Treating Dogs With Dermatitis Using Corticosteroids

Treating dogs for dermatitis often requires the use of corticosteroids. Dermatitis occurs in dogs and cats and generally has numerous causes. In general, dermatitis simply covers any condition that causes red, itchy skin.

Causes of Dermatitis

Allergies, fleabites and poor diets top the list as causes of dermatitis. Allergic reactions to things like grass or pollen, affects more than one out of ten dogs. Determining the allergen and restricting access to it helps ease the itching and redness.

When fleas bite, they inject a toxin through their saliva that prevents blood from immediately clotting. Many dogs suffer allergic reactions to the flea's saliva causing dermatitis.

Inexpensive dog foods include fillers like corn and wheat gluten to cut costs. Many dogs are allergic to these ingredients. Itchy, dry skin may be a result of a poor diet. Discovering which food item a dog is allergic to takes time. It's best to feed a high-quality, no grain food.

Understanding How Corticosteroids Work

When lifestyle or dietary changes do not help relieve dermatitis, treating dogs with medications is the next step. Corticosteroids prove effective on any case of dermatitis.

Corticosteroids block the production of prostaglandin within the body. During an allergic reaction, the body increases prostaglandin hormones to protect the body from the allergen. This causes the swelling and itching.

Low doses of corticosteroids prevent the swelling, redness and itching making them suitable for treating dogs with dermatitis.

Corticosteroid Medications

There are three forms of corticosteroids:

  1. Glucocorticoids
  2. Mineralcorticoids
  3. Sex Hormones

Veterinarians prescribe glucocorticoids for dermatitis because of their anti-inflammatory properties. When treating dogs with corticosteriods, there are three options: injections, oral medications or topical ointments.

Topical ointments like Genesis are effective and usually offer the lowest risk for adverse reactions. However, if the dog licks his/her fur, the animal is likely to ingest too much of the corticosteroid. It is important for pet owners to monitor their pet after applying the ointment. Excessive thirst and vomiting are signs of overdose. Never use topical corticosteroids on pregnant or nursing dogs.

For treating dogs with seasonal allergens like pollen or mold, injections work effectively. A corticosteroid injection like Depo-Medrol remains active in the body for up to six weeks. Most pollen or mold allergens disappear in that time. Inform your veterinarian if your dog may be pregnant or is nursing.

Oral medications like Medrol provide an easy treatment plan for dermatitis. Treating dogs requires a daily pill. Usually, the dosage reduces after seven days. It is important to offer the pill with food to reduce the risk of stomach ulcers. Also, never give the pills to pregnant or nursing dogs.

Common Side Effects

Corticosteroids are hormonal supplements. The biggest risk with these medications is for pregnant or nursing dogs or puppies. Corticosteroids can stunt normal growth patterns.

Most corticosteroids offer few side effects. The most common are excessive thirst and increased appetite. If other side effects like vomiting, diarrhea and weight gain or loss occur, contact your veterinarian.

Dangers of Long-Term Corticosteroid Use

With long-term use, corticosteroids are problematic. Used for excessive amounts of time, thyroid function changes. Dogs are at an increased risk for developing pancreatitis, diabetes and Cushing's disease. Another risk of continued corticosteroid use is the suppression of the system's natural immunities.

You cannot suddenly stop giving your dog corticosteroids. They must gradually wean off the drug so that their body has time to reestablish cortisol production.