Why Is My Cat Panting, Mouth Open And Tongue Out Like A Dog?

It’s every cat parent’s worst nightmare when their cats become sick. Therefore, seeing your cat gasping for air, tongue dangling and head trembling, can make you extremely anxious, if not panicked, and leave you wondering.  

“Why is my cat panting, mouth open and tongue out like a dog?”

But, before we go any further, do yourself a favor and get rid of the worst-case scenario mindset for good. Just as a dry cough doesn’t always indicate bronchitis or lung cancer, panting doesn’t always indicate a serious, deadly problem in cats. 

Why Is My Cat Panting?

Panting is more common in dogs than in cats. Having said that, your cat may pant when he is:

  • Overheated

Like us, cats can also suffer from heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. Scary, right?

  • Stressed and anxious

For example, your cat may become anxious and pant when you take him to the vet.

  • Recovering from strenuous activity

I’m referring to activities like chasing laser pointers, toys or other unfortunate small animals.

If either of these is truly the case, your cat’s panting should resolve on its own once he has cooled down, calmed down or rested. Otherwise, according to Dr. Elizabeth Corwell, the panting could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition such as:

  • Asthma

Cats can develop asthma too, and it happens when they inhale allergens that trigger an immune response, constricting the airways.

  • Heartworm

Self-explanatory. Be sure to keep your cat on monthly heartworm preventative!

  • Respiratory infection

In layman’s terms, it’s the flu. The inside of your cat’s nose becomes inflamed and clogged with thick, gooey mucus, causing breathing difficulty. 

  • Congestive heart failure

Basically, it causes fluid accumulation in and around your cat’s lungs, and I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

When Should I Take My Cat To The Vet?

You should seek emergency veterinary care immediately if:

  • Your cat’s breathing doesn’t return to normal after 15 minutes of cooling down, calming down or resting.
  • He isn’t initially overheated, stressed, or tired from strenuous activity.
  • You’re in doubt.

My advice, consult a vet whenever you suspect something is wrong with your cat. And, you best assume that the vet can’t talk to cats, so you should provide a detailed history of your cat’s condition to help him make an accurate diagnosis.

What Should I Do If No Vet Is Available?

If your cat is panting more than usual and there’s no vet available or you’re unable to take your cat to a vet for some reason, you can try steam nebulization. In some cases, it helps your cat to clear secretions more effectively by increasing the moisture in his lungs.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Bring your cat into the bathroom and shut the door. 
  2. Close all windows and turn off all vent fans.
  3. Run a hot shower to fill up your bathroom with steam.
  4. Allow your cat to breathe in the warm, moist air for about 10-15 minutes.

You can also learn how to use a nebulizer on a cat and keep one at home. The machine helps to deliver vapourized medications to your cat’s lungs in the same way that it does for humans. 

It comes in handy if your cat requires frequent breathing assistance, such as if he has asthma or chronic respiratory problems. Not only can you act quickly to save your cat’s life, but you can also save money in the long run.

However, DO NOT put your cat through this home treatment without first consulting a vet about the specifics. For more information on nebulization techniques, I recommend you to read this in-depth article by Dr. Catherine Barnette.

To summarize, the cause of panting in cats can range from something as simple as an exercise to something as serious as lung disease. If you notice an unusual pattern in your cat’s panting, please take him to the vet as soon as possible, by any means.

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