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Animal Skin and Allergy Clinic Blog

Not for Everyone: Why Steroids for Pets Aren’t Always the Best

A black lab puppy

Steroids are pretty amazing drugs. In veterinary medicine they have a lot of positive uses and can be effectively used to treat and manage a wide variety of conditions. 

Steroids for pets have their pros and cons, and should never be used without the guidance of someone who really understands their power. Animal Skin and Allergy Clinic is here to help you treat your animal in the best way possible, whether that includes steroids or not. 

What Steroids for Pets Do

Corticosteroids (not anabolic steroids like athletes sometimes use) include medications like prednisone, prednisolone, dexamethasone, methylprednisolone, and triamcinolone. These substances mimic the hormone cortisol in the body. Cortisol is made by our adrenal glands and supports the immune system by fighting inflammation within the body.

In veterinary medicine, steroids for pets can have a lot of utility. Steroids may be prescribed to help with:

  • Pruritus (itching)
  • Inflammation (think painful ears)
  • Pain
  • Mediating the immune system, especially for auto-immune conditions
  • Treating allergic reactions

They can come in many formats, with the most common being a pill or liquid. Steroids can also be administered as an injection or sometimes is prescribed in sprays, shampoos, or medicated creams.

Not Always the Answer

It can be easy to reach for the steroids to treat a variety of skin conditions. Steroids for pets are not always the best answer, however, and the staff here at Animal Skin and Allergy Clinic is dedicated to bringing the best care to your pets. 

Steroids are relatively cheap and often effective, but they have down sides as well. These include dose- and duration-dependant side effects like:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Panting
  • Stomach upset
  • Thinning of the skin
  • Susceptibility to infection
  • Increased risk of diabetes
  • Increased risk of heart failure (cats)
  • Decreased healing

Although there are some conditions which absolutely require steroids to be successfully managed, safer alternatives are usually recommended whenever possible, especially when therapy will be needed over a long period of time. Steroids for pets can sometimes make the situation worse by allowing untreated infections to progress. Inadequate or inappropriate dosing can result in ineffective or even dangerous outcomes, and steroids can often interact with other medications. 

This is why it is so important for us to examine our patients regularly and perform diagnostic testing to appropriately diagnose what we are treating. So many skin and allergic conditions can appear similar to one another. By assessing each patient as an individual, we can ensure that we are providing the best and safest treatment option possible.

It can be tempting to reach for the steroids, especially if they have been helpful for your pet in the past. Please call us first!  We are passionate about helping pets, and want to assist you in making the best choices possible. 

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