Corticosteroids for Dogs

Corticosteroids also known as glucocorticosteroids are a type of steroids that may be administered to dogs to help in a wide range of health conditions including allergies or joint pain. Corticosteroids are always recommended for short term use in dogs as they may cause a number of serious side effects.

Types of Steroids

The steroids can be divided in 2 typed of drugs:

  • Anti inflammatory drugs, which includes the corticosteroids
  • Anabolic steroids, which will be used to strengthen muscles and support the development of the pet

The anti inflammatory steroids are more frequently employed in dogs, while anabolic steroids may be used in rare cases to treat anemia, stimulate bone marrow production and increasing sexual hormone levels.

Uses of Corticosteroids in Canines

The corticosteroids can be effective in a number of conditions to reduce swelling, irritations. Some medical conditions that corticosteroids are prescribed include:

  • Allergies to different inhalants or foods and contact allergies
  • Auto immune diseases
  • Arthritis
  • Dermatitis
  • Addison's Disease (hypoadrenocorticism)
  • Acute uveitis (affecting the eyes)
  • Muscular pain
  • Swelling of brain or spinal cord
  • Swelling of tendons
  • Inflammation of sinuses, lungs, bronchi, stomach or the intestinal tract (inflammatory bowel disease IBD)
  • Cancers such as lymphoma or mast cell tumors

Common Corticosteroids

The most common corticosteroids that are used in dogs include Prednisone or Prednisolone, hydrocortisone, triamcinolone or Vetalog, methylprednisolone, marketed as Depo-Medrol and Medrol. Dexamethasone and betamethasone are the most powerful corticosteroids.

These compounds are synthetic hormones and will act like the adrenaline which is normally produced in the dog’s body.

Types of Administration

Corticosteroids can be administered orally but are also available as injectible solutions for an immediate effect.

There are also eye preparations that contain corticosteroids that can be administered as eye drops. Topical ointments containing corticosteroids may be applied on skin rashes and in the case of allergies.

The treatment shouldn’t be discontinued immediately after the symptoms are gone. An abrupt discontinuation of corticosteroids may result in adrenaline deficit and several other complications. The corticosteroids should be discontinued gradually, first by administering the drugs every second day and then less frequently.

Corticosteroids Side Effects

Corticosteroids inhibit the immune system and will cause a wide range of side effects, especially when administered for a longer period of time. Dogs may manifest side effects such as:

  • Increased thirst and appetite
  • Fluid retention due to the reaction of the corticosteroids with the sodium in the dog’s diet
  • Breathing problems
  • Behavioral changes
  • Liver and kidney problems
  • Secondary diseases due to the fact that the immune system is inhibited
  • Lethargy and a general state of weakness
  • Abortion
  • Infertility
  • Cushing’s disease, due to an excess of cortisol in the body
  • Skin lesions
  • Hair loss
  • Muscular atrop hy
  • Pancreatitis
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Diabetes
  • Dysfunctional adrenal glands

If the side effects are severe, the vet will recommend switching to an alternative treatment.