What is Cat Wheezing and When Should You See a Vet?

As a responsible cat owner, it is important that you keep an eye out for any potential signs that your cat is unwell. This involves understanding their behavior and the different noises they make. As you get to know your cat, you will soon become accustomed to the different things they do and this should give you some idea of what is normal and what is a potential sign of a problem. One thing that cats do that may cause you some concern is wheezing. While in some instances this is nothing for you to become too concerned about, it can also be a symptom of health problems. So, when is wheezing normal and when should you seek the advice of your vet? Here is all you need to know about cat wheezing.

What Cat Wheezing Sounds Like

Cats make all sorts of strange noises and it is sometimes difficult to identify these and differentiate between them. Wheezing sounds like they are struggling to get enough air and you can actually hear them breathe, something which is usually unnoticeable.

Are They Coughing Up a Hairball?

A common mistake made by cat owners is to think their cat is wheezing when it is actually a cat bringing up a hairball. This is something that a cat does to get rid of the balls of hair in their stomach. These have formed because when cats groom themselves, the small hooks on their tongues pick up hair and this then forms a mass in their stomachs. The only way they can get rid of these is by vomiting. When they are trying to bring up the hairball, the sound they make is similar to wheezing. However, they will stop making this noise as soon as they have got rid of the hairball.

The Reasons Cats Wheeze

There are several different reasons why a cat may wheeze. Most commonly, wheezing is associated with respiratory allergies or asthma. It can also be a sign of a growth in the throat or sinuses. Another cause of wheezing is a foreign body that is trapped in the respiratory tract. In more rare circumstances, wheezing is a sign that a cat is suffering from a serious health condition, such as heartworms, parasites, pneumonia, or heart failure.

Do They Need to Go to the Vet?

The first thing you should do is rule out the possibility of hairballs. If this is not the cause of the wheezing, then the cat will need to see the vet. If the cat is not wheezing continuously, try to video an episode of wheezing to show the vet as this can help them to make the right diagnosis. The vet will conduct an examination of the cat, including listening to their chest. They may need to do further tests, such as taking blood or X-rays.

Is This an Emergency?

If the cat is wheezing continuously, then it is a medical emergency and you need to contact your vet immediately and take your pet straight to the surgery. Cats that are not wheezing continuously are usually not an emergency, so booking a regular appointment is fine.

Treating Cat Wheezing

How cat wheezing is treated depends on the cause of the wheezing. If the cause is an infection, then the vet will prescribe antibiotics. On the other hand, if the cause is asthma or respiratory allergies, they may prescribe an inhaler or steroids. Some diseases that cause wheezing require long-term treatment while others are treated quickly.

The Difference Between Wheezing and Coughing

Although cat wheezing and coughing may sound similar, they are different. Coughing is usually associated with the lungs and is most commonly caused by an infection or asthma. On the other hand, wheezing can involve any part of the respiratory tract and has many more potential causes.

Other Strange Noises

In addition to wheezing and coughing, there are many more similar noises your cat may make that may confuse you. For example, they may make snorting or huffing noises. These are unlikely to be a sign of illness. However, you should observe your cat for any noises that they make that are out of the ordinary. If you are at all concerned, then always contact your vet for professional advice.


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