Pet Health Articles

Inhalant Treatment for Feline Asthma and Bronchitis

My cat has feline asthma and bronchitis. My veterinarian has prescribed inhaled medications. Why does my cat need an inhaler?

Feline asthma and bronchitis cause narrowing and swelling of the airways in the lungs. Most cats with asthma will experience coughing, difficulty breathing, open-mouth panting, and other signs of respiratory distress. If left untreated, death may occur in severe cases.

"An inhaler can be a lifesaver
for cats suffering from asthma."

For cats with frequent and persistent symptoms, treatment involves administering corticosteroids, which are anti-inflammatory, and a bronchodilator that opens and reduces swelling in constricted airways. For cats that have only occasional symptoms, the inhaler (also known as a “puffer”) may only be needed when an asthma event occurs. Depending on the severity of the disease, an inhaler can be a lifesaver for cats suffering from asthma.

Why is inhaled medication better for my cat than oral medications?

Long-term oral corticosteroid use in cats often produces harmful side effects including diabetes mellitus. An inhaled steroid appears to be more effective than an oral one for the symptoms of feline asthma and bronchitis, and inhaled steroids are associated with fewer side effects than oral steroids.

Is there a specific type of inhaler for cats, and how do I use it?

aerokatThe inhaled medications used to manage feline asthma and bronchitis – corticosteroid and bronchodilator – are human medications, and they are delivered using a special aerosol chamber designed for cats. The inhaler canister attaches at one end of the chamber, and the cat’s mouth and nose are covered by a soft face mask at the other end of the chamber.

Fluticasone propionate is the most commonly used inhaled corticosteroid, and albuterol is the most commonly used inhaled bronchodilator. Most cats readily accept using the aerosol chamber with the inhalers with little anxiety or nervousness, and administration of the medication takes only a few seconds. Your veterinarian will demonstrate safe and correct use of the inhaled medications and the aerosol chamber.

 

Sample Asthma Inhaler Instructions in Cats

1.      Inhaled asthma medications come in multiple sizes and concentrations. Verify that the inhaler you are using matches your veterinarian's current prescription.

2.      Remove the safety cap from the asthma medication inhaler.

3.      Shake the inhaler well for 5 to 10 seconds, and then insert it into the appropriate end of the aerosol chamber.

4.      Place your cat on your lap or on a towel or other soft surface.

5.      Gently place the aerosol chamber mask around your cat's nose and mouth. Ensure that you have a good seal around your cat's face.

6.      Deliver 1 – 2 puffs of medication (or as prescribed) into the chamber.

7.      Continue to hold the inhaler mask in place for five to six breaths.

9.      Follow your veterinarian's recommendations regarding frequency of administration.

10.    Reward your cat with praise and a treat after dosing.

11.    Be sure you know when to replace your cat's inhaler. Most inhaled medications are now metered to show how many doses are left. Monitor the number of remaining doses so you don’t run out. 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.

Ernie Ward, DVM & Robin Downing, DVM, DAAPM, DACVSMR, CVPP
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