.) know how to get an x-ray and perform other tests in such a way that your cat will not be gasping for air. You can ask your vet if he thinks a mild sedative would be alright, to do the x-ray, if your cat really freaks out at the vet's office, in general; however, with an as of yet, unidentified breathing problem, a sedative might be contraindicated.

If your vet is considered one of the best in the state, then you should definitely discuss your cat's problem with him further and request a chest x-ray and routine blood tests. How old is your cat? If he is a 'senior' (7 or over), the vet will know which blood tests to run. The chest x-ray and blood draw will not be painful to your cat. These tests should be your first step, in order for the vet to determine if there is something which is causing the symptom you describe while he's purring. If something is found to be medically wrong, your vet will know how best to treat it.

I will consult with some of the vets on the site and see if they have any additional suggestions. I will get back to you ASAP, and if you are satisfied with my answer, please click the 'accept' button on top of your question/my answer; as of this time the answer hasn't been 'accepted', as you thought. Thanks for your patience!

Customer: replied 10 years ago.
I accepted the answer, but requested more detailed information in a reply. Please let me know if the vet is still available. Thanks so much Dr. Jessesmom.
Hello again,

Thanks very much for your accept!

Your reply above, has been answered and I'm waiting to hear from one of the vets on the site to see if she has any additional information for you. I'll let you know as soon as I receive an answer from the vet. Thanks for your patience! I'm sending this as an 'info request' so you won't be prompted to accept again; there's no need to respond at this time.