Steroids. A curse or a blessing?

Well, dog allergies are very common and to be honest, it has no end. Such allergies are caused by a number of things, a probable reason could also be a recent change in their environment, a change in their shampoo or any other reason. When that happens, you really need to look for ways to make your furry friend feel better. That is when steroids come in action!

For those dog parents out there who have been thinking about the effects of steroids, here’s an article that lists all you need to know about steroids for your dogs.

Related Post: Dog Allergy Testing

Woman training her dog at home

Different Types of Steroids for Dogs

1. Glucocorticoids

You may have heard about Glucocorticoids already if your vet has used it in any of their medicine. Glucocorticoids, when given at a lower dose, can reduce inflammation in dogs. While higher doses can suppress the immune system. Steroid is mostly used for the treatment of allergies and immune-related diseases. Sometimes, the vet may choose to prescribe it to dogs suffering from Addison’s disease in order to handle shock or some types of cancer.

Glucocorticoids are usually given to dogs via injection, topically, inhalation or orally. Using it for a short-term period is regarded as safe, but long-term use of glucocorticoids at high-doses may cause the following:

  • Increased thirst, hunger and urination
  • Prone to infections
  • Gastrointestinal ulcers
  • Abnormal behaviours
  • Muscular weakness

2. Mineralocorticoids

Your vet would prescribe Mineralocorticoids only when your dog is suffering from Addison’s disease. This is when their adrenal glands cannot produce enough Mineralocorticoids and Glucocorticoids. Mineralocorticoids usually maintain the balance of electrolytes and water within the dog’s body while Glucocorticoids play a role in the stress response.

Mineralocorticoids are considered to be safe for dogs and it can lead to an increase of urination and thirst. Severe side effects are only seen when these drugs or your dog abruptly stop taking their medications.

3. Prednisone

Prednisone is also a common type of steroid for dogs. It’s a kind of synthetic steroid that is used by vets to treat autoimmune disorders, inflammation, allergies, tumours and cancer. This steroid act very fast and is helpful in cases of long-term use; ideally works best when used every alternate day. Chemically, it’s stronger than cortisol. Once your pet dog’s body gets an essence of prednisone, their body converts it to an enzyme, which is its active form.

4. Adrenal Cortical Steroids

Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH or corticotropin) are worked on dogs with both Cushing’s disease and Addison’s disease. These drugs are often injected as a part of the ACTH stimulation test that is then used to determine whether or not the dog’s adrenal glands are performing regularly. Cushing’s disease in dogs, who are also being treated with drug mitotane, can also be monitored with ACTH stimulation tests. Its side effects are not likely to react with adrenal cortical steroids since they are not prescribed over a more extended period of time.

5. Hydrocortisone

Similar to the name, hydrocortisone contains the same chemical structure of cortisol and thus closely favour the natural hormones that the adrenal glands produce. Hydrocortisone is available in many forms like sprays and creams. Most dog parents prefer sprays that can be applied topically, without any hassle, as long as the dog’s skin has no open wounds. The sprays are mainly designed to soothe minor skin itchiness.

6. Betamethasone

This is also a synthetic steroid that is long acting and mainly works for allergies and inflammation. Compared to cortisol, betamethasone is 25 times stronger than that. It is sold as creams, lotions and ointments that help in the treatment of skin rashes or other inflammatory infections. However, you will also find some tablets and injectable forms, too. The best use of betamethasone is with Gentamicin; a type of antibiotic that kills any bacteria.

7. Anabolic Steroids

These are like stanozolol, nandrolone and boldenone, which are not usually used by vets in their medicines anymore. However, they may be prescribed occasionally to influence a dog’s appetite, strength, promote weight gain and treat anaemia, which is a long-term illness.

Bear it in mind that you should never give Anabolic steroids to your canine if they are pregnant or about to be pregnant. These are destructive to birth-giving dogs. In fact, this is one of the potential side effects of anabolic steroids that it causes dysfunction in the reproductive system in both male and female dogs. In tune to that, it may also cause liver damage, electrolyte abnormalities and behavioural changes.

8. Progestins

These are steroid hormones that are usually prescribed to delay heat cycles or reduce false pregnancies in female dogs and use as benign prostatic hypertrophy in male dogs. Progestins can sometimes be used to treat skin conditions or to rectify aggressive behaviour.

Medroxyprogesterone and megestrol acetate are the type of progestin normally used in dogs. Just like most steroids, progestins also have the side effects like increased hunger and thirst, changes in behaviour, enlarged mammary gland and a greater chance of developing diabetes, Cushing’s disease, reproductive disorders, uterine infection and also some types of cancer.

Hand of woman feeding happy dog with treats

9. Dexamethasone

This is most applicable for hypersensitivity reactions, severe inflammation and shock. Again, Dexamethasone is no exception and can be found in tablet forms or topically forms. Dexamethasone Ophthalmic Solution is useful when treating swelling, light sensitivity and pain affecting the dog’s eyes. It also helps to reduce swelling because of a recent surgery that your dog has undergone.

Did you know? Low-dose dexamethasone Suppression Test (LDDS) makes use of dexamethasone.

10. Androgens

Danazol, testosterone and mibolerone are some examples of androgens, another type of steroid hormones. Unlike other steroids that have specific uses, androgens have an array of methods. It can be used to treat a male dog’s hormone-responsive urinary incontinence, reduce false pregnancies in female dogs, and suppress heat cycles and also works as a part of therapy for few types of immune-related blood disorders.

Without proper usage, the use of androgens could lead to worrisome side effects. It could cause liver toxicity, induction of few types of cancer and masculinization in female dogs.

Short-term Side Effects of Steroids in Dogs

Steroids are mainly prescribed by veterinarians to your dog if they are suffering from inflammation that’s causes possibly causing them pain and discomfort. We have already mentioned the different types of steroids with its own side effects above, but overall, steroids also have common side effects in dogs. It could be a loss of energy, increased hunger and thirst, skin conditions, heavily panting in dogs or in some rare cases it could be vomiting.

If you see that your pet dog has been experiencing any such side effects, consult your holistic vet to make sure that the steroid intake is under control and that whether your pet should continue taking the steroid as per prescribed. You may try to stop using it altogether, but before you do so, consult the clinic or the vet who have prescribed the steroids. It’s always the vets who come up with what should be done next.

Long-term Side Effects of Steroids in Dogs

In the long-term scale, some short-term side effects could continue such as loss in appetite and energy. However, long-term side effects have even worse consequences. Your athletic pet dog could become weak or obese. That’s the result of increased thirst and hunger. Plus, they could be getting urine infections more than usual. So, do take note of such consequences.

In essence, the side effects could then become an illness. For instance, obesity in your pet dog due to steroids could cause joint and muscle pain, following very less activity on a regular basis.

Although these long-term effects vary from dog to dog, it’s always a good idea to schedule for a regular checkup with your vet if your pupper is taking steroids. The vet will then tell you whether the use of steroids is the best option for extended periods.

In addition to that, be wary of such side effects and risks beforehand. Monitor your pet dog’s behaviours and physical changes carefully and attentively. If the side effects continue to affect your furry friend, we are afraid, you’ll need to look for alternative methods to treat your dog.

Not all dogs are naturally appropriate for steroids. Your vet will work out something and determine any other treatment based on your dog’s specific healthcare needs.

Steroids for Pemphigus in Canines

Now, what is pemphigus? Well, they are one kind of skin disease in which watery blisters manifest in the skin. It occurs typically through viral infection or when your dog is exposed to too much sun outdoors that led to skin inflammation. It could be really uncomfortable and painful for your dog, so instead get it cured as soon as possible.

So, to cure pemphigus, your vet may have prescribed steroids for your canine.

For better clarification, we will dig more into the matter of pemphigus. Basically, there are three main types of pemphigus, all of which affects differently to dogs:

  • Pemphigus Foliaceus: Perhaps the most common form of pemphigus in dogs that is more likely to occur in elderly dogs. Hair loss, open sores and scabs are symptoms of this disease. In fact, pemphigus foliaceus is very much visible to the eye and are more confident to happen in some breeds than others.
    Mark whether you are a parent of any such breeds: Chow Chows, Akita, English Bulldogs, Labrador Retrievers, Dachshunds or Cocker Spaniels. If your dog belongs to any of those breeds and starts showing symptoms, go to the vet for an official diagnosis.
  • Pemphigus Erythematosus: This is a bit similar to the foliaceus, but are seem to be appearing in a milder form. German Shepherds, Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs are susceptible to get pemphigus erythematosus, but it’s not just these breeds alone; others could get it too.
  • Pemphigus Vulgaris: This one is also visible on your dog’s skin and is of course, painful and uncomfortable. Once it’s diagnosed through a skin biopsy, prednisone (one type of steroid) would be prescribed. Please don’t get it all by yourself unless your vet recommends you to do so.

Know that if your pet dog is taking steroids, they will need to be kept under close observation and be taken for frequent checkups. This is to ensure that the steroids are working fine and not causing any defects to your dog.

At times, when pet dogs are diagnosed with pemphigus, steroids are not only long-term therapy to help reduce pain and discomfort in dogs. Other alternative treatments are not as strong as steroids but sure does make your dog feel better and keep them out of misery.

Alternative Treatment of Steroids for Dogs

Nowadays, steroids are very widely used and have become a common treatment plan for dogs suffering from pemphigus, allergies or any other diseases. However, in this modern era, this is not the only solution available. If you feel that steroids are a little too much for your pooch to handle, talk it out with your vet. Find something that best fits your pet dog.

Alternative treatments usually care about the overall wellness of your dog. Acupuncture and massage therapies are such therapies. In fact, they are on the rise and have known to be quite popular in dogs because of the benefits that it comes with. In many cases, these therapies have known to ease dogs from discomfort and pain and thus served as a substitute for steroid therapy.

Sometimes, allergies are a side-effect of your dog’s diet. You may consider eliminating specific food from your dog’s daily intake and check whether it helps them reduce such symptoms. Talk about it to your vet, and your vet may be able to identify what’s exactly causing the inflammation, allergy or nausea.

Nonetheless, you may even try hemp-based products. Those are all-natural alternatives that will help your dog with digestive issues, pain and inflammation.

Frequently Asked Questions for Steroid Use in Dogs

Q: Does taking steroids continue for the rest of my dog’s life?

A: We get a lot of that question, and that’s actually a good question! Well, it all depends on what condition your dog has been suffering from and what your vet recommends in that case. Long-term use of steroids is not something ubiquitous in pets. If your dog needs to take steroids, it wouldn’t be more than 3 – 4 months. However, even if your vet recommends to use steroids for this long, do review it carefully. There are potential risks associated with taking steroids in animals.

Q: My dog is allergic to a specific type of food, how can I test exactly which one?

A: If you have introduced a new type of food to your dog and notice that they have started to show allergy symptoms, but the reactions are not really consistent, eliminate specific food from their diet to verify what’s causing them such allergy. Consult your vet and work out a plan that will help you test the food allergies in your dog.

Related Post: Best Dog Food for Allergies

Q: My dog refuses to take medicines orally. What can I do?

A: Make use of other tactics. In the case of steroids, you can inject it or even make use of topical ways. Whatever you do, make sure that your pet is comfortable, especially when it’s a new medicine to their routine.

Q: Are steroids only available through prescription?

A: Yes, yes and yes! In cases of steroids, you really need to get the pet doctor to do the hormonal tests and furthermore get a prescription from the vet. Injecting or providing steroids is not at all recommended. It may lead to some unfortunate consequences such as death!

Keep Track of Your Pet Dog’s Health

It’s no surprise that pet also suffers from illness and diseases just like we humans do. It could be something as simple as allergies or as significant as a tumour or cancer. Although such health conditions occur partly because of age or changes in their environment, the key is to keep a good rapport with your vet so that they can document any information regarding their health. When you have a good record of your pet’s medical history and medications, it helps you to make informed decisions.

A good record of your pet’s medications and health history also helps you in emergency cases when you have to leave your pet with others for a few days. The pet boarding or the person needs to know what medications your pet dog had been taking and if there are any side effects that they need to keep an eye on. No matter what happens, your pet needs to maintain his or her regular routine and that, of course, includes taking their steroids on time. Luckily, the digitisation era has made the recording and accessing of information so much easier.

If your pet dog has ever been diagnosed with any skin conditions, make sure that you as your vet to review all the possible treatment options. Steroids could be one possible therapy but dive into as much as options possible. After all, it’s your furry friend’s life that we are talking about in here.

Have you ever given any type of steroids to your pet dog? Share your experience with us!


  1. Steroids for Dogs, PetMD
  2. Medical Treatment for Dogs, HowStuffWorks
Olivia Williams
Olivia is our head of content for, mum of one and a true animal lover. With 12 different types of animal in her family, it's never a dull moment. When she isn't walking the dogs, feeding the cats or playing with her pet Parrot Charlie, you will find her product researching and keeping the site freshly updated with the latest products for your pets!


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