Steroids for Dogs: How Doctors Use Steroids in Veterinary Clinics


When you think of the word “steroids,” you probably have some set images you associate with it. Perhaps you link it with scandals involving athletes, overly muscular men getting into dangerous rages or bodybuilders afflicted with palumboism or steroid gut. However, there’s more than one type of steroids, and the whole category of chemicals serves several important biological functions.

In humans, over the counter and prescription medications containing steroids can help deal with a variety of diseases and conditions. Neither are steroids only useful for treating medical conditions in humans.

Today, learn more about steroids for dogs, the different conditions that may necessitate veterinary steroids and potential side effects of such treatment.

What’s the Difference Between Anabolic Steroids and Other Steroids?

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You might be reasonably confused as to how can muscle-building substances help dogs with different medical conditions. And the reason is you’re probably thinking of anabolic steroids. This type of steroids, officially known as anabolic androgenic steroids, are man-made chemically designed to stimulate enhanced muscular growth in humans. Anabolic steroids are among the substances that athletes can take to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors. This is known as doping, which is a form of both cheating and drug abuse. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lance Armstrong and a few other athletes have come under fire over the years for doping with steroids and other chemicals.

However, there’s more than one type of steroids and the body naturally produces plenty of other types. Testosterone is a type of steroid and it’s useful in humans to jumpstart certain biological functions such as puberty. Creatine and cholesterol are also types of steroids. The former is used by the body to facilitate muscle growth and cholesterol, in moderation, helps protect the body from infections and maintains the body’s internal temperature.

But the type of medical steroid you may be already familiar with, especially if you have allergies, are corticosteroids. This type of steroids contains a hormone known as cortisol and its most likely what you’ll encounter if you’re looking for steroids for dogs.

Why are Steroids Used in Vets?

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Veterinary steroids are often used to treat various conditions. Cortisone, a substance that artificially recreates the effects of cortisol, is one of the primary steroids for dogs. Cortisol and cortisone both react with the body’s cellular cortisol receptors and their reactions are key to several processes. Depending on the amount and composition, cortisol and cortisone help maintain the body’s metabolism, manage blood sugar and even improve the formation of memories. However, it’s mostly used for reducing inflammatory responses in cells.

If your pet requires steroids for dogs, it may be to help reduce inflammation or swelling brought on by one of their medical conditions. The following are some of the medical conditions and diseases that may warrant the use of veterinary steroids.

  • Dogs can be victims of allergy season, too. A vet may use steroids to suppress the effects of a respiratory allergic reaction in your dog, like asthma from fumes or particulates.
  • If your dog’s skin gets affected by an irritant or rashes, like those brought on by allergic flea dermatitis, a vet may subscribe topical steroids for dogs to reduce swelling.
  • Steroids can also be used to manage the symptoms of diseases affecting the immune system. These include inflammatory bowel damage, canine meningitis and several forms of anemia.
  • Insect bites and stings, such as those from bees and wasps,

Naturally, vets are very careful when they prescribe steroids for dogs. Some of these chemicals and medications are very strong and require their specific permission to access.

What are the Side Effects of Steroids in Dogs?

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Steroids for dogs can be very powerful medication, and vets won’t just prescribe veterinary steroids unless they need to do so. The different types of steroids used by veterinarians on pets have varying side effects.

Corticosteroids, which is probably the most common type of steroids for dogs, can have the following side effects on your canine companion.

  • Depending on the level of exposure to cortisone, your dog may experience gastrointestinal disturbances. These disturbances can include vomiting, varying ferocity of diarrhea and the development of ulcers in their gastrointestinal tract.
  • The drastic effects of steroids on your dog’s gastrointestinal tract can lead to weight loss or weight gain, depending on their body chemistry and the level of exposure. Dogs may also experience, polydipsia and polyphagia. Polydipsia refers to excessive thirstiness as their metabolism speeds up. Polyphagia, on the other hand, refers to excessive hunger.
  • Steroids are key components in hormones, which can affect the brain. Your dog may experience behavioral changes when they take steroidal medication such as aggressiveness or complacency.

As alarming as some of these side-effects can seem, trust that your vet won’t prescribe steroids for dogs unless they’re sure that your canine really needs the medication. Learning more about the different kinds of steroids and its myriad uses and effects is important in understanding how complex the world of medicine and healthcare, even when it comes to dogs, really is.

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Medical Disclaimer

The information provided on this website is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. The content on the website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, treatment, or advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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