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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 22616
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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We have a 9 year old cat who is breathing very quickly

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We have a 9 year old cat who is breathing very quickly - around 42 breaths per minute, other than that there are no obvious signs to any changes in behaviour, he eats well , is still sociable and goes outside. We took him to the vets yesterday and she said that he had fluid on his lungs and a heart murmur. He has been prescribed Frusemide, as well as being given an injection yesterday morning when we took him in.
So far there doesn't seem to have been any slowing in his breathing, how long would it usually take for the drugs to take affect?
Also, we had a day out planned for tomorrow which would leave us away from home from 9 till 6, we are now thinking of cancelling just so that someone can be here just in case. We haven't seen any improvement or deterioration, so are we being over cautious? The vet we saw said that these things can cause the cat to go downhill rapidly.
Any advice or information would be very much appreciated.

Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.

How did the vet diagnose the fluid? Was an xray done?

What dose of Frusemide is he on?
How much does he weigh?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
The vet diagnosed just using a stethoscope to listen to his heart and breathing.
Not exactly sure the dose. She said that the tablet was designed for humans, so the cat would only have 1/4 of it. The cat had 1/2 yesterday morning, 1/2 yesterday evening and 1/4 this morning.
Our cat weighs 4.6kg
Hi again,

If the vet gave you tablets, there should be a label with the milligrams per tablet. Can you check this?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
They are 20mg tablets
Thank you Simon,

Just a few more questions, since you noted a variety of doses in the Frusemide, were you raising them or did your vet advise you to?

Are his gums pink or pale/white?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
The vet checked his gums and said they were ok, pink.
The vet gave him a double dose yesterday morning and advised that if the breathing did not improve to give a double dose. As of yesterday evening it hadn't so we gave double. This morning we gave a single quarter dose although the breathing hadn't improved
Thank you again,

Now I have to say that I am quite concerned about your lad and would advise keeping an eye that his gums stay pink. The reason this is important is because that breathing is elevated over normal (>30bpm), and we have to assume that he is still struggling to take in as much oxygen as he should do.

Now in regards ***** ***** question, Frusemide is a diuretic and designed to help pull fluid out of the lungs (which often occurs secondary to heart disease). While it will take time to get his lungs as clear as possible, we'd expect to see some improvement if he has already had a few doses. And I would note that if he had a half tablet (10mg), that is a a low therapeutic dose and should have helped. He can potentially have more, as he is a large lad, but to not see improvement does raise concerns of whether his heart disease is more severe then the ear can appreciate or that there is something else lurking in his lungs.

Therefore, while he sounds stable and active with that raised rate, I'd be reluctant for him to be on his own this weekend. I don't necessarily expect a problem (his breathing isn't at a critical point and often cats that are really struggling tend to withdraw, hide, may open mouth breathe (always a major red flag of worry), extend their neck, and go off food/water because they cannot spare the moment/breath to do so).Still, if he did have a sudden worsening, we wouldn't want him to be on his own without help to get to the ER vet for oxygen.

Overall, I would note that the half tablet dose is more appropriate for him if he is 4.6kg. Therefore, you can continue dose and consider giving it up to every 8 hours. Still, with his lack of improving with this treatment, I do suspect there is more afoot here. Therefore, once his vet is able to, you may want to consider an xray (to see the lungs, confirm fluid, make sure there is nothing else present) +/- a heart scan. This way you can appreciate the extent of heart disease here and make sure there are no other factors preventing him from responding to the medication. But again, if it was a straightforward heart issue with fluid in the lungs, we'd hope to have started seeing improvement after the injection (it works that fast and is how we treat severe emergency cases). So, we do need to keep an eye, keep him stable over the weekend, but plan to look into this deeper as soon as his vet is open.

I hope this information is helpful.

If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!

All the best,

Dr. B.


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Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hello, thanks for your advice, sorry for not rating or replying, there has been a lot going on. We took him back to the vets today and his heart rate has worsened, now faster.
He has been put on 10mg Frusemide twice daily to help with the breathing.
The vet has told us that it's now a matter of days and we should bring him back on Saturday for a final check but to expect the worst.
However we have done some checking and there is a lot of information about how you can manage this condition which can result in cats having a continued life quite comfortably.
We are under no illusion and know that he is unlikely to see old age but
We feel like our vet has rather thrown in the towel! We are insured, so we would like to get some scans done and explore options before deciding whether to take the final step.
What are your thoughts on this?
Good evening Simon,
I completely understand and completely agree with you. If this vet has not even xrayed nor scanned the heart, then I am concerned that they aren't really giving your wee one the level of care we'd want for him. Generally speaking, we can often manage heart disease in kitties (of course overall prognosis depends on what is amiss, but we can still get good quality time with medical management). Therefore, I would advise requesting referral to a cardiologist immediately (most vet schools will have one in house or there are a number of private referral clinics throughout the country). You can check for your closest veterinary cardiologist via the RCVS database using cardiology as the specialty you are seeking @ (
Please take care & all the best to you both,
Dr. B.