Albuterol Inhaler vs. Bella

Recently, a client of ours brought their precious dog Bella into Encina Veterinary Hospital on an emergency basis, after the owner noticed Bella had chewed on an Albuterol inhaler. While at home, Bella’s owners noticed that Bella had became very restless and had an extremely rapid heart rate while at rest. She even tried to eat but ended up throwing it all up soon after. They knew they had to get her emergency care right away.

What Bella had chewed on is a very common medication found in American households; Albuterol inhalers. This inhaler is commonly used in human medicine to help relieve bronchospasm associated with conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Albuterol is also used in animals for similar reasons to help alleviate cough.

But a too high of a dose can be life threatening, elevating the heart rate to life-threatening levels. Toxicity can also cause very low potassium levels in the blood which, in turn, leads to extreme weakness, in-coordination, and, potentially, death. Other signs which are often seen in dogs that puncture albuterol inhalers include vomiting, dilated pupils, severe agitation/hyperactivity, elevated blood pressure and vomiting.

Bella was admitted to the hospital for overnight treatment and monitoring. Blood work was performed to reveal any electrolyte abnormalities, as albuterol toxicity can cause a decrease in potassium and other important electrolytes. Low potassium can have severe consequences on an animal, as it is necessary for all muscle and nerve function. Too low of a potassium can lead to difficulty breathing and irregular heart beat.

Fortunately for Bella, her potassium levels were only slightly lower than normal. She was supplemented with potassium and her levels were normal by morning. Bella also received a drug that helped stop the effects of albuterol, allowing her heart rate to decrease and reducing her excitability.

By morning, Bella seemed much improved. She was now resting comfortably and had a normal heart rate. Bella was sent home later than morning, and owners report her to be back to her old self again!

Dr. Nadia Rifat