"Cat panting can have many underlying causes. Panting can be a normal behavior in dogs, since they have to control internal body temperature, but in cats panting and exhibition of symptoms like shallow breathing and systemic disturbances such as cough, lethargy, intolerance etc is never a normal condition. This represents a serious underlying condition, related to the respiratory, cardiovascular, hematological or nervous system. A spectrum of conditions of these physiological systems may leave a cat with panting and shallow breathing. Difficulty breathing is the most common symptom noticed in panting cats, other symptoms such as cough, lethargy, intolerance, respiratory stress and other systemic signs are clinical representations of the involvement of a specific system of the body. Diagnosis is made through taking a history, clinical examination and detailed laboratory tests such as blood biochemical profiling, chest X-Rays, urinalysis and electrocardiogram. Treatment is always done specifically; any underlying cause should be treated properly otherwise cat panting can turn fatal in most cases."
Causes of Cat Panting:
Cats usually do not pant, except in cases of excessive exercises, but that too is rare. In most of the cases, feline panting is considered to be abnormal and treated as a medical emergency because of a possibly fatal underlying systemic reason.
Feline panting is most commonly caused by anxiety, fear, or a hot temperature, however, cat panting from these causes are usually not accompanied by other serious signs such as cough and shallow breathing.
Serious signs of panting in cats is a representation of a cat that is suffering from respiratory, hematological (blood related), cardiovascular or nervous system disorders. Similarly, anemic and poisoned (Carbon monoxide) cats also show symptoms such as panting.
Some of the systemic reasons for panting in cats include:
- Respiratory Health Problems: The feline respiratory system has two parts, the upper and lower respiratory system, where in the upper respiratory tract, nasal blockage and unusual growths such as tumors etc can leave a cat with breathing difficulty. Similarly, in the lower respiratory tract, an abnormal exchange of gases, edema and specific problems such as asthma may leave a cat with shallow breathing and panting. Other factors like pressure over chest and diaphragmatic hernia may leave a cat with lesser respiratory space, thus to inhale more air, a cat may pant heavily.
- Hematological Health Problems: Health problems related to blood, like severe anemia, reduced ferrous or Iron levels in the blood and poisoning with Carbon Monoxide may also cause respiratory stress in cats, which means that an anemic and/or poisoned cat needs more effort and oxygen to fulfill the needs of the body. Thus, the cat pants heavily to inhale excessive air rapidly.
- Cardiovascular Health Problems: Diseases of the heart, vessels and whole vascular system may cause lethargy and intolerance in cats. Similarly, parasitic diseases such as a heartworm infestation may also disturb the cardiovascular – pulmonary mechanism, thus such cats may pant heavily and may die with the most minor symptoms being panting.
- Neurological Health Problems: The respiratory mechanism of a cat is fully controlled by a specified “Respiratory Center” in the hind brain. If this respiratory center is in stress, or is damaged for any reason, like head trauma, pressure, tumors etc, this may induce a false respiratory impulse, which leaves a cat with shallow breathing and panting.
- Environmental and Miscellaneous Factors: Environmental factors such as atmospheric pressure at high altitudes and hot weather can cause severe cat panting. Similarly, pressure on the diaphragm due to pregnancy, abdominal ascites (fluid accumulation), or any other abdominal pressure can leave a cat with heavy breathing.
Symptomatic Representation of Cat Panting:
Cats may pant as the result of anxiety, fever, hot weather or excessive exercise, but that is rare. In such cases, a cat usually returns to normal after some time and does not require any medical attention. But, if cat panting is accompanied by unusual symptoms, such as cough, shallow breathing, persistent fever, lethargy, intolerance and progressive loss of body condition, this represents a serious underlying respiratory, cardiovascular or neurological health disorder. Such cats should immediately be referred to a veterinarian for detailed examination. Most of these underlying conditions cannot be confirmed with clinical examination only; detailed laboratory tests should be conducted for confirmation and elimination of clinical possibilities.
Diagnosis of Cat Panting:
Clinical examination and history is an initial step toward diagnosis. A veterinarian may suggest detailed laboratory testing after making an initial hypothesis about any underlying disease. Blood count, biochemical profiling, urinalysis, detection of anemia, Carbon monoxide poisoning, chest X-Rays, ultrasound and an electrocardiogram may be needed for confirmation of any underlying condition.
Not all, but some of these tests are performed, depending upon the initial clinical observations. In idiopathic (having an unknown cause) or more complicated cases of cat panting, a veterinarian may suggest more specific tests, i.e. heartworm test, endocrinal examination and detection/elimination of fluid from the chest and/or abdomen.
Treatment of Cat Panting:
Panting is a symptom itself; symptomatic therapies may reduce its severity, but complete elimination requires specific treatment of any confirmed underlying disease. Symptoms such as cat panting, cough, lethargy, intolerance or progressive loss of condition (weight loss, fever, loss of appetite etc) are treated even before the confirmed diagnosis is made.
Dehydrated cats (with symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea) are administered electrolytes, and anemic cats are treated with a blood transfusion.
Specific drugs such as anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics or anti-parasitic drugs are only prescribed after reaching a confirmed diagnosis. These drugs treat underlying causes and thus over time, the symptoms of panting and other signs are resolved.
It is always recommended that supportive treatment should be used along with specific treatment. Supportive supplements and natural remedies not only support overall body physiology during periods of disease, but also enhance recovery.
Specific remedies that can help include:
- Respo-K: helpful for cats diagnosed primarily with respiratory problems.
- Heart and Circulation Tonic: for cats diagnosed with cardiovascular problems.
- Energy Tonic: for healthy energy levels and to promote a feeling of well being in cats
Cats confirmed with some serious underlying disease should be treated specifically; regular monitoring, follow up examination and evaluation of any condition is required, usually every 1 – 3 months.
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