What Causes Cats to Breathe Heavy & Have a Loss of Appetite?

by Susan Paretts, Demand Media Google
    Your vet can examine and stabilize your sick kitty.

    Your vet can examine and stabilize your sick kitty.

    If your furry friend has lost her appetite and appears to be breathing heavy, she could be very ill and needs veterinary attention right away. These symptoms can indicate a variety of very serious medical conditions, many of which can be fatal if not treated quickly.

    Matters of the Heart

    When your kitty's heart is weakened by conditions like hypertrophic or dilated cardiomyopathy, it doesn't function properly, leading to a buildup of fluid in the pleural cavity. The fluid in this cavity, which is located between the lungs and chest, puts pressure on the lungs. Without much room to expand and contract, the lungs become compromised, leading to difficulty breathing and a decrease in appetite. Kitties with cardiomyopathy usually have a heart murmur and abnormal heartbeat. They may also develop blood clots that can lead to paralysis of their back legs as well.

    Lung & Breathing Problems

    Kitties develop fluid in the pleural cavity, a condition known as pleural effusion, not only from heart issues, but a variety of other issues as well. Kidney disease, cancer, chest infections and feline infectious peritonitis may all result in pleural effusion. Internal parasites like lungworms, asthma, pneumonia or the feline immunodeficiency virus may also cause lung problems that can result in labored breathing, which discourages your kitty from eating because she feels so awful. Potentially less serious issues like upper respiratory infections or allergies impair your kitty's breathing when her air passages become blocked with mucous. When your furry friend can't smell her food, she'll lose her appetite and won't eat, which can cause further health issues.

    Other Possibilities

    Toxoplasmosis is a condition caused by an internal parasite called the Toxoplasma gondii- people can also be affected with it. This condition can affect the kitty's lungs and appetite. Our feline friends may contract it from infected soil outdoors or eating raw meat. Other possible causes of heavy, labored breathing and a loss of appetite with cats include severe trauma, internal tumors and hiatal or diaphragmatic hernia.

    Secondary Conditions

    Any type of breathing difficulty, even from a very treatable cause, is a serious issue that can cause your kitty stress, leading to other health problems. When your kitty doesn't eat, she can also develop a secondary condition called hepatic lipidosis, which compromises her liver. Without treatment, 90 percent of kitties diagnosed with hepatic lipidosis don't survive the disease, according to the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

    Veterinary Care

    When you bring your kitty to the vet with labored breathing and a lack of appetite, he'll likely stabilize her in an oxygen tank to ease her breathing. Once stable, he'll perform a series of tests including X-rays, blood and urine tests and possibly an electrocardiogram or echocardiogram of the heart. The vet may have to remove any fluid from in or around the lungs to allow for normal breathing and administer diuretics to prevent these fluids from building up again. In cases where the underlying condition causing a cat's symptoms can be treated with medication, a vet may prescribe some to get the illness under control. Kitties with chronic conditions may need to be on medication for the rest of their lives.

    About the Author

    Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, crafts, television, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared in "The Southern California Anthology" and on Epinions. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.

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