How To Use A Cat Inhaler To Treat Feline Asthma
This article is part of our Cat Asthma series. Download the full Guide To Cat Asthma here.
To treat feline asthma, cats are prescribed corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and, in many cases, bronchodilators to open the airways during asthma attacks.
Traditionally, these medications have been given as oral medications or injections. However, inhaled medications are a better option for treating cat asthma because the medication targets the airways directly, instead of needing to be processed by the body first. There are also fewer potential side effects when using inhaled medications compared to oral or injected medications, making it the preferred method of treatment for many veterinarians and pet owners.
Just like inhalers are used to treat asthma in humans, inhalers can be used to treat asthma in cats. It's important to be familiar with how to use a cat inhaler in order to make sure your cat gets the medication they need.
For many, the thought of using a mask on their cat is terrifying. However, most cats, including the grumpy ones, are accepting and can learn and love to use an inhaler mask. It certainly can be easier than trying to give your cat a pill, especially when in distress (like during an asthma attack).
Delivering Asthma Medication To Cats
If your cat has been diagnosed with asthma, your vet may have prescribed aerosol medication in the form of a metered dose inhaler (MDI).
Since cats cannot be instructed when to take a breath, a spacer device needs to be used with the inhaler. These devices feature a mask and chamber that helps ensure your cat is getting the medication they need.
What You Should Look For In A Spacer Device
When selecting a spacer/chamber device for your cat, it's important to look for one that is specifically designed for cats (such as the AeroKat* Chamber). This ensures proper fit of the inhaler mask and that the medication gets delivered to your cat's lungs.
It's important that the device you choose has both a fitted mask meant for cats, the correct valve, as well as non-stick masks. Masks that are designed for human faces do not fit the same way on cats, meaning medication can leak out.
Keep an eye out for devices that have a mask meant for cats but are missing the valve designed for low inspiratory flow. These may be human products simply marketed towards cats. Make sure the mask is also designed not to pull or stick to ensure administering the medication is not an unpleasant experience for your pet.
The AeroKat* Difference
The AeroKat* is a cat-specific chamber that has a specialized valve that is designed for the low inspiratory airflow in cats. This means the valve opens easily with shallow breaths, allowing the medication to flow from the chamber and into your cat's lungs effectively. The AeroKat* is also the only chamber with a dedicated Flow-Vu* inhalation indicator, which moves when your cat inhales so you can confirm a mask seal, count breaths, ensure proper use, and be confident in medication delivery.
Not all chambers are created the same, which can lead to differences in how much medication is available for your cat to inhale. According to a recent study, the performance of chamber devices that appear to look to the same may differ in efficacy.1
The AeroKat* Chamber has been designed to make more medication available to your cat and hold the medication in the chamber for a longer period of time. This gives your cat more time to inhale the dose before it is lost, which means less medication wastage and potential cost savings of over $1,200 per month compared to other anti-static chambers.
The AeroKat* Chamber is Made in Canada with Canadian and American parts by Trudell Medical International (est. 1922), the same makers of the AeroChamber* valved holding chamber. The AeroChamber* is used by physicians around the world to help people with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
How To Give A Feline Asthma Inhaler To Your Cat
Before Administering The Inhaler
It is best to get your cat used to the device before trying to administer any medications. Familiarizing your cat with the chamber and mask helps when it's needed in emergency situations and make it less likely for your cat to get frightened and resist the device.
Make the experience as positive as possible for your pet. Use the condition, love, reward approach to help your cat adjust.
- Condition: Slowly and calmly familiarize them to the chamber (before administering a dose).
- Love: Give your cat hugs, pets, and cuddles before, during, and after treatment.
- Reward: Reward your cat with treats before and after treatment, especially when familiarizing your cat with the device.
Start by just using the mask, and gradually build up to holding it on your cat's face for 20-30 seconds. Once your cat becomes comfortable with the mask, attach it to the chamber and familiarize your cat with the entire device.
You will notice the Flow-Vu* inhalation indicator in the AeroKat* Chamber move or flutter when your cat breathes in. This indicates a secure seal on your cat's face, when to administer medication, and helps count the number of breaths your cat takes once the medication is released into the chamber.
Steps For Giving The Inhaler To Your Cat
Once your cat is familiar with the mask and spacer, medications can be administered. Follow these simple steps to give your cat an inhaler using the AeroKat* Chamber:
- Shake the inhaler and insert into the back of the chamber.
- Gently apply the mask to your cat's face, covering the mouth and nose. The Flow-Vu* indicator will move to confirm a good seal.
- Depress the inhaler to release the medication.
- Use the Flow-Vu* inhalation indicator to count 7-10 breaths, then remove from your cat's face.
- After treatment, use a damp cloth to remove any residual medication on fur.
If your vet has prescribed more than one puff of medication per treatment, wait 30 seconds before shaking and administering the next puff. Do not administer all prescribed puffs at once.
To make the process as easy as possible for you and your cat, use some of these tips when using the AeroKat* Chamber:
- Before familiarization, lay the chamber on the ground to encourage curiosity.
- Wipe some tuna fish or food inside the mask to encourage your cat to accept the mask on their face.
- Associate a positive response to the chamber by halting play for a minute and hiding the device behind your back. Bring it back out and reward with treats, hugs, and play.
- Swaddle your cat in a towel or blanket while administering treatment to ease nerves.
- If your cat gets frightened when pressing the inhaler, press the inhaler before placing the mask on its face. (Note that not all chambers are the same. The AeroKat* Chamber is designed to hold the medication for a longer time so you can press the inhaler behind your back with limited risk of medication loss.)
- Reference our instructional video if you are unsure of how the device works.
Above all else, be patient! It may take time for your cat to be comfortable using the mask and chamber. But with a little practice and love, your cat, like some of our cat friends, may come running when it's time to take their inhaled medication.
Help Your Asthmatic Cat Live A Happy & Healthy Life
Your asthmatic cat can live a happy and healthy life provided their asthma is being treated properly. Giving your cat an inhaler, when used in conjunction with the AeroKat* Chamber, is a quick way to ensure the medications your cat needs are directly reaching their lungs.
For additional help and instructions for using the AeroKat* Chamber, check out the following resources:
- AeroKat* Feline Aerosol Chamber Demonstration
- AeroKat* Feline Aerosol Chamber Instructions
- AeroKat* Mask Sizer
- AeroKat* Product Brochure
- S. Dissanayake, M. Nagel, E. Falaschetti, J. Suggett. “Are valved holding chambers (VHCs) interchangeable? An in vitro evaluation of VHC equivalence.” U.S. National Library of Medicine (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29024795)