Respiratory effects of electrical stimulation of phrenic nerve afferents were studied in anesthetized cats, either spontaneously breathing or paralyzed and ventilated. The type of phrenic afferent fibers activated was controlled by recording the evoked action potentials from dorsal root fibers. In both preparations, stimulation at a strength sufficient to activate small diameter myelinated phrenic nerve afferents induced a biphasic response. The first phase lasted a few respiratory cycles and was inhibitory and consisted of a decrease in tidal volume (VT) or phrenic activity (NA), inspiratory time (TI), respiratory duty cycle (TI/Ttot) and instantaneous ventilation (VE) or minute phrenic activity (NMA). Expiratory time (TE) increased and breathing frequency (f) and mean inspiratory flow (VT/TI) or mean inspiratory neural activity (NA/TI) did not change. This short-term response was suppressed in animals pretreated with bicuculline. The second phase was a long-term excitation in which VT or NA, f, VE or NMA and VT/TI increased whereas both TI and TI/Ttot decreased and TE did not change. Unlike published data, our results suggest that small-diameter myelinated phrenic nerve afferents are involved in these responses. These phrenic fibers, like afferents from other muscles, affect respiratory output and may play a role in the control of breathing.