Who would think that an object as mundane as an inhaler could pose such a threat to our furry friends? Unfortunately, inhalers can and do cause significant health issues if chewed by dogs. Precautions must be taken to keep them away from pets.
Bella wasn't so fortunate. Bella is a lovable 1 year old female Shepherd mix. She found and chewed her owner's Ventolin inhaler. The inhaler is filled with albuterol. Albuterol is in a drug class called beta antagonists. They are lifesaving medications for people with asthma. One of the many effects of this medication is to dilate the airways and allow easier breathing. Another, often unwanted effect of this medication can be elevated heart rate and a drop in blood potassium levels. When used appropriately, these side effects are minimal. When a pet chews on an inhaler however, it receives a large quantity of the medication all at one time. As a result, heart rate can skyrocket into the 200-300 range (normal for a dog is 90-120), blood potassium levels can drop leading to profound weakness.
Luckily, Bella's owners recognized that she had chewed the Ventolin and was exhibiting symptoms. They brought Bella into REACH. The staff at REACH responded by immediately assessing Bella's vital signs and electrolytes. Her heart rate was 250, and she was panting heavily. Her blood potassium levels had dropped, but they were not yet at critical levels. Due to Bella's owner's quick action, the doctors and staff at REACH were able to help her. Using a drug called propranolol, which has the opposite effect of albuterol, Bella's heart rate was brought down to a more normal level while her electrolytes were normalized.
Treatment for albuterol inhaler toxicity can be expensive. Due to the need for financial help expressed by Bella's owners, and the fact that Bella had an excellent prognosis for recovery with treatment, Bella was selected to receive funds from the Rudy to the Rescue non-profit.
After 48 hours of treatment, Bella's blood potassium levels were normal, her heart rate had come down to a more normal range, and she was eating, drinking, and ready to go home. Albuterol toxicity patients are expected to make a full recovery with no long-term effects.
Thanks to the kind donations of Rudy to the Rescue friends, the doctors at REACH can continue to help patients like Bella!
If you would like to help others animals like Bella, you can make a tax deductible donation here.