For pets, steroids are a common “go to” drug for relieving the pain and discomfort associated with inflammation. They have been shown to be useful in reducing the effects of arthritis, immune system disorders. The can also be a useful for atopy treatment (itchy skin condition) and inflammation (of the back, stomach, etc.) Short-term use may be just what your pet needs, but beyond that, steroids can have detrimental side effects. You and your vet will need to weigh the costs and benefits of steroid use. To help you make a more educated decision, here is a listing of some of the side effects of steroid use:

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Short-term:

  • Panting
  • Energy loss
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Worsening of infections
  • Increased sense of hunger

Long-term:

  • Skin diseases and hair loss
  • High blood pressure
  • Wounds heal slower
  • Blood clots
  • Obesity due to abnormal hunger
  • Liver and cartilage damage
  • Muscle weakness
  • Diabetes
  • Pancreatitis
  • Compromised immune system

If any of these side effects manifests while your pet is taking steroids, consult your veterinarian. Addressing the issue as soon as it starts can help prevent the problem from getting worse.

There are also a number of steroid-free treatment options to explore. For example, if your pet’s inflammation is tied into allergies (a common cause of inflammation), consider sublingual immunotherapy for cats, dogs, or horses. It can be administered through shots or oral allergy drops. The advantages of allergy immunotherapy over steroids is that it actually addresses the underlying allergy—not just its symptoms—and that it is a nature-based therapy that rarely causes side effects. If steroids don’t seem to be a good match for your pet, talk to your veterinarian about alternatives.