- If your pet has an allergy, this can seriously affect its quality of life. If allergens like dust or fleas trigger a reaction, it will be difficult for you to control your dog's exposure to these substances. In these cases, or when the allergic reaction is severe, steroids can help reduce the intensity of your pet's symptoms. Especially when combined with other medicines such as antihistamines, steroids are very effective in suppressing allergic reactions.
- The steroids used to control allergic reactions are called corticosteroids. As Pet Education explains, these steroids come either as pills or an injection. Steroids like cortisone already occur naturally in your dog's body and are useful for fighting pain, inflammation and severe itching. They can also have an effect on the immune system, changing the way your dog's body reacts to the allergens upon contact.
- There are many different types of steroids that your vet might prescribe to control allergic reactions. Corticosteroids are different from anabolic steroids, which are used to build muscle and help growth. Instead, they affect the immune system, controlling symptoms like inflammation and itching. The most common type is called cortisone, although there are also several other varieties that all have a similar function.
- Due to the risk of short- and long-term side effects involved with using steroids, vets will usually only prescribe these medicines when other ways of controlling your dog's allergic reactions have been exhausted. As Pawprints and Purrs points out, steroids can be useful in preventing allergic reactions when it is not possible to control the dog's exposure to allergens. Dr. Jeff Feinman, VMD, says that steroids combined with antihistamines can improve the symptoms of even the most severe allergic reactions.
- The benefits of steroids don't come without risks. Short-term side effects of using these drugs include increased thirst, weight gain, panting and hyperactivity. In the long term, the misuse of steroids can cause permanent damage to your dog's body. Pet Education warns that these symptoms can include coat and skin problems, diabetes, liver problems and an increased susceptibility to infections. It is important to only use steroids as directed and to have your dog's dosage reviewed regularly.