Steroid shots are commonly used to treat mammals (humans, dogs, cats, and horses to name a few) from allergies, inflammation, and arthritis-related symptoms. If you have taken steroid injections, you know that their action is usually short-lived and as soon as you stop, the disorder may strike again. You might have experienced some side effects too. What about steroid shots for dogs? Do they help? Are they safe? Let’s find out.
How Do Steroid Shots Work?
Steroid injections (prednisone, prednisolone, cortisone) work by suppressing the immune system. While they do decrease inflammation and swelling temporarily (by suppressing the immune system) they don’t work on the cause of the disorder. In other words, they work symptomatically rather than healing the disorder. Swelling and inflammation are a normal immune response that signals that something is wrong in the body.
In some very serious cases the use of steroids can be justified by 100%. Sometimes they can even help to save the life of an animal. But the symptomatic action of steroids can be hard to justify in easy cases, when the culprit may be a simple food allergen, household allergen, or environmental allergen. In this case, it makes more sense to determine the allergen (using the elimination diet, removing household allergens, wiping the dog down after it was outdoors, etc.) than using steroid shots.
Side Effects of Steroid Shots for Dogs
Some of the side-effects of steroid injections are very mild. These include increased thirst and hunger, as well as increased aggression (usually towards other animals). Some animals on the contrary lose appetite. Research shows that incontinence and diarrhea may also result from steroid use, especially with repeated treatments. Immediately after the shot, the animal may also start panting and breathing heavily. I found cases to back up all of the above side-effects.
Chronic steroid use has much more serious potential side effects, such as kidney damage, liver damage, diabetes, brittle bones, and immune system damage. Many of these serious side-effects have also been reported with short-term use of steroid shots. On Earth Clinic, you will find numerous horrible stories of cats and dogs becoming paralyzed, blind and even dying after such an injection. Can steroid shots actually cause paralysis, blindness or death, or is it a coincidence? We don’t know. What we do know is that the reports of steroid-related horrific side effects and deaths in dogs and cats are too many to disregard.
Note: Oral and topical use of steroids can have the same potential side-effects, but they are usually milder and less common. This is probably due to smaller doses that get into the pet’s body at once.
If you are considering a steroid injection to treat your dog’s or cat’s allergy, joint inflammation, or anything else of the sort, first weigh the pros and cons. Be sure to speak with your vet and ask a lot of questions. Also note that in some cases when a veterinarian is talking about an “anti-inflammatory” shot, they may mean one with a steroid inside. It is very important to note that some vets give all dogs a standard dosage, such as 4cc’s, which is a lot and can be very dangerous for smaller dogs. You may really want to ask your doctor about the dosage they are intending to use.
Pet owners that lost their beloved dogs and cats soon after cortisone shots warn other pet owners to never let their vets inject the animals with these drugs.
In many cases a little of Benadryl can do almost the same thing as steroids, without the dreadful side-effects.