Pets and Inhalers Do Not Mix

Written by Shireen Abbasey Haynes

During the winter months, chronic health conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may flare up in the cold weather.  A common treatment that many people may have in their homes is an inhaler.  An inhaler delivers a concentrated amount of medicine directly to the lungs.  This medicine is called a bronchodilator and it works by relaxing the muscles in the lungs which opens up the airways and allows more oxygen in as you breathe.  One common drug is Albuterol and other brand names in the bronchodilator family include Proventil, AccuNeb, Proair and Ventolin.

Inhalers, as with any drug, can be toxic to pets.  Cats and dogs can puncture the inhaler if they chew on it and the result is a very large dose of albuterol all at once.  This overdose of albuterol can elevate the heart rate to life-threatening levels and can also cause potassium deficits in the blood.  These deficits can lead to extreme weakness, uncoordination, vomiting and even death.  As is the case with any medication, keep all inhalers out of the reach of your pets and children.  If you believe your pet has chewed an inhaler, consult a veterinarian right away.  The ASPCA maintains a pet poison control line and is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  That number is (888) – 426 – 4435.