Steroids and Pets

Steroids are one of the most misunderstood “drugs” in medicine. Actually, steroids are naturally occurring hormones made in the body by the adrenal glands. They are synthesized by the adrenal gland from cholesterol and are essential to sustain life. Commonly they are known as cortisone or a derivative of cortisone, and are frequently referred to corticosteroids. The administration of steroids have saved many lives and is routinely used in not only veterinary medicine but human medicine throughout the world. Steroids affect every organ in the body, especially the heart, kidneys, nervous system and digestive system. When the body does not produce enough it can cause serious disease just as if the body produces too much of this vital hormone. In veterinary medicine it is used routinely to treat many conditions safely and successfully. It is used to treat many skin conditions, allergies and inflammatory conditions. It treats inflammation and pain many times better when an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) does not. Properly used it even treats certain types of cancer, and systemic diseases like Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia and Addison?s Disease. It is life saving in cases of shock and stress as the result of injury, cold or heat stroke. Cats seem to be a little more resistant to any side effects than dogs, but the side effects, if they do occur, are short lived and minor. Increased thirst, urination and increased appetite are the more common temporary side effects. Many times a steroid is combined with an antihistamine as they work well together to treat allergies. It is extremely important to follow your veterinarian?s directions regarding dose, frequency and duration of use.