Steroids For Dogs | Know Its Benefits And Effects On Your Dog’s Health

steroids for dogs
steroids for dogs

Many veterinarians prescribe steroids for dogs while giving medication to treat certain diseases. As far as humans are concerned, not many positive comments have been heard regarding using these substances for treating human diseases. Especially, when the side effects are long-lasting and need another phase of treatment.

Most of us only know about steroid as a hormone enhancing medicine to produce an additional amount of testosterone. But, we are not aware of the complete truth and the categories of steroids that are available in the market or prescribed by the doctors. If you own a dog, you may get little confused when the doctor recommends Corticosteroids (known as cortisone or steroids) or Prednisone (a synthetic steroid) for treatment purpose.

Both these steroids serve a different purpose and used exclusively for medication in dogs. So, in this article, you will come across all the medical info on steroids that you as a dog owner must know. It will help you to understand why steroids are given by most veterinary experts for dog’s treatments. You can also get to learn both the positive as well as negative impacts this drug can cause on your dog.

For those owners who can’t help but has to select steroids based therapy for their dogs, this article covers a few techniques to reduce its side effects on the pets. Also, you can check the list of steroids that are recommended by most veterinary physicians for curing dog diseases.

Is It Safe To Use Steroids For Dogs In Various Ailments?

Some doctors recommend steroids to treat various disorders in the dogs. Hence, you can find these substances prescribed for every kind of medical ailments whenever you visit the clinic along with your dog. Before going much into the in-depth discussion, let’s have a quick look at the basic info on steroids.

What Is Steroid, Its Types And How Does It Help Your Dog?

In terms of medical science, steroids can be referred to substances that circulate within the bloodstream and impact every body part for both humans and animals. Normally, the body produces these steroids on its own, which serves various purposes. Let’s have a look at the types of steroids found or needed in the dogs.

Corticosteroids Or Glucocorticoids

As discussed in the introductory part of this article, let’s first discuss regarding the Corticosteroids that is produced due to the adrenal gland, present just above the kidney. It includes aldosterone hormone that can control the concentration of sodium in your dog’s body.

There is cortisol, which severs multiple roles inside the body including reducing the inflammation and dealing with stress. Usually, when you approach a veterinarian, they commonly prescribe medications that contain Corticosteroids.

You might be suggested Glucocorticoids medications that include names like prednisolone, prednisone, flumethasone, hydrocortisone, methylprednisolone, fludrocortisone, and dexamethasone. In many dog diseases including inflammatory bowel problem, asthma, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and many more, steroids can be really effective.

Effect Of Glucocorticoids On Dogs

For dogs who are suffering from various skin ailments (for example, dermatitis), steroids can be used for medications. So, if you visit any vet, they will suggest steroid based creams and ointments that includes names betamethasone, triamcinolone and many more.

A very little dosage of Glucocorticoids can lower the inflammation in your dog’s body. Whereas, a little high amount can cause an adverse effect by suppressing your pet’s immune system. However, the most veterinary expert recommends Corticosteroids for treating immunity and allergy-related diseases in dogs. If your pet (mostly female dogs) is suffering from hypoadrenocorticism or Addison’s disease, using Glucocorticoids can be really helpful.

Modes Of Glucocorticoids Medication

If your doctor suggests Corticosteroids steroids for any treatment, it can be given to your dog topically, via mouth or by inhaling. As far as short-term medication is concerned, you can give it to your dog without any worries. However, if the dosage is high and your dog needs to have under the medication for a long time period (say more than 6 months), it can have side effects. Hence, you must always take advice and proper information on the regular dosage to save your pet from any negative impact of steroids.


Note: According to pet experts, if you apply the Glucocorticoids steroids to your dog’s skin or via eye drops, it causes less reaction. Hence, you can give this locally instead of feeding them orally or through injection.

Anabolic

Now comes the second category of steroids that are known as the anabolic type. Mostly, these include hormones that are also produced within the dog’s body to regulate the testosterone manufacture inside the ovaries or testicles. When there are any reproductive or sex-related problems in the dog, doctors recommend anabolic steroids. Whereas, to treat various disorders in your dog’s body including lack of protein or tissue, many veterinarians suggest anabolic steroids.

Effect Of Anabolic Steroids On Dogs

Some vet experts can still prescribe a few anabolic steroids including nandrolone, boldenone, and stanozolol that not many professionals recommend nowadays. The purpose of these steroids is to promote weight gain for your dog if they are malnourished somehow.

Also, there are dogs who can be given this medication for stimulating their appetite, treating anemia and other long-term diseases. If your dog has anxiety issues or they have become very weak, using the anabolic steroid can increase their strength.


Note: You must avoid these medicines if your dog is pregnant or lactating as steroids can lead to critical birth defects. For some dogs, it can have adverse effects including reproductive disorder, behavioral issues, and liver or kidney damages.

Mineralocorticoids

These steroids are most useful for dogs who are suffering from Addison’s disease for quite some time. You can give this medication when their adrenal glands are not producing sufficient mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids.

Your dog needs this steroid if there is an imbalance between the electrolytes and water inside their body. To name a few medicines, you can give your pet fludrocortisone orally and inject Desoxycorticosterone steroid to eliminate Addison’s disease.

Effect Of Mineralocorticoids On Dogs

Your dog can have a few side effects (excessive urination and thirst) on taking this mineralocorticoids steroid. Sometimes, critical impacts can be seen when you suddenly stop giving the medicine to your dog. It can also cause a problem when this steroid is given to them more than the prescribed amount.

Adrenal Cortical Steroids

Some veterinary experts use ACH (Adrenocorticotropic hormone) along with cosyntropin for diagnosing dogs having Addison’s and Cushing’s diseases. Both of these steroids can be injected into your dog for stimulating ACH.

Only then, the doctors can confirm if the adrenal glands of your dog are properly functioning or not. Also, if your dog is taking mitotane drug, this steroids can still be used for conducting ACTH stimulation tests. As this medication is not prescribed by the doctor for a long time duration, it doesn’t have any critical side effect on the dog’s body.

Estrogens

Inside your dog’s body, Estradiol (also known as ECP/Estrace) is given in form of a semisynthetic estrogenic hormone. This is an effective steroid that can be given to your dog when their body can’ produce adequate estrogen. Hence, these Estradiol steroids can be considered as a replacement therapy to fulfill the lack of estrogen.

In some cases, experts give this medicine to dogs by injecting within 72-hours of mating for preventing any need of embryo implantation. It can help your dog to develop secondary sexual characteristics if they are not growing according to the age.

Effect Of Estrogen Steroids On Dogs

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not approve estradiol steroids for treating cats and dogs. However, some veterinarians can still recommend this under emergency situations or under extra-label steroid category.

In terms of side effect, estrogens can have serious negative impacts on your dog. This includes suppression of bone marrow due to inappropriate dose. For some dogs, using this drug can cause critical blood disorders and develop certain types of cancer.

Some male dogs can show symptoms of feminization due to the application of this drug. Also, many dog owners have found their dogs developing fatal pyometra (uterine infection) issues after having Estradiol steroid.

Progestins

These are a kind of steroid hormones, which many vet experts recommend for postponing heat cycles in dogs. Also, some suggest this to female dogs for alleviating false pregnancy issues. Some doctors suggest progestins for medication of male dogs if they develop prostatic hypertrophy.

In case your dog has any skin-related issue that exists for a long period of time (say years), this steroid can be used. Also, if there is serious behavioral disorder in your dog (for example, excessive aggressiveness), progestin can modify it.

Effect Of Progestins On Dogs

Some of its major side effects are visible in form of enlargement of the mammary gland. In some cases, it can increase your dog’s appetite and thirst. A few dogs can have sudden behavioral changes and develop diabetes mellitus.

If you don’t consult a veterinarian after seeing these side effects, the steroid can cause acromegaly, Cushing’s disease, reproductive disorders, and even certain type of tumors or cancers.

Androgens

So, whenever your dog undergoes any critical health problem, their body might not be able to produce enough nutrients and hormones naturally. This is when the doctors prescribe androgenic and anabolic steroids for your dog to function properly.

Due to several diseases and aging, your dog can have a lower level of testosterone and produce very less amount of growth hormone. Hence, many health care professionals recommend steroids in form of hormone supplements to boost your dog’s stamina, and immunity, and overall health. However, you must follow proper guidelines and dosage amount prescribed the vet experts in order to avoid any steroid abuse on dogs.

Effect Of Androgens On Dogs

You can consider a few examples of androgens includes testosterone, mibolerone, and danazol. In many other types of treatments, these steroid hormones help to cure diseases in both the male as well as female dogs. In some males, this medication is an essential part for the treatment of urinary (both bladder and track) incontinence that responds to these hormones.

It is useful for females, for which you can refer to the progesterone steroids section above.

Disadvantage Of Androgens On Dogs

However, in terms of side effects, overdose or inappropriate amount of dosage of androgens can cause masculinization issues in female dogs. Some of them can even develop the risk of cancer due to an excessive amount of androgen.

Impact of Pain Relief Medications (Steroids) On Dogs Diseases

Even though the above sections have covered the benefits and disadvantages of using steroids in dogs treatment, let’s check this section also. It will tell us what are the possible short-term as well as long-term effects on your dog due to steroids. Before discussing the negative points, let’s discuss diseases, such as Pemphigus, DLE which needs steroid-based medication for curing them.

How Severe Is Pemphigus Disease In Dogs?

Many dog owners have found out that when their pet dog develops Pemphigus, the steroids were extremely helpful. This disease is a kind of autoimmune skin disorder that leads to your dog’s immune system affects its own connection to the skin cells. If your dog got Pemphigus, it can cause due to a few possible causes. It includes problems occurring regarding the exogenous, idiopathic, and endogenous factors.

Symptoms Of Pemphigus

Your dog can hence show some of its symptoms like fever, lethargy, pale gums from anemia, infertility, blood in urine, depression, symmetrical hair loss (alopecia), fluid in the vulva, enlargement of the mammary gland and much more. In the case of male dogs, Pemphigus can cause decreased libido, enlarged prostate, developing mammary glands (Gynecomastia). According to some owners, they have observed masses appearing near the dog’s testicles or changing of its sizes. Some of them even get attracted to female dogs who are having Exogenous estrogen toxicity in their bodies.

Exogenous Pemphigus

The exogenous factors lead to Pemphigus when external issues affect the dog and trigger the overactive immune response. When your dog is having this disease due to exogenous factors, it can happen due to excessive production of estrogen within the body. This ultimately becomes toxic for the dog and leads to this skin ailment. Sometimes, the possible causes of developing an exogenous pemphigus are due to unusual inflammation issues.

Endogenous Pemphigus

The endogenous factors can cause Pemphigus due to issues that can affect the dog from inside. If your dog develops Pemphigus due to endogenous factors, it means developing Hyperadrenocorticism disorder. Many veterinarians can confirm this condition by conducting ACTH stimulation and suppression tests on your dog. When your dog gets Pemphigus, they can either develop ADH (adrenal-dependent hyperadrenocorticism) or PDH (pituitary-dependent hyperadrenocorticism).

In case the dog has ADH, an excessive amount of cortisol can generate out of the adrenal tumor(s). This, in turn, causes the releasing of endogenous ACTH. However, if PDH is the issue, there will be an excessive amount of ACTH from the pituitary lesion.

Both these types of hyperadrenocorticism can make the dog’s immune system susceptible to mount an attack as compared to normal cells. In some cases, your dog can develop Pemphigus if they are already suffering from chronic disease, cancer related to skin.


Sometimes, dogs can get exposed to ultraviolet rays or some kind of viral infections, it can trigger skin inflammation. A few drugs can also react to your dog’s internal system and cause Pemphigus in form of autoimmune reaction.

Idiopathic Pemphigus

When your dog gets Pemphigus that are due to idiopathic factors, it means the veterinarians could not identify any valid cause. It often occurs when the doctors conduct various tests to confirm the reasons for developing this disease in your dog. But, they end up getting no results and it can be quite frustrating for them as well as the dog owners. So, the only option that remains with the vet experts to treat your dogs is by applying the best steroid medication.

How To Diagnose Pemphigus/DLE In Dogs?

In order to cure the Pemphigus using steroids, it requires a proper diagnosis from experts. As this disease can be either idiopathic, exogenous, and endogenous in nature, hence the veterinary experts will have to conduct a skin biopsy first. So, they will ask for your permission and will collect a little sample of the skin lesion tissue on your dog.

Mostly, they will use a punch biopsy instrument and take a small circular portion from your dog’s skin. Sometimes, the doctors can apply a general sedative or a local anesthesia before collecting the skin sample.

After removing the biopsy sample, professionals will close the opening using sutures. Once the biopsy sample is ready, it will undergo further analysis under extreme supervision of an experienced pathologist. They will examine the skin tissue under microscopic setup and other lab experiments. Further, the experts can get some opinion from the pathology report on whether the dog has Pemphigus or Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE) or not.

Note: It depends on the type of suture that the veterinarian will use for closing the biopsy site. As this will decide when to visit the clinic next for removing the suture from your dog’s skin. In case, its dissolving suture, you don’t have to take stress as it will dissolve itself in the next few weeks.

The issue of DLE can be a serious disease in dogs that don’t have any permanent cure. However, some veterinary experts still believe in keeping the dogs under steroid treatment to control the skin disorder.

Can Steroid Treatment Cure Pemphigus And Discoid Lupus Erythematosus In Dogs?

This always has been a common question. So keep reading to know:

For Treating DLE

When your dog develops DLE, it can be confirmed by some major symptoms. It includes signs like depigmentation, scaling, erosions, erythema, alopecia, photodermatitis, an extreme reaction in sunlight. If your dog belongs to any of these breeds including German Shepherds, Brittany Spaniels, Shelties, Siberian Huskies, and Collies, they are most prone to developing DLE.

Hence, if the veterinary expert can diagnose your dog and confirm Discoid Lupus Erythematosus, they will start with Cephalexin medication. After finishing the course of this medicine, they might suggest Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E based treatments for reducing the impact of sunlight on the dog’s body. If the affected skin area on your dog is small, some doctors can recommend using topical steroids.

During the initial treatment of DLE, the experts can avoid using too strong steroids for developing side effects sooner. Hence, they may prescribe the Tacrolimus drug, which is a steroid under the category of Calcineurin inhibitors.

These medicines are anti-inflammatory and can treat immune-mediated dermatologic problems in both cats and dogs. It can provide relief to your dog by blocking the proliferation of cytotoxic and lymphocytic cells. However, the appropriate dosage and frequency of application depend on the veterinarian who will treat your pet.

For Treating Pemphigus

According to some pet researchers and veterinary practitioners, steroids can benefit your dog if he/she is having pemphigus. As discussed in the above sections, this autoimmune disease can affect the dogs because of a specific breed, various dysfunction, and genetic factors. Sometimes, it can also cause due to extreme exposure to sunlight or a critical viral infection.

A few experts couldn’t even find a reason when pemphigus is of idiopathic type. So, if your dog shows symptoms of this disease in form hair loss, scabs, open sores and occurs mostly in specific breeds. It includes Dachshund, Akita, Cocker Spaniel, Chow Chow, English Bulldog, and Labrador Retriever.

The veterinary first confirms this disease by doing the biopsy on your dog and then prescribe Prednisone drug. Some doctors can also suggest Prednisolone, as both these drugs fall under the Corticosteroids group of steroids. These medicines are effective enough to produce four times stronger hormones as compared to natural cortisol production in dogs.

Side Effects Of Using Steroids For Dog’s Treatments

steroids for dogs

While discussing the key facts about steroids for dogs, the most common question that most dog owners ask is regarding the side effects. Due to steroid-based treatments, there can be both short-term and long-term effects on your dog. In terms of side-effects that don’t last long include increased appetite, urination, and thirst. Some dogs can also have nausea or vomiting tendency and loss of energy.

However, some long-term side effect includes Urinary Tract Infections (UTI), fungal and bacterial infection, diabetes mellitus, and calcinosis cutis.

Hence, this article has hopefully helped most of the dog owners to understand both the positive as well as negative effects of steroid medication. However, you can reduce the effect of steroids while your dog takes it for treatment purpose.

So, make sure that you don’t give glucocorticoids on a regular basis without consulting the vet expert. Also, unless your pet is suffering from any life-threatening immune-mediated disease, try not to give steroids to them. If the vet expert suggests corticosteroid treatment, you can look for alternatives first and don’t jump straight into steroid medication.

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