Over 25 million Americans are diagnosed with asthma, which can also occur in dogs and cats, however, in much lower numbers. Asthma can constrict your airways, which makes breathing difficult. Albuterol is a common medication used to treat asthma in humans and pets. The active agent in many inhalers is albuterol, a bronchodilator that eases harsh asthma symptoms by relaxing and opening the airways to allow easy breathing. Dogs can experience albuterol toxicity if they bite or chew into a whole inhaler, and the consequences can be very damaging. 

How Toxic is Albuterol to Dogs? 

Typical inhalers may contain up to 200 doses of albuterol in one vial, and prescribed amounts for ailing patients may range between 2 to 8 puffs per day or as needed. Because the container is pressurized, dogs and cats can easily puncture it by chewing into it, releasing all the contents at once. There is also a risk of a dog ingesting plastic or metal if they bite into an inhaler. Potassium levels are greatly reduced in affected pets, causing severe electrolyte abnormalities and the heart rate becomes very rapid. Albuterol toxicity can be fatal if not promptly treated. 

Clinical Signs of Albuterol Toxicity 

Depending on the amount consumed, clinical signs of albuterol toxicity may include the following: 

  • Lethargy 
  • Vomiting 
  • Agitation 
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Heart arrhythmia 
  • Slow heartbeat 
  • Fast breathing 
  • Low or high blood pressure 
  • Drooling 
  • Dilated pupils 

Treatment of Albuterol Toxicity 

If you believe your pet has bitten into an inhaler, get in touch with your veterinarian immediately or contact Pet Poison Helpline® at (855) 764-7661. If you have it, take the inhaler in question to the vet, as this can help the diagnostic process. Treatment may involve sedation, administration of IV fluids to balance electrolyte levels, and beta-blockers to control blood pressure. Your vet will let you know about your dog’s recovery time after examining their condition.