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Panting in Cats

Overview of Panting in Cats

Panting is rapid, shallow respirations characterized by open-mouthed breathing, often accompanied by a protrusion of the tongue. It is seen commonly in dogs, but it is uncommon in cats and is not considered normal, though some cats can pant after brisk play or in times of stress, such as a car ride.

Most commonly panting is in response to environmental changes, such as anxiety, fear, excitement, or heat. However, if panting is excessive or your pet is in distress, it is important to identify the underlying cause. Some of these causes are:

Panting may have little to no impact on the affected individual, especially in association with transient causes such as fear or stress. On the other hand, panting may represent a more severe, even life-threatening illness, therefore, should not be ignored and should be addressed if it persists or worsens. Panting can suggest difficult breathing. For detailed information on “difficulty breathing” in cats, please read Dyspnea (Trouble Breathing) in Cats.

What to Watch For

Diagnosis of Panting in Cats

Before any testing is performed, consider any factors that may be causative such as heat, stress or over exertion and eliminate them from your pet’s environment. If your pet is still panting despite removing the possible cause, and/or signs are long standing or progressive, it is important to seek veterinary care.

Treatment of Panting in Cats

Home Care

Administer all prescribed medications and return for follow up evaluation as directed by your veterinarian. Keep your pet in a cool, stress free environment, and do not overexert your pet.

In-depth Information on Panting in Cats

Panting is seen in both dogs and cats, but is more common in dogs. Panting is often seen associated with environmental changes such as anxiety, fear, excitement, exercise and heat. However, panting may reflect disease, and should not be ignored or assumed “normal” unless there are circumstances around the panting that suggest it is acceptable for the situation at hand. If your pet is panting excessively, or more often than normal, it is important to be evaluated by a veterinarian.

There are many causes of panting. Because panting may be a normal response to environmental and psychological events, it is quite feasible that no underlying illness exists and a full diagnostic workup is not in order. If, however, panting is excessive or your pet is in distress, it is important to identify an underlying cause.

Causes of Feline Panting

Respiratory Disorders

Cardiovascular Disorders

Hematologic Disorders

Diseases that cause reduced oxygen-carrying capacity such as anemia or carbon monoxide poisoning often cause panting.

Neurologic Disorders


Diagnosis In-depth

Therapy In-depth

One or more of the diagnostic tests described above may be recommended by your veterinarian. In the meantime, treatment of the symptoms might be needed, especially if the problem is severe. The following nonspecific (symptomatic) treatments may be applicable to some, but not all pets with panting. These treatments may reduce severity of symptoms or provide relief for your pet. However, nonspecific therapy is not a substitute for definitive treatment of the underlying disease responsible for your pet’s condition.