Dyspnea In Cats – Treatment and Causes

Dyspnea in cats - Treatment and causes

Feline dyspnea consists of respiratory difficulty, making it annoying, distressing, and with a different degree of impediment depending on the cause that is producing it. Our little felines can present this respiratory pattern due to a multitude of causes, accompanied by more or less associated symptoms depending on the etiology.

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Generally, the most frequently associated symptoms are reduced respiratory rate, bluish discoloration of the mucous membranes (cyanosis), and breathing with the mouth open and the legs and neck extended, which is known as an orthopneic posture to facilitate the entry of the air. The diagnosis of the specific cause is key to guiding the best treatment for a dyspneic cat. Continue reading this Best Pets Lover article to find out more exactly what the symptoms of dyspnea in cats consist of, its treatment and causes, as well as the diagnosis.

What is dyspnea in cats?

Dyspnea is defined as respiratory distress in which affected cats have problems breathing correctly and even this can be practically impossible depending on the severity of the dyspnea, so it is not an unimportant symptom, as it can reach even end the life of your little feline.

This is labored, challenging, and generally painful breathing that is appreciated because the respiratory rate increases to more than 50 breaths per minute, cats manifest an open mouth and have a clear appearance of being anxious.

While eupnea is the normal, calm, expected, and easy breathing of a healthy cat, apnea is the absence of breathing, and dyspnea is abnormal or difficult breathing generally associated with excited, agitated, anesthetized cats, sick with respiratory pathologies or systemic or traumatized.

Unlike other animals, our cats do not breathe through their mouths except when their nose is blocked by a virus or disease that affects the upper airways, so if you notice that your cat has its mouth open and is breathing, you should leave it right away to a veterinary center.

Symptoms of dyspnea in cats

If you are wondering how cats show dyspnea, the truth is that cats with dyspnea are going to present, as we have mentioned, agitated, painful, labored, and often increased breathing that manifests itself with open-mouth breathing, an orthopneic posture that consists of opening the extremities and extension of the neck to facilitate the entry of air.

In addition, dyspneic cats will present other clinical signs such as the following:

  • Anorexia or loss of appetite.
  • Fever.
  • Pale or cyanotic mucous membranes due to lack of air.
  • Chest pain was felt upon palpation. vomiting.
  • Respiratory noises such as whistles, crackles, snoring, or throat clearing.
  • Anxiety.
  • Irritability.
  • Nervousness.
  • Agitation.
  • Cough.
  • Continuous sneezing.
  • Nasal secretions.
  • Constant panting.
  • The corners of the lips retract.
  • Incrise of cardiac frecuency.
  • Hypertension or hypotension.
  • Arrhythmias.
  • Increase in red blood cells.
  • Confusion.
  • Stupor.
  • seizures.
  • Shock.

Causes of dyspnea in cats

There are many and varied causes of dyspnea in the feline species. For example, the most easily detectable cause is the lack of oxygen in the environment, such as being confined in a small room without ventilation for a long time or heat waves that make the environment very hot and humid, causing difficulties on the breath.

Other causes of dyspnea in cats are:

  1. Heart diseases: they are also a cause of dyspnea in the feline species, especially heart failure when there is a failure in the transport of oxygenated blood to the body or a pleural effusion occurs, which consists of the accumulation of fluid in the membranes that cover the lungs, so pulmonary ventilation is limited due to difficulty in its expansion. We tell you more about pleural effusion in cats: causes, symptoms, and treatment in this post.
  2. Respiratory problems: such as bronchopneumonia or pulmonary edema will also compromise adequate gas exchange and lung expansion, causing our cat to have difficulty breathing. These problems are often associated with abnormal lung sounds such as crackles or wheezes. Cats are sensitive to certain viruses that produce symptoms of the upper respiratory tract, such as feline herpesvirus or feline calicivirus, which can cause your cat to present mucus and blockage of the airways, making it difficult for them to breathe and cause them to do so with their mouths open, as well as producing many other clinical signs derived from these infectious diseases. You may be interested in taking a look at the following Best Pets Lover article on respiratory diseases in cats.
  3. Another problem that can cause your cat to have difficulty breathing is a diaphragmatic hernia: in which the abdominal content enters the chest cavity, pressing on the lungs and limiting their expansion and correct breathing.
  4. Other causes that can explain dyspnea in cats are lung parasites, such as Aelurostrongylus abstrusus, or tumors of the respiratory system.

Diagnosis of dyspnea in cats

Diagnosing dyspnea in cats is simple because the clear respiratory effort of cats can be seen with the naked eye. When determining the origin of dyspnea in cats, the veterinarian must carry out various diagnostic tests.

We will start with a correct physical examination and anamnesis of the caregiver, blood analysis, and biochemistry to assess the general state of health of the cat. We will continue with urinalysis and diagnostic imaging tests, especially chest X-ray to assess the condition of the chest cavity and rule out any pulmonary problem, diaphragmatic hernia, or suspected heart problems.

Sometimes it will be necessary to proceed to a chest ultrasound to better assess the structures, especially the heart, along with an electrocardiogram. Thoracentesis to assess fluid in the pleural space, tracheal lavage, or endoscopy to collect samples for cytology, culture, or biopsy, and laboratory testing for feline viruses that may be at work may also be necessary.

Treatment of dyspnea in cats

How is dyspnea cured in cats? When it comes to treating dyspnea in cats, this will vary depending on the cause, since it is not the same that the respiratory distress is caused by an upper airway virus than by a tumor or a diaphragmatic hernia.

  1. Symptomatic treatment: it is usually convenient in all cases, with oxygen therapy and the use of fluids or drugs to stabilize the cat, especially in the case of diseases that cause intense dyspnea or decompensation of the small feline and always in infectious diseases.
  2. Specific treatment: it will depend on the cause of the respiratory distress, such as the use of inhalers or bronchodilators in the case of feline asthma, the use of chemotherapy or surgical removal in the case of tumors, the elimination of fluid in pleural effusion, treatment of heart disease causing heart failure, etc.

Owner Recommendation

Dyspnea is a critical situation, which compromises the patient’s life, it is important to treat the patient very carefully, trying to avoid all kinds of stress (so that a collapse does not occur) and it is necessary to take him immediately to the veterinarian or a center emergency intensive care.

Within the general recommendations, the wandering of cats should be avoided, since it is the main source of trauma due to accidents, which can cause injuries to the lung, the rib cage, or diaphragmatic hernias.

Another important recommendation is to avoid keeping the cat in small, hot places without proper ventilation, especially in the summer.

Lastly, Feline Infectious Peritonitis is one of the main cat diseases that produce liquid accumulation in the thorax, therefore the Veterinarian must be consulted to implement preventive measures.

This article is merely informative, at bestpetslover.com we do not have the authority to prescribe veterinary treatments or carry out any type of diagnosis. If your pet exhibits any form of condition or discomfort, we encourage you to take it to the clinic.

If you want to read more articles similar to Dyspnea in cats – Treatment and causes, we recommend you visit our Cats section.