Side Effects of Steroids for Dogs

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When the pollen count increases, does your body respond with a runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, and itchy, inflamed skin? Did you know these allergic reactions are also common in dogs? Dog allergies can be caused by any number of things, including a change in the environment. A new dog food, new shampoo, or interaction with the unfamiliar could also create an allergic reaction in your dog. When this occurs, there are ways to help your pet feel better.

Short-Term Side Effects of Steroids for Dogs

Steroids are commonly prescribed by veterinarians to help with these symptoms, especially inflammation that could be causing pain and discomfort in your dog. There are several different types of steroids, each linked to their own side effects. But overall, common side effects of steroids for dogs include: loss of energy, increased thirst and hunger, heavy panting, and in some rarer cases, vomiting or worsening skin conditions.

If your pet experiences any of these side effects, consult with your veterinarian to make sure they are under control and he can keep taking the steroid as prescribed. While your first instinct may be to stop use altogether, make a call to your veterinary clinic as soon as possible. He or she will instruct you on the next steps to take.

Long-Term Side Effects of Steroid Use in Dogs

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In addition to the change in energy and appetite, there are also a few side effects that may continue on a more long-term scale. Over time, the continued use of steroids in your dog could lead to muscle weakness, obesity (due to increased hunger), development of thin skin, urinary tract infections, and/or increased susceptibility to bacterial or fungal infections.

Each of these side effects could also lead to additional negative health conditions as well. For example, obesity could be hard on your pet’s joints and cause pain and muscle weakness, which could lead to low activity levels. While these long-term effects vary from pet to pet, it’s a good idea to schedule regular checkups with the veterinarian. Decide if continued steroid use is the best option on a prolonged basis.

Additionally, being aware of these side effect risks ahead of time can help you monitor your dog’s behavior and physical changes more closely. If side effects continue to affect your dog, other routes of care might need to be explored. Not all dogs are a naturally good fit for steroids. Your veterinarian will determine favorable treatment based on your dog’s specific diagnosis and healthcare needs.

Steroids for Pemphigus in Dogs

Steroids may be prescribed if your dog is diagnosed with pemphigus. Pemphigus is an autoimmune disease in dogs that affects the skin. This disease can be caused by genetics, breed, or an autoimmune dysfunction. Or, it can be caused by a viral infection or too much sun exposure that could lead to skin inflammation. On other hand, sometimes it occurs without any explanation at all. It can be painful and uncomfortable for your pet and is not a disease that can be cured, but rather treated.

There are three types of pemphigus, all which affect dogs in different ways. Pemphigus foliaceus is the most common among dogs and usually occurs in older pets. Symptoms of this type of disease include open sores, scabs, and hair loss in dogs. Pemphigus foliaceus is visible to the eye and typically affects certain breeds more than others, such as Chow Chows, Cocker Spaniels, Akitas, Labrador Retrievers, Dachshunds, and English Bulldogs. If your dog falls into one of these categories and starts to show these symptoms, take him to the veterinarian for an official diagnosis.

The second type of pemphigus is pemphigus erythematosus. This is similar to the foliaceus strain but appears in a milder form. Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, and German Shepherds typically are more susceptible but again, the disease is not exclusive to these breeds alone. Finally, pemphigus vulgaris is the most serious type of the autoimmune disease. It, too, is visible on the skin and results in fluid-filled lesions that are painful to your pet and highly uncomfortable. Once diagnosed via a skin biopsy, prednisone (a type of steroid) is often the prescription for treatment.

The steroid treatment will require monitoring and frequent checkups to ensure that it continues to work and that it is not causing any negative side effects for your dog. Many times when a dog is diagnosed with pemphigus, steroids are not a long-term plan of therapy to help alleviate symptoms, pain, and discomfort for your pet. There are other therapies that can help keep your pet out of pain and feeling better.

dog steroids side effects_canna-pet

Alternative Types of Treatment for Dogs

Although steroids are commonly part of a treatment plan for dogs suffering from allergies, pemphigus, or other like conditions, it’s not the only route of care available. Talk with your veterinarian about all your options in order to find the best fit for your dog.

Alternative therapies focus on the overall wellness of your pet. Massage therapy and acupuncture for pets have risen in popularity due to the benefits provided. In some cases, these types of therapies can ease pain, reduce inflammation, and may serve as a complement to other types of care, including steroid therapy.

If your dog is suffering from allergies, his diet may be responsible. By eliminating certain foods from his daily intake, it can help reduce the number of symptoms he experiences. By working with your veterinarian or pet nutritionist to review your pet’s diet, you can identify which foods may be causing inflammation, nausea, or other side effects due to an allergic reaction.

Additionally, hemp-based products are an all-natural alternative that may help with digestive issues, inflammation, pain, and a range of other ailments and disorders. Whether you switch your dog to a hemp nutrition diet or introduce different snacks and foods as part of his regimen, the products will not disrupt any current diet or medication schedule.

Allergies don’t fit into a one-size-fits-all category. There are various causes, side effects, and treatment plans to help reduce the suffering in your dog.

Types of Steroids for Dogs

When steroids are prescribed for your pet, there isn’t just one type available. There are actually seven types of steroids and all of them come with their own potential side effects. Glucocorticoids is the one most commonly prescribed in veterinary medicine. You might know it better by the names prednisone or hydrocortisone. These can be used to treat canine allergies and can be administered a number of ways: by injection, orally, topically, or through inhalation.

Side effects of glucocorticoids my results in increased thirst, hunger, and urination; muscle weakness; ulcers; and the possible development of Cushing’s disease in dogs. These are more likely to occur when steroids are administered in large doses for an extended amount of time. If your dog is prescribed a steroid therapy plan that includes one of these, discuss both short-term and long-term goals for healing.

Mineralocorticoids are prescribed primarily if your pet has been diagnosed with Addison’s disease. This condition is a result of reduced corticosteroid secretion from the adrenal gland. As the name may allude to, mineralocorticoids help with the balance of water and electrolytes in the system. The main side effect here is also increased thirst and urination. Typically with this type of steroid, serious side effects are rare unless there is an overdose or abrupt discontinuance of the medication.

steroids for dogs side effects_canna-pet

Adrenal cortical steroids are used in the testing phase when diagnosing dogs with Addison’s disease or Cushing’s disease. Since these steroids aren’t intended for long-term use, there are rarely side effects that occur. The remaining types of steroids, anabolic, estrogens, progestins, and androgens, are used less in veterinary medicine than the others, but may still be prescribed depending on your pet’s condition and needs.

Anabolic steroids were once more commonly used to help promote weight gain and stimulate the appetite. Side effects can cause potential liver damage, severe behavioral changes, and birth defects in dogs that are pregnant or may become pregnant. Estrogens are used to treat urinary incontinence but can lead to blood disorders and uterine infections among is more serious side effects. Progestins are used typically to postpone heat cycles and carry many of the side effects already mentioned. Finally, androgens are commonly prescribed for the same reasons as estrogens and progestins. Side effects of this type of steroid may result in liver toxicity, blood disorders, and certain types of cancer in dogs.

It’s important to understand all side effects regardless of the type of steroid your dog is prescribed. It’s also important to follow through on the veterinarian’s treatment plan. Discontinuing use before the prescription is gone or giving your dog too much at once can have negative results. Schedule check-ins with your veterinary clinic to track the progress of your dog’s adjustment to the medication and be mindful of any sudden changes in appearance or behavior.

FAQs for Steroid Use in Dogs

Will my dog have to take steroids for the rest of his life?

It depends on the condition he’s suffering from and your veterinarian’s recommendation. Long-term use isn’t as typical in pets. If your dog requires steroids for longer than 3-4 months at a time, you will want review alternative options with your pet’s doctor. There are potential risks that come with ongoing steroid use.

I think my dog is allergic to certain foods; how do I test which ones?

If your dog has experienced allergy symptoms after eating certain foods but his reactions aren’t consistent, you can implement an elimination diet to help determine the source of the allergy.  With the help of a veterinary professional, you can set up a plan that eliminates certain foods from your pet’s diet and then, slowly work them back in to test for food allergies in dogs.

My dog doesn’t like to take medication orally – are there other options available?

Yes. Typically, administering steroids can be done through injection or topically as well. Make it as comfortable for your pet as possible, if you’re trying to introduce a new medication routine to his day.

Is prednisone only available through prescription?

Yes. You only want to administer steroids to your pet with the recommended medication and dosage amount from your veterinarian. Prior to creating a treatment plan, your veterinarian will do a thorough exam of your dog. He or she will take into consideration your pet’s breed, age, past medical history, and other environmental variables that could be the cause for certain symptoms like inflammation or pain. Depending on the diagnosis, steroids may not be the first recommended prescription. It’s wise to get the full picture from your pet’s doctor before continuing with care.

Keeping Track of a Healthy Pet

Pets suffer from illness and disease just like people. That includes allergies. This susceptibility may change over time as a result of age or changes in environment. The best thing to do is keep a good relationship with the veterinarian and documented information about your pet’s health. When you have an accurate record of past medical history and medications, it helps you make more informed decisions.

It also helps when you are temporarily placing your dog into the care of others. If you need to leave your dog with a kennel or have someone look after him while you’re away, they all need to know what medications your dog is on and what side effects to watch out for. Your pet will need to maintain his regular routine and that includes receiving the right amount of steroids at the scheduled times.

Fortunately, recording and accessing information is easier than ever before because it can be transferred digitally. If your dog is ever diagnosed with any kind of allergies, skin conditions, or other types of diseases, ask your veterinarian to review all possible treatment options. There may be one that is favored, but dive into all aspects of your pet’s wellness to promote the health of your pet throughout his lifetime. It’s normal to have questions about new medications, including steroid therapy. Get the information you need to feel good about the treatment your dog is receiving.



  1. “Prednisone for Dogs: Use With Caution.” Honest Paws, 9 July 2018, Accessed 16 Nov 2017.
  2. “Side Effects of Steroids in Pets.” PetHelpful, 14 Jan. 2017, Accessed 16 Nov 2017.
  3. “The Disturbing Truths about Steroid Therapy.” Healthy Pets, Accessed 16 Nov 2017.
  4. “Truth Behind the Benefits of Steroids in Dogs.” Petwave, Accessed 16 Nov 2017.
  5. “Corticosteroid Therapy in Dogs – Procedure, Efficacy, Recovery, Prevention, Cost.” WagWalking, 30 May 2017, Accessed 16 Nov 2017.

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