Asthma in cats is often treated with a combination of anti-inflammatory drugs (steroids) and bronchodilator drugs (to make breathing easier).
Inhaled medications are delivered through a ‘metered dose inhaler’ (MDI) – in adult humans we learn to breathe in at the same time that a dose of the drug is delivered, so that the drug reaches the lungs.
This cannot be achieved in babies and young children, so a ‘spacer’ device is used – a chamber into which the dose of drug is delivered and then the baby or child breathes in the air (and the drug) from the chamber by using a facemask fitted to it. Inhaled therapy can be delivered to cats in exactly the same way.
It is a good idea to simply get your cat used to using the spacer device and facemask first, without any drugs. Do this gradually and try to make it fun – play with your cat and spend time with him, ideally get him used to the mask and spacer device immediately before feeding him.
At first, you may just use the mask and get your cat used to having this held on his face just for 2-3 seconds, but as your cat gets used to it lengthen the time to 20-30 seconds. Once he is used to the mask, try attaching the chamber as well, and repeat the process until he is used to having the whole apparatus held up to his face and will breathe through the chamber. Once your cat is comfortable with this, you are ready to start using the chamber to deliver the drugs.
Shake the metered dose inhaler (MDI) according to the instructions supplied with it before each use.
Attach the MDI to the spacer unit.
Actuate a dose by pressing down the MDI to deliver a single dose into the chamber.
Immediately hold the unit over your cat’s face with the mask fitting snugly, and allow him to take 10-15 breaths (usually 10-20 seconds).
If your vet has told you to deliver two ‘puffs’ of treatment, or to use two different drugs, these should be given as two separate administrations (i.e. follow steps 1 to 4 and then repeat). Never give two puffs (of the same or different drugs) into the chamber at the same time, as this is much less effective.
We find that simply holding your cat on your lap in the crook of your arm, and holding the unit to his face with your other hand works best. Try and make it as relaxed as possible, stroking your cat’s head/chin first, talking in a low voice. Alternatively, you can have your cat in between your legs on the floor or on the table (non-slippery surface). You may need someone else to help holding your cat (see ‘How to restrain your cat with your hands‘), or you can use a towel (see ‘How to restrain your cat with a towel’).