Is Cortisone Safe for Dogs?

Steroids are a wonderful family of drugs that treat a variety of ailments. Cortisone is most often used in humans to treat inflammation associated with injuries and allergic reactions, respiratory difficulties, and skin conditions. While there are a variety of prescription-grade medications that are safe for both humans and dogs, cortisone is not one of them.

Can I Give My Dog Cortisone?

It’s not likely that you have access to cortisone because it is a steroid, which is good because cortisone is not safe for your dog, whether it’s an injection, an oral tablet, or as a cream. There are too many unknown side effects it can have on your dog. Some dogs have done fine after a dose of cortisone, but there are also many stories of dogs dying after receiving a cortisone shot. Since a lot of these stories are anecdotal, it’s impossible to say if it was the steroid that killed the dog or the condition they were being treated for.

Is Cortisone Safe for Dogs?

A lot of veterinary professionals have shown concern in regards to the long term side effects created by cortisone. The biggest concern is the suppression of the immune system. When the immune system is weakened, it makes your dog more prone to infections. These infections can be as simple as an infection from an injury to the skin or a serious viral or bacterial infection that affects the entire body. Long term cortisone use can also lead to a weakening of the skeletal system and thinning of the ligaments and skin. This can cause joint pain and even arthritis. Many dogs will experience weight gain on steroids, as well as excessive thirst and appetite. It isn’t uncommon for dogs to become voracious eaters, stealing from the table or digging in the trash to satiate their uncontrollable hunger. Their excessive thirst causes increased urination, and many owners report their dogs having frequent accidents in the house.

The side effects will depend on how high the dosage is and how long the dog is actually on the medication.

It’s very important to never give your dog a steroid such as cortisone without close veterinary supervision. When it’s time to take your dog off the steroid, you can’t just cut them off cold turkey like you can with pain medications. An abrupt cessation of a steroid can create something known as an Addisonian crisis. When a dog is on steroids, their adrenal glands become dormant. If they aren’t given time to kick on again, the body’s potassium and sodium levels become unbalanced. The potassium levels rise, leading to major problems with the circulatory system. If your dog suddenly stops taking their steroid, they become weak, lethargic, experience a very low and irregular heartbeat, go into shock, or possibly collapse.

What Can I Give My Dog for Allergies?

Steroids are given to dogs in cases of allergies when other medications aren’t working. Dogs who are prone to chronic and painful hot spots often require more than an antihistamine to keep these itchy spots at bay. Many vets will offer alternatives to steroids before jumping right to steroidal treatment options. A topical cream for itching like Cyclosporine or Atopica are great for both hot spots and extremely itchy skin. If combinations of non-steroids doesn’t seem to be making a difference and your dog has been suffering long term, your vet might recommend going to see a dermatologist for allergy testing.

What Can I Give My Dog for Arthritis?

If your dog is older and experiences frequent hip or arthritis pain, there are plenty of options to alleviate their discomfort before turning to steroids such as cortisone. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) are a viable treatment option for dogs long term. While the long-term use of steroids can wreck the immune system, long-term NSAID use is very safe as long as your dog doesn’t have a pre-existing liver or kidney condition. Rimadyl (carprofen) is the most commonly prescribed NSAID in dogs and it’s very effective at treating arthritic pain. Deramaxx (deracoxib) is growing in popularity, while Metacam (meloxicam) is an oral analgesic perfect for small dogs or dogs that are hard to medicate.

Cortisone has its place in human medicine, but it’s rarely used in veterinary medicine and isn’t safe for your dog. If your dog has a condition requiring the use of a steroid, then it’s likely your vet will prescribe an alternative steroid that’s much safer and more effective for your dog.

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