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Steroids are one of the most commonly prescribed medications for dogs. Not many pet owners know that there are many different classes of steroids, and all of them work differently and have their own set of possible side effects. Read on to know more.
- Glucocorticoids – They are the most commonly used class of steroids in veterinary medicine. The list is a long one and includes names like triamcinolone, prednisone, prednisolone, dexamethasone, betamethasone, fludrocortisone, flumethasone, methylprednisolone and hydrocortisone. At low doses, these drugs are very effective at reducing inflammation. At high doses, they suppress your dog's immune system. Generally, they are used to treat allergies and other immune-mediated diseases. However, many doctors also prescribe it to treat Addison's disease and shock. The most common side effects include increased thirst and urination, gastrointestinal ulcers, abnormal behavior and muscular weakness.
- Mineralocorticoids – The adrenal glands of dogs with Addison's disease does not produce enough of glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids. The latter are responsible for maintaining water and electrolyte balance in the body, while the former play a vital role in stress response. Desoxycorticosterone is an injectable mineralocorticoid, while fludrocortisone has both glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid activity. Although both these drugs are safe, they can cause increased thirst and urination.
- Adrenal Cortical Steroids – Cosyntropin and corticotropin are used as a diagnostic tool for dogs with Addison's disease and Cushing's disease. The injections are given as a part of the ACTH stimulation test. There are no side effects to these drugs as they are administered just once.
- Estrogens – Estradiol and Diethylsilbestrol are steroid hormones that are used to treat female dogs who suffer from urinary incontinence. They are also used to encourage them to come into heat. In rare occasions, it is used to treat benign prostatic hypertrophy in male dogs. Estrogens can suppress the bone marrow and lead to blood disorders, and increase the likelihood for certain types of cancer.
- Progestins – These are steroid hormones that are prescribed to postpone the heat cycles and reduce the chance of false pregnancies. They are also used to treat certain skin conditions. Medroxyprogesterone and megestrol acetate are the most commonly prescribed progestins. Possible side effects include increased appetite and thirst, enlargement of the mammary glands, behavioral changes, and an increased risk of diabetes, acromegaly, Cushing's disease,reproductive disorders, pyometra and certain types of cancer.
- Androgens – Mibolerone, Danazol, and testosterone belong to a class of steroid hormones called androgens. They can be used to treat urinary incontinence that is responsive to hormones. They can also be used for suppressing heat cycles and reducing the risk of false pregnancies. Liver toxicity, masculinization of female dogs and an increased risk of certain types of cancer are some of the more potentially troublesome side effects.