What Is Noisy Breathing in Cats?
While noisy breathing itself is not life-threatening, it may be the underlying condition. If the cause is airway obstruction, complete obstruction of the airway can quickly result in complete respiratory failure. Congestion, constriction, or other problems that cause noisy breathing can occur in almost any part of the respiratory system, including the nose, mouth, throat, larynx, bronchi, or smaller airways in the lungs. Cats experiencing noisy breathing should be examined by a veterinarian immediately to diagnose or rule out potentially serious medical conditions.
The term ‘noisy breathing’ is used to describe any condition in which breathing is abnormally high. This includes breathing that is clearly audible without the use of veterinary equipment. Noisy breathing may sound like wheezing, snoring, or squeaking.
Noisy Breathing Symptoms in Cats
The primary symptom of noisy breathing in cats is audible breathing. The noise can range from a lower-pitched snoring sound to a louder whistling or squeaky sound. It may be accompanied by respiratory changes or difficulty breathing. Noisy breathing can be associated with numerous other symptoms, depending on the underlying cause of the condition. Associated symptoms can become very severe and even fatal.
- loud breathing sounds
- difficulty breathing
- open mouth breathing
- panting or rapid breathing
- Abdominal and chest movement while breathing
- enlarged nostrils
- coughing or sneezing
- Breathing with the neck extended or elbows out
- squeaking sounds when breathing
- Snoring sounds even when awake
- sound changes
- Inability to vocalize or meow
- exercise intolerance
- a cough that produces mucus
- runny nose
- Pain and related vocalizations
- Pale mucous membranes
- Behavior changes
- inability to breathe
- collapse or fainting
- Sudden death
Types of Noisy Breathing in Cats
There are two main types of noisy breathing. The type is determined by where the respiratory disorder is and can usually be identified by the sound the cat makes when breathing. Types of noisy breathing include:
Stridor: High-pitched noisy breathing, usually caused by a blockage or problem in the larynx or windpipe. Stertor is noisy breathing that occurs during breathing. It is a low-pitched, snoring-type sound, usually caused by the vibration of fluid or the vibration of loose or loose tissue. It is usually caused by a blockage of the airway in the throat (pharynx).
Stertor: Noisy breathing with a low-pitched sound that usually occurs when breathing and is usually caused by a problem in the nose or throat. Stridor, high-pitched, noisy breathing. Higher pitched sounds occur when relatively hard tissues vibrate with the passage of air. It usually results from partial or complete obstruction of the nasal passages or voice box (larynx) or collapse of the upper part of the windpipe (known as neck tracheal collapse).
Unusually loud breath sounds are often the result of air moving through abnormally narrow passages and encountering resistance to airflow due to partial occlusion of these areas. Origin may be at the back of the throat (nasopharynx), throat (pharynx), larynx (larynx), or trachea (trachea). Such abnormal breath sounds can be heard without the use of a stethoscope.
The upper airway or upper respiratory tract includes the nose, nasal passages, throat (pharynx), and windpipe (trachea). Noisy breathing is common in short-nosed, flat-faced (brachycephalic) cat breeds such as Persians and Himalayans. Short-nosed, flat-faced (brachycephalic) cats with inherited paralysis of the larynx are typically less than one year old when respiratory problems are detected. Paralysis of the larynx (laryngeal paralysis) typically occurs in older cats. Cats are less diagnosed than dogs with no obvious age pattern.
Causes of Noisy Breathing in Cats
Numerous conditions can cause noisy breathing in cats, from congenital abnormalities to infections, foreign bodies, and a variety of diseases and conditions. Identifying whether it is stridor or stertore can help identify the problem as they affect different airways. However, certain underlying causes can result in both types of noisy breathing. Common causes of noisy breathing in cats can include:
My Cat Makes Noise While Breathing, What Should I Do?
If your cat makes a sound while breathing, it is a situation that requires veterinary evaluation. If your cat is breathing continuously or abnormally, it is important to contact your veterinarian immediately. However, you can follow the steps below until you get an appointment right away. First of all, check your cat’s breathing rate and frequency, observe if there is anything different from normal. If your cat has symptoms such as trouble breathing or panting frequently, inform your veterinarian and schedule an appointment. You can also apply a damp towel or steam bath to relieve your cat’s breathing. However, these measures can only provide temporary relief and follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for definitive diagnosis and treatment.
Diagnosing Noisy Breathing in Cats
Because there are so many potential causes of noisy breathing, diagnosing the underlying condition may require a variety of diagnostic methods. Much of the process will involve confirming or eliminating potential causes using a screening process. Be prepared to discuss your cat’s entire medical history and describe any symptoms you have observed. Your vet will perform a complete physical examination and collect urine and blood samples for analysis. Your pet’s blood oxygen level will be measured using blood gas analysis or pulse oximetry. If noisy breathing is accompanied by difficulty breathing or if blood oxygen levels are low, oxygen therapy may be provided to stabilize the cat, while other diagnostic measures are used to identify the underlying cause of the condition.
Once the animal is stabilized, diagnostic analysis can begin. X-rays, urinalysis, and common laboratory blood tests will be done on your pet’s samples. This is blood tests; may include complete blood count and biochemistry and electrolyte profiles. Your veterinarian will listen to the airways with a stethoscope to locate the noise in the nose, throat or windpipe. Diagnostic imaging, including X-rays or ultrasounds, may also be used to look for foreign bodies, tumors or signs of growth, or other problems in the respiratory tract and sinuses. Imaging with bronchoscopy can also be used to examine the nose, throat, and airways. In some cases, samples of fluid, mucus, or tissue may also be taken to aid diagnosis.
Noisy Breathing Treatment in Cats
Treatment for cats with noisy breathing will primarily focus on treating the underlying cause. For example, if a tumor is found to be the cause of the cat’s noisy breathing, surgical removal or other cancer treatments may be used. Noisy breathing that does not affect the function of the respiratory system, especially of unclear cause, may not require any treatment. Some of the possible treatments for noisy breathing in cats include:
Providing oxygen can aid respiratory function and help maintain healthy blood oxygen levels. Oxygen can be provided using cylinders, a mask, or an oxygen cage. This is a relatively low-risk treatment, but is administered on an inpatient basis to monitor for potential problems.
Intravenous (IV) fluids can be used to treat pets with noisy breathing, especially if dehydration or mucus is causative. Administered fluids can help thin the mucus and make coughing more productive. This therapy is considered a low-risk treatment and is usually provided on an inpatient basis only.
This category of drugs is commonly used to treat allergies and allergic reactions. It can help with breathing even when allergies are not the only cause. Proper dosing is essential to reduce the risk of side effects.
This category of medication is commonly used for breathing difficulties, including asthma. Steroids carry a moderate risk of side effects and will not generally be prescribed to cats with weak immune function.
Respiratory and other bodily infections are often contributing factors to noisy breathing. Antibiotic drugs help eliminate the infection and help the immune system overcome the disease. Proper dosing is essential to reduce the risk of side effects.
Diuretics may be used if fluid is available to help the body clear fluid and improve oxygenation. For example, in cases of heart failure, diuretics may be needed.
Surgery may be necessary if a tumor, injury, or foreign body is blocking the airway and causing noisy breathing. The surgery carries a moderate risk of side effects. If surgical intervention is required, your cat will likely be hospitalized to reduce the risk of complications.
Your veterinarian must decide which of these treatments will be appropriate for your cat. Never give your cat any medication without consulting him.
Improvement of Noisy Breathing in Cats
Your pet’s prognosis will depend on the underlying cause of the noisy breathing. If treatment is possible, the prognosis is better. Some animals will be able to lead a normal life even if noisy breathing can never be cured. While your cat is recovering, you should avoid sudden dietary changes, environmental changes, and stressors. If dietary changes are recommended to help your cat recover, it is best to make the changes gradually to avoid increased stress and anxiety. To maintain good air quality, you must ensure that living spaces are protected from cold, humidity, drafts and dust. Monitor your pet for symptoms and seek help from your veterinarian if they return or worsen. If you follow all your veterinarian’s instructions regarding care, medications, and follow-up appointments, your cat will regain good health.
It may be helpful to measure your cat’s breathing rate while at rest. Rapid breathing is typically classified as >30 breaths/minute and usually indicates an underlying problem. In this case, it is best to contact your cat’s veterinarian immediately.