23 Aug Asthma Inhalers and Pets
Many dogs are tempted to play with asthma inhalers. They are often left on bedside tables or in bags on the floor. They are made of plastic, like many toys, and have saliva on them which makes them smell good.
These inhalers are helpful for people with asthma as they contain beta-agonists which help the airways to relax and open up. This occurs through activation of beta receptors (present in many places around the body – not just in the airways). The most common metred dose inhalers contain 200 sprays, and therefore a punctured inhaler can rapidly deliver very large amounts of medication directly into a dog’s mouth and lungs, leading to life-threatening poisoning.
When this occurs, there is an overstimulation of the beta receptors as well as a significant movement of potassium into cells throughout the body, leading to dangerously low blood potassium levels. These effects can result in several complications including a fast heart rate, low blood pressure, a change in the way the heart beats, agitation and possibly damage to the heart muscle, seizures and weakness or paralysis which can affect breathing.
To avoid accidental poisoning of your pet, keep inhalers out of reach and preferably locked away in a cabinet. Keep bags closed and off the ground. Never give your pet a human medication unless instructed to do so by your veterinarian.
If your pet has been playing with an inhaler, or punctured one, call us for advice even if your pet appears normal. The service is free for all pet owners: 1300 869 738 (in Australia) or 0800 869 738 (in New Zealand).