My cat has asthma. My veterinarian has suggested I switch from oral to inhalant medications. Why does my cat need an inhaler?
Asthma is a chronic disease that causes narrowing and swelling of the airways in the lungs. Most cats with asthma will experience coughing, difficulty breathing, open-mouth panting, and other respiratory distress. In severe cases, death may occur in severe cases that remain untreated.
For cats that have frequent and persistent symptoms, traditional treatment involves administering corticosteroids (steroids) or other drugs (bronchodilators) that open and reduce swelling in constricted airways. For cats that have only occasional symptoms, a metered dose inhaler (puffer) may be used whenever an asthma event occurs. Depending on the severity of the disease, an inhaler can be a lifesaver for cats suffering from asthma.
Inhaled steroids are associated with fewer side effects than oral steroids
Why is an inhaler better for my cat than oral medications?
Cats that experience daily asthma symptoms will require higher doses of medication. Because long-term steroid use can have undesirable side effects (such as increased chance of certain infections, poor wound healing and weight gain to name a few) and inhaled steroids are associated with fewer side effects than oral steroids, administering steroids by inhaler is preferred.
Is there a specific type of inhaler for cats, and how do I use it?
Several types of inhalers work well in cats. There are inhalers that are specially designed for cats (e.g., AeroKat). It uses a standard asthma puffer attached to a soft facemask and aerosol chamber (where the medication is stored). Asthma medications, including a steroid such as fluticasone propionate (e.g., Flovent) and a bronchodilator such as albuterol (e.g., Proventil or Ventolin), can be easily given using an inhaler. Most cats readily accept the inhaler with little associated anxiety or nervousness, and administration of the medication takes only a few seconds. Your veterinarian will demonstrate safe and correct use of the inhaler.
Sample Asthma Inhaler Instructions in Cats
1. Asthma puffers come in many sizes and medication concentrations. Verify that the inhaler you are using matches your veterinarian's current prescription.
2. Remove the safety cap from the asthma medication puffer.
3. Insert the asthma puffer into the inhaler chamber where instructed in the manual, and shake for 5 to 10 seconds
4. Place your cat in a safe and secure area on a towel or other soft surface.
5. Gently place the inhaler mask around your cat's nose and mouth. Ensure that you have a good seal around your cat's face.
6. The AeroKat inhaler has a special indicator that alerts you when you have an adequate seal and when your cat is breathing in. This special inspiratory indicator will flutter when your cat is inhaling.
7. When your cat inhales, activate the puffer.
8. Continue to hold the inhaler mask in place for an additional five to six breaths.
9. Follow your veterinarian's recommendations regarding frequency of administration.
10. Reward your cat with praise and a special meal if your veterinarian approves.
11. Be sure you know when to replace your cat's inhaler. It can be difficult to determine when many inhalers are out of the active ingredient. With experience, it is easy to tell by weight when an inhaler is out of ingredient, but you can always give it a shake and test it before administering.