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Info on Steroids for Dogs

There are three classes of steroids that may be used in dogs: corticosteroids, anabolic steroids and sex steroids.

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The most commonly used anti-inflammatory drugs in veterinary medicine are corticosteroids. These drugs can suppress or prevent inflammation and are commonly used in the treatment of shock, allergies, inflammation, arthritis, Addison's disease and some types of cancer. Corticosteroids may also be used to suppress the immune system in animals with autoimmune disorders.

Side Effects of Corticosteroids

Although useful in treating a variety of problems, corticosteroids may have significant side effects including iatrogenic Cushing's disease, exacerbation or precipitation of diabetes, adrenal gland atrophy, electrolyte imbalances, calcium depletion, delayed healing of wounds and/or broken bones, gastrointestinal ulcers, increased susceptibility to infection and mood or behavioural changes.

Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic steroids may be used to stimulate the appetite, promote weight gain, assist in rebuilding muscle mass, strengthen existing muscle and treat some types of anaemia.

Side Effects of Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic steroids may induce changes in behaviour, reproductive problems, water retention and oedema.

Sex Steroids

Sex steroids are used primarily in female dogs to support or modify reproduction. These compounds may be used to induce or prevent a heat cycle, treat urinary incontinence in females, inhibit tumour growth, terminate or support a pregnancy, induce labour and promote lactation.

Side Effects of Sex Steroids

The use of certain sex steroids can result in the development or exacerbation of diabetes, bone marrow suppression, potentially fatal aplastic anaemia, development of cystic endometrial hyperplasia and adrenocortical suppression.

Debate and Cautions

Although useful in treating a variety of problems in dogs, a growing number of veterinarians and pet owners have concerns about the overuse of corticosteroids. The frequency and severity of the side effects associated with these drugs suggest that alternative therapies should be considered when possible.

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About the Author

Heather Lord

Heather Lord received a Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary studies from Villa Julie College in 2001 and a M.T.P.C. from Auburn University in 2003. She also completed doctoral coursework at Auburn in organizational behavior and human resource management. Lord has worked in the veterinary and legal industries. Her current interests include medical and scientific writing.

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