The administration of corticosteroid drugs in dogs is recommended for various chronic diseases and certain metabolic deficiencies. However, its healing efficiency is the subject of many controversies because of its side effects on the body.
Next, we will see more about corticosteroid medications, their risks, and the health benefits of our best friends.
What are corticosteroids?
Belonging to the group of hormones called steroids, the body of humans and dogs naturally releases moderate doses of certain corticosteroids, such as cortisol (hydrocortisone) and corticosterone. These hormones are produced in the cortex of the adrenal glands, which explains their names.
The cellular function of corticosteroids is associated with the control of stress or anxiety situations. In these cases, small doses are secreted into the bloodstream to generate a rapid response.
However, its pharmacological use is due to the powerful anti-inflammatory action. Corticosteroids prevent the accumulation of inflammatory cells in the affected areas, so the symptoms are reversed.
Use of corticosteroids: in which diseases do they apply?
Corticosteroids can be prescribed orally (pills), topical application (ointments and creams), inhalations, and injections. The form of application must be the one recommended by the veterinarian, and it depends on which disease you want to treat.
Its administration tries to contain the inflammatory process and relieve the acute symptoms generated by the following conditions:
- Allergies and dermatological inflammations.
- Metabolic disorders, such as adrenocortical insufficiency.
- Rheumatic diseases.
- Allergies and respiratory pathologies.
- Allergic conjunctivitis
- Nephrotic (renal) syndrome.
- Autoimmune diseases, such as Addison and Crohn.
- Organ transplants
- Tendonitis and inflammatory muscle injuries.
- Palliative treatments of malignant neoplasms.
Why does the use of corticosteroids generate controversy?
In principle, it generates controversy because they are not able to treat the exact cause of inflammation. That is to say, its effect is palliative, so it only relieves the symptoms provisionally.
As they do not establish criteria for their action, they inhibit the immunological function of lymphocytes and macrophages in the inflamed regions. Therefore, they usually have immunosuppressive effects that harm the body and leave the animal vulnerable to other conditions.
They can have an opposite effect to the desired one, since they even prevent the dilation of blood vessels and the release of enzymes, which are precisely crucial to mediate naturally with inflammation.
Mild side effects
In moderate doses for short treatments, corticosteroids can generate the following reactions:
- Increased thirst and appetite.
- The tendency to overweight.
- Accumulation of fluids and swelling in different regions of the body.
- Behavioral disorders: anxiety, sleep disorders, etc.
- Tachycardia and irregularities of the heart rhythm.
- Humor changes.
- Slow healing.
Chronic side effects of corticosteroid
Serious side effects resulting from prolonged use of corticosteroids in dogs have also been detected. The damage can become chronic, which will affect the animal throughout its life, as it will require permanent treatment.
Corticosteroids reduce the production and release of gastric mucus, which is why they eliminate the primary protective layer of stomach walls. On the other hand, they increase the segregation of hydrochloric acid, so it favors the appearance of gastritis and ulcers.
Many pets have developed problems with calcium fixation, which has meant that their bones are more vulnerable to degenerative diseases, such as dysplasia and osteoarthritis. They were also more prone to fractures and trauma due to the wear of their bone mass.
Also, different metabolic alterations have been found in animals subjected to high doses of corticosteroids. This includes the imbalance in vitamin and mineral levels, as well as hormonal production.
Corticosteroids also interfere with the metabolization of carbohydrates ingested daily in the diet. As a consequence, the dog may suffer from hyperglycemia and develop diabetes.
Other side effects of corticosteroid treatment
- Generalized edema due to excessive fluid accumulation in the abdominal cavity.
- Wear of cardiac structures and increased risk of myocardial infarction.
- The increased pressure of the eyeball, which favors the development of cataracts and glaucoma.
- Severe immunosuppression symptoms.
- High blood pressure
The use of corticosteroids in dogs diagnosed with gastritis (or ulcer), diabetes, heart disease, and infections is contraindicated. And it is that the immunosuppressive effects could lead the animal to die quickly.