Steroids for Dogs

Steroids for dogs are used for multiple purposes. Most commonly, steroids are used in pets as an anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling of the brain, stomach, intestinal tract or spine. Steroids are also used to treat allergies, arthritis and immune system disorders.

Types of Steroids

The type of steroid prescribed for your dog will vary depending on his condition and treatment plan. Steroids can be injected or given orally. If a dog is prescribed an oral steroid medication, the veterinarian will likely start with a high dose and slowly lower it until the medication is no longer necessary. Steroids contain a similar ingredient to adrenaline and cause the dog's body to under-produce adrenaline, so there isn't an excess amount. Abruptly stopping the medication could be detrimental to your dog's health, because the adrenaline levels will not be level, which is why doctors take the patient off of the medication slowly. It is vital to administer the medication exactly as directed.

Forms of steroids commonly prescribed for dogs include:

Steroids in this form are potent and can relieve inflammation or allergy symptoms quickly. As stated above, it is important to continue with treatment as instructed by your vet to avoid the harmful side effects of low or high steroid levels in your pet.

Side Effects of Steroids for Dogs

Side effects from the use of steroids are more common in dogs than cats and, in some cases, can be very serious. A dog who is taking a steroid medication over a long period of time is more prone to side effects. Common side effects include:

  • Cchange in mood or behavior
  • Panting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increase in appetite

The latter symptoms may result in increased urination and weight gain. In most cases, lowering the dosage of the medication over a period of time will lessen the side effects.

Cushing's disease is often a result of steroid usage in canines. Cushing's disease occurs in animals who take a steroid medication over a long period of time and it takes effect on the body's ability to produce steroids (otherwise known as cortisol). Weaning your pet by lowering the dosage slowly can treat Cushing's disease. If overproduction of the body's steroids continues, additional medication and treatment may be required, but serious and often painful side effects can occur including hair loss and scabbing, aggravated skin and skin lesions.

Although used to treat many illnesses, the side effects of steroids, even with one dose, can be devastating. This includes both physical and psychological side effects that may or may not be able to be reversed. Dogs on steroids also have an increased susceptibility to infections, because of its effect on the immune system. Because the side effects can be severe, it's important to discuss multiple treatment options with your veterinarian. Steroids must be given consistently and may not be right for every owner's lifestyle. Be sure to make your veterinarian aware of your schedule and your ability to treat your dog at home.