What are Corticosteroids for Dogs?

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    What are Corticosteroids for Dogs?

    Corticosteroids (a.k.a steroids or cortisone) are steroid hormones that are naturally generated in the adrenal glands. Corticosteroids are vital in the body for a variety of reasons, including stress response, immune system response, inflammatory regulation, nutrition metabolism, and blood electrolyte balance. They can be administered orally, which is the most usual and easy method for pet owners, or intravenously or subcutaneously by a veterinarian for quicker absorption.

    What Do Corticosteroids Treat in Dogs?

    Corticosteroids are routinely used to treat a wide range of ailments in dogs, but the dosage and length of therapy vary depending on the type of your dog’s ailment. Low doses are often used to treat inflammation-related conditions such as joint pain, allergies, respiratory conditions, and skin issues/dermatitis. Higher doses are often used to treat autoimmune disorders such as Lupus and Addison’s Disease.

    How Do Corticosteroids Work?

    Corticosteroids function by replicating natural hormones generated by the adrenal cortex, which decrease chemicals that activate the immune system’s inflammatory response and act as an immunosuppressant when administered in high doses.

    What Corticosteroids Are There?

    Prednisone, prednisolone, dexamethasone, triamcinolone, and methylprednisolone are the most often given corticosteroids which are also synthetic corticosteroids. Corticosteroids in this form are the most commonly prescribed type and are several times more effective than the naturally occurring versions present in the body and often have a significantly longer half-life. Due to their increased potency and duration of action, synthetic corticosteroids must be used with caution to avoid serious side effects.

    What Do Corticosteroids Cost for Dogs?

    The cost of corticosteroid treatment for dogs is determined by multiple different factors, including the length of treatment, the dog’s size, the exact medication used, and how it’s administered. For example, 30 tablets of oral prednisone to take at home is only around $6-$10 from Chewy based on the dosage but it may cost around $50-$150 for an injection at the vet.

    What Are The Side Effects of Corticosteroids in Dogs?

    Photo Credit: Whole Dog Journal

    Corticosteroids in dogs can cause various side effects which vary depending on whether it’s used short term or long term. Short term is often used as an allergy treatment and side effects may include:

    • Excessive panting
    • Increase lethargy
    • Increased appetite 
    • Increased thirst and urination
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Worsening skin infections 

    Long term usage is that which lasts for multiple weeks or months and side effects may include:

    • UTIs
    • Obesity as a result of increased appetite
    • Development of thin skin, thin coat, and blackheads
    • Muscle weakness as a result of metabolic breakdown of muscle tissue
    • Cushing’s disease
    • Behavior changes such as anger, aggressiveness, depression, and anxiety
    • Stunted growth in young dogs
    • Hypertension
    • Lack of healing
    • Digestive tract ulcers
    • Kidney issues
    • There is also a chance of pre-diabetic dogs developing diabetes during treatment and then reverting back to pre-diabetes once treatment is complete

    Side effects may be reduced by lowering the dosage, discontinuing treatment, or using an alternate steroid or treatment. Due to the commonality of side effects, corticosteroids are usually used just at the beginning stages of an allergic reaction while being gradually tapered off in an effort to reduce the chance of side effects. 

    If your dog is displaying any side effects of corticosteroids, you should inform your veterinarian as they may want to change treatment or lower the dosage.

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