Side Effects of Corticosteroids in Dogs

Corticosteroids are among the most commonly used and most singularly effective drugs in all of veterinary medicine. They are powerful medicines that have a strong anti-inflammatory effect. The practical uses of this type of drug are many; they can be used to treat arthritis and other swelling issues, to reduce allergic reactions, to treat and help the healing process after surgeries and other injuries, and much more. Corticosteroids also have a benefit of suppressing the immune system, which makes them a drug of choice for treating and addressing auto-immune disorders like lupus. However, these powerful drugs also come with a lengthy list of side effects and adverse reactions, so it's crucial that you keep in mind the risks that you're putting your pet through when you give him corticosteroids.

Gastrointestinal Problems

One of the most common side effects of a corticosteroid treatment is gastrointestinal problems in dogs. This can be a general gastrointestinal system upset or more specific issues like diarrhea, vomiting, ulcers and more. Keep a very close eye on your pet's stool and eating habits while he is on corticosteroids. Watch out for any blood or mucous in the stool.

Weight Gain

Corticosteroids often lead to weight gain in dogs, particularly for dogs that are on treatment plans with corticosteroids for a long period of time. The reason for this is that the corticosteroids affect how the dogs are able to process the food that they eat. While the dog may not eat any additional food, his inability to completely and fully process the food that he does eat often leads to buildup of fat.

Muscle Loss

Corticosteroids can contribute to an overall atrophying of the muscular system in dogs. This results in a wide ranging muscle loss. In most cases, the effects are moderate and will not drastically disrupt your pet's life. However, if the side effect happens to be massive, you may run into severe problems with your dog and his muscle loss. Keep an eye out for signs of muscular deterioration, including difficulty moving, getting up and sitting down.

Liver Damage

Prolonged exposure to corticosteroids can result in extreme liver damage in dogs. This is one of the most dangerous side effects of these drugs, and it's crucial that you and your veterinarian work closely to examine the pet's liver function throughout the period of time in which he's taking corticosteroids. Watch out for elevated liver hormone levels or unusual fluctuations in these levels, which represent a sign that the liver is experiencing some sort of functionary problem.

Corticosteroid use over a short term does not typically result in any side effects in dogs. However, corticosteroid use over a longer period of time can be very dangerous. It's important to consult with your vet to determine whether the benefits of corticosteroid use outweigh the long term potential side effects of using these drugs for your dog.