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What is Nebulizer?

While commonly used to treat human patients, nebulizer use in veterinary practice is becoming increasingly common to help with a variety of conditions. A nebulizer is a device that turns liquid into mist which is then breathed in by your dog. The liquid can be water or a combination of water and antibiotic or other medication and is used to treat a variety of conditions. Nebulizer treatment may not be available at every facility, but is considered a first line treatment option for the specific conditions that have been found to respond well to administration. 

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Nebulizer Procedure in Dogs

Treatment with a nebulizer will begin with a thorough physical exam of your dog in your veterinary office. If your dog’s condition is one that may be effectively treated via inhaled drugs or oxygen therapy, your vet will recommend the use of a nebulizer. For some animals, this therapy may not be suitable, such as highly excitable or anxious dogs.

The nebulizer machine comes in several parts. First there is a water tank that contains the liquid that will be turned into mist which your dog will inhale. This tank will contain the antibiotics, steroids or other inhalants prescribed by your doctor. A small compressor then subjects the liquid to pressure and releases the mist into the delivery device. The delivery device typically consists of a small mask that is placed over your dog’s muzzle. Dogs will breathe in the mist to receive treatment. Nebulizer treatment can also be administered through the use of a plastic encased box placed over all or part of the animal. This form of treatment wastes quite a bit of medication and leaves some on the fur, which may then be ingested by your dog. Smaller, portable at-home nebulizers may also be used to administer ongoing treatment.

Efficacy of Nebulizer in Dogs

Nebulizers are highly effective tools for delivering moistened air, antibiotics, antifungal drugs and other medications directly to your dog’s airways. For chronic conditions such as asthma, nebulizers have been found to greatly improve your dog’s quality of life while reducing the amount of ingestible medications that must be given daily.

Nebulizer Recovery in Dogs

After treatment with a nebulizer, your dog will begin to make an immediate recovery. Asthma symptoms are lessened almost immediately and, with ongoing home use, your dog can enjoy a good quality of life. For treating infections, nebulizer treatment often begins to take effect more quickly than orally administered medications. This is due to the fact that the antibiotic or other drug is administered directly to the site of the infection and does not have to work its way through your dog’s circulatory system first.

Cost of Nebulizer in Dogs

Individual nebulizer treatments at your veterinarian’s office will vary from $75 to $150. The cost is dependent on the specific medication being administered, your dog’s breed and weight and your geographic region. For at-home use, portable nebulizer units cost between $75 and $100. You will still need to purchase the medication directly from your veterinarian, which will vary in cost depending on the treatment. 


Dog Nebulizer Considerations

It’s important to remember that not all medications are suitable for use in a nebulizer as some must be ingested in order to be utilized properly. Some dogs may find the nebulizer mask uncomfortable and there is often an adjustment period until your dog learns to quietly accept treatment. The nebulizer equipment should be cleaned regularly as moist, warm air can provide a good environment for bacterial or fungal growth. 

Nebulizer Prevention in Dogs

Prevention is, as always, the best medicine when it comes to avoiding use of a nebulizer. However, a nebulizer can also add quality of life for your pet that may suffer from asthma. Your pet should be kept in good health, including regular exercise, quality food and regular vet care. If you notice dogs that are coughing or otherwise appear sick you should not allow your dog to interact with the ill animal in order to prevent contamination and infection of your pet.

Nebulizer Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Australian Shepherd
12 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Shallow Rapid Breathing
Xrays confirm damaged bronchi

Hi: My Australian Shepherd was diagnosed with chronic bronchitis / COPD a few months ago. We are using an inhaler administered via a spacer and see some improvement, but she still had bad spells of not being able to breathe fully. Would medicine through a nebulizer help? thanks

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
Any decision to prescribe medication is down to your Veterinarian, you mentioned you are currently using an inhaler but didn’t mention if was just saline nebulization or medication; you should work with your Veterinarian to ensure that Shelia can breathe and any breathing difficulties should be brought to their attention. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Labrador Retriever
3 Months
Moderate condition
2 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Kennel cough

I have a nebuliser at home from one of my children. My puppy was diagnosed with kennel cough and prescribed an antibiotic and a cough suppressant. I was wondering if I can use the nebuliser on her and if so, what should I put in the cup? Saline? Water?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
Kennel cough typically is not severe enough to need nebulizer therapy, and should resolve quickly with the antibiotic and cough suppressant. If you don't think that Calliope is improving, it would be best to contact your veterinarian to see if something else is going on with her before treating with the nebulizer. I hope that she recovers quickly!

Thank you. Just hard to see her so sick :-(

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