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Inhalers, often referred to as a metered dose inhalers (MDI), are small pressurized containers that contain medication. They provide a method of delivering medications by inhalation (breathing in) of the drug. The inhaler will deliver a set dose of medication with each actuation (or "puff").
This route of therapy allows faster delivery of drugs to the respiratory tract than many other methods of drug delivery. The primary underlying disease in cats that requires inhalation therapy is bronchial asthma. For more information, please read the article on Feline Asthma. The most common inhaler medication for cats is albuterol which helps to open the small airways. Steroids may also be used to decrease airway inflammation in some cats.
This treatment may be given in the veterinary hospital or recommended at home. Some cats will have acute bouts of airway inflammation that require immediate therapy.
Most inhalation medications are by prescription only through you veterinarian. Discuss the proper dose and technique with your veterinarian prior to administering the medication at home.
The inhaler is delivered to cats through a "spacer" and "mask". This is a plastic tube that takes the medication from the inhaler down a space and to your cat. The mask attached to the spacer and fits over your cats nose and mouth so she can breathe it in. One commonly used product is the Aerokat. This is the most commonly recommended product by veterinarians. Their website is very good and includes instructions and photos.
Technique for Using an Inhaler on Your Cat
For most inhalation drugs that can be administered at home, this method can be used:
Possible Side Effects
Some medications delivered by inhalers may have side effects may include musculoskeletal twitchiness, possible tachycardia, excitability, decreased appetite. Side effects are fairly uncommon and typically don't last for more than a few hours.
Cleaning the Spacer
Replace cap on inhaler and thoroughly dry the plastic spacer. Typically, the spacer only needs to be soaked weekly in dishwashing solution and air dried. It is not necessary to rinse the soap as it assists in dispersing aerosol particles that contact the spacer surface.
If you feel uncomfortable administering inhalation medication; discuss other alternatives with your veterinarian or ask for a demonstration. If you are having difficulty, call your veterinarians office and ask if you can stop by and have the veterinarian or one of the technicians' demonstrate the technique for you.