Using nebulizers as a treatment option for respiratory diseases and infection has improved the outcomes for many pets. There are many reasons to use nebulizers in pets, but it’s important to be able to recognize when nebulizers should be avoided and to carefully educate the animal’s caregiver on proper administration.
Benefits of Nebulizer Use in Pets
Nebulizers allow you to obtain high local concentrations of medication in the respiratory tract while minimizing systemic absorption and toxicosis. Nebulizers also humidify airway secretions and can be used to treat patients with inhalation injuries.
Treating patients with retained secretions, such as bacterial or fungal pneumonia, asthma, eosinophilic bronchopneumopathy is much easier with nebulizers. It also works well for mechanically ventilated or intubated patients, who cannot swallow pills or liquids.
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With nebulizers, there is a risk that caregivers may inadvertently inhale some of the nebulized medication. This could lead to discomfort, irritation, or even an allergic reaction to the medication that can be quite serious in some cases. Always discuss best practices for using nebulizers with caregivers before sending your patient home.
Another risk with nebulizers is that some of the medication may be lost on the surface of the device or on the fur of the animal, leaving it to be ingested during grooming. This can mean that your patient is getting less medication than is required to treat them. It can also lead to negative consequences if the medication is not meant to be ingested or is rendered ineffective by oral dosage.
Drug delivery of nebulized medications depends on respiratory depth and rate, tidal volume, and airflow rate, all of which may be negatively affected by respiratory disease or infection. In some cases, you may not be able to treat the illness properly because of the side effects of the illness itself. Be sure to confirm that your patient is capable of internalizing the correct dosage of medication through a nebulizer by performing respiratory testing prior to prescription.
Are Nebulizers Practical to Use on Pets?
Nebulizers should be used for at least 15 minutes to allow time for the entire dose to be delivered. This may prove difficult with young or hyper-active animals, or animals opposed to prolonged confinement.
Flexible pediatric masks can be utilized to help direct the patient’s breathing so that they receive as much of the dose as possible. Instruct caregivers to use calming tones and to reward their pets for good behavior to encourage compliance. Treatment should be done at the same time each day, preferably after an enjoyable activity, so they can form a routine. Positive reinforcement techniques should be used after treatment to help make nebulizer treatment a part of the animal’s normal daily routine.
With a little training, nebulizers can become part of a daily routine for pets with respiratory diseases and conditions, and often they can help to treat conditions that may have been previously deemed untreatable.
For more information on the kinds of medications that can potentially be compounded into nebulized solutions contact EPC. We can provide you with a kit containing the nebulizer machine and the necessary tubing and mask.
Bryce Walker, Veterinary Compounding Pharmacy Student under the direction of Drew Olson, DVM, Veterinary Division – National Director