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Corticosteroids for Pets - What you need to know


                                     Using Corticosteroids to Relieve Pain and Inflammation

Corticosteroids are special medications that are designed to relieve your pet’s pain and inflammation.  These steroids are found naturally in small amounts in warm-blooded creatures, even humans.  Pharmaceutical corticosteroids are designed to mimic those found in nature, but they are created in a much higher concentration than they naturally occur. 

  • Use of Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are most often used in emergency situations.  They are not normally used to relieve chronic pain because they do have some serious side effects.  Therefore, it is necessary to obtain a prescription in order to administer corticosteroids to your pet.  In addition, your veterinarian will likely monitor your pet’s blood levels while on the steroid to ensure its liver is healthy.  In fact, some veterinarians recommend pet owners supplement the steroid with SAMe in order to help protect the liver.

  • Typical Uses of Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids can be applied topically, orally, or as an injection.  Typically, topical applications are used for both the skin and the eye and come in the form of a cream.  Injections and oral applications are often used to relieve pain and inflammation in the muscles and joints.  Typical forms of Corticosteroids used for muscle and joint pain include prednisolone, prednisone, triamcinolone, and dexamethasone

Corticosteroids are often used to help control allergic reactions in addition to pain and inflammation.  They can also be used in life-threatening situations in which your pet may be experiencing swelling that needs to be controlled.  It also helps relieve itching and is used to treat some forms of cancer.

  • Side Effects of Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids have an effect on every single cell of your pet’s body.  Therefore, they also have an effect on your pet’s organs.  In some cases, using corticosteroids can slow down the healing process of wounds.  It can also cause stomach ulcers and thyroid hormone suppression.  The immune system can also be affected, causing the body to take longer to fight infections.  Swollen liver and high blood pressure are other possible side effects. 

While using corticosteroids, many pets tend to drink and to urinate more frequently.  Some also eat more and retain more fluids.  Pets who use corticosteroids on a long-term basis can experience thinning skin and weakened bones.  In addition, their hair may fall out.  Corticosteroids can also cause the fetus of a pregnant pet to become malformed or miscarried.  The steroid can also affect your pets emotionally.  Some become happier while on the steroids while others become more irritable.  For these reasons, it is important to follow your doctor’s recommended dosage carefully and to keep your pet on corticosteroids for only as long as it is necessary.