Breathing Difficulty

Here's info on what to do if your pet can't catch his breath.

Watching your normally happy, healthy pet experience breathing difficulty can be frightening. Just as people do, pets get anxious when they have trouble breathing. Their pupils dilate and they might extend their necks, breathe through their mouths, and wheeze. As scary as this situation is, you need to remain calm and get your pet to a veterinary hospital safely.

Cats dont sweat through their skin the way we do; they may pant after exercise or during hot weather to cool off. But rapid breathing or panting also can indicate pain, fever or anxiety. If your pet experiences true breathing difficulty, youll notice a distinct change in his posture, attitude, and breathing pattern. His breaths may be rapid and shallow or slow and labored, and your pet may refuse to lie down.

Common causes of respiratory difficulty include a foreign object lodged in the throat, feline asthma, swelling or paralysis of the larynx, heart failure, pneumonia, cancer, fluid or air in the chest cavity, severe anemia, trauma, poisoning, complications of heartworm disease, and pulmonary thromboembolism (a large clot lodged in the vessels of the lungs).

What You Can Do at Home
If your pet experiences breathing difficulty, dont try to manage the problem at home take him to the veterinarian immediately.

If your pet suddenly has trouble breathing during his dinner or while playing with a favorite toy, he may have inhaled food or a piece of the toy. Usually the pet will cough or gag and have obvious trouble catching his breath. You may attempt the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge the object. Here's how: Grab the area just below your cat's rib cage with your fingers and give a quick squeeze. If the first squeeze doesnt work, try again this time more forcefully.

What Your Veterinarian Will Do
Your veterinarian will try to relieve the breathing problem, either by removing a foreign object; administering oxygen therapy, corticosteroids, or other drugs; or performing a tracheostomy (cutting an opening in the windpipe and inserting a tube to allow air to pass into the lungs). After your pets condition is stable, your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination, and he or she may recommend blood tests, X-rays, and an ultrasound to determine a cause.

Although breathing difficulty is serious, many underlying conditions respond well to treatment. Once the underlying cause is remedied, both you and your pet can breathe a sigh of relief.