Labored Breathing in Dogs & Cats

Is your dog or cat having a hard time catching their breath? Does their breathing sound abnormal, or do they appear to be struggling with each breath? Breathing problems can be very scary, especially in a pet that cannot verbally communicate with you what is going on. In this post, we’ll go over ways to spot labored breathing, some of the most common reasons why your dog or cat may have labored breathing, and how to get urgent veterinary help in the north Tampa area.

IMPORTANT: Labored breathing is ALWAYS a veterinary emergency. You should seek veterinary care for your pet as soon as you notice labored breathing. If you have a pet emergency in the Wesley Chapel area in the evenings or on weekends, Pet Urgent Care is standing by to help. Call us at 813-279-6500 to let us know you’re on the way, then come to 27027 SR 56 in Wesley Chapel, FL to have your pet evaluated quickly and emergency care provided if needed.

Signs of Labored Breathing

If you’re already worried about your pet’s breathing, it’s probably because you noticed something odd about their behavior. As our pet owners, we know them best, so we are more able to spot deviations from their normal routines. Acting quickly when signs of labored breathing are noticed is critical for a positive outcome.

Dogs and cats tend to show different signs during episodes of labored breathing, so we’ll go over each species separately:


  • Respiratory rate over 40 breaths per minute
  • Trying to elongate or broaden the neck and upper body to inhale more air
  • Stomach heaving in and out more than usual
  • Constant cough, especially at night
  • Hoarse-sounding bark
  • Restlessness
  • Anxious pacing
  • Persistent panting
  • Inability to tolerate exercise
  • Blue gums
  • Discharge from the mouth


Cats tend to hide when they are not feeling well, so identifying labored breathing in a cat can be much more difficult. Look out for these signs if you notice your kitty acting strange:

  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Trying to elongate the neck to inhale more air
  • Persistent coughing
  • Breathing with an open mouth
  • Blue gums
  • Discharge from the mouth
  • Isolating or hiding

Causes of Labored Breathing in Pets

Labored breathing is not normal and should always be associated with a cause. Many things can cause labored breathing in cats and dogs, including:

  • Respiratory disease or tumors
  • Cardiovascular failure
  • Metabolic problems
  • Infection
  • A side effect of cancer
  • Poison exposure
  • Physical trauma

Some pet breeds, such as English Bulldogs, can be genetically predisposed to having respiratory issues. Always research the breed of dog or cat you plan to bring home, so you’ll know about any possible medical conditions.

Where to Get Help for Your Pet in Wesley Chapel

Once again, labored breathing is ALWAYS a veterinary emergency. If you’re in Wesley Chapel and need veterinary help in the evenings, on a weekend, or even on a holiday, Pet Urgent Care is here to help. We’re located at 27027 SR 56 in Wesley Chapel, FL. Just give us a call at 813-279-6500 to let us know you’re on the way, and we’ll be waiting to quickly care for your sick cat or dog.