There are several types of steroids for dogs and not all of them are created equally. Also known as corticosteroids, steroids, the shortened term, are man-made syntethic drugs that closely resemble cortisol, a naturally occurring hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Steroids used in veterinary medicine are not to be confused with the drugs athletes use for substance abuse. Steroids in veterinary medicine are used for a variety of medical conditions and are known for their benefits and potential side effects.
Types of Steroids for Dogs
Steroids are drugs that are used both in veterinary medicine and medicine for humans. These drugs mainly work by decreasing inflammation and reducing the activity of the dog's immune system.
Many conditions are known to causes inflammation in dogs and these include arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and several conditions affecting the dog's joints, neck and spine. Signs of inflammation in dogs include pain, limited mobility, redness, warmth and swelling.
Steroids also help reduce the activity of the immune system and are therefore often prescribed in immune system dysfunctions as it happens in auto-immune diseases where the body attacks its own tissues. Steroids are also often prescribed when dogs are suffering from allergies and certain types of cancer.
There are several types of steroids for dogs and many of them are the same used in human medicine. Most steroids end with “-one” --you'll therefore have prednisone, prednisolone, methylprednisolone, dexamethasone, triamcinolone, hydrocortisone and betamethasone. Let's take now a closer look into the different types of steroids for dogs.
Prednisone For Dogs
Prednisone is one of the most common types of steroids used in dogs. It's a synthetic steroid that is widely used in veterinary medicine to treats severe inflammation, autoimmune disorders, allergies and certain types of cancer (mast cell tumors, lymphosarcoma). This drug is short acting and useful for long-term use, ideally with alternate day use. It is four times stronger than cortisol. Once introduced in the body, prednisone is converted by an enzyme into prednisolone in the liver, which is its active form.
Prednisolone for Dogs
Prednisolone is a synthetic steroid that is also widely used in veterinary medicine to treat severe inflammation and autoimmune conditions. While prednisone is converted by the liver to prednisolone, once administered, prednisolone offers the advantage of not requiring such breakdown. Dogs with underlying liver disease who need to be put on steroids may therefore do better on prednisolone rather than prednisone since it requires less breakdown by the liver, explains veterinarian Dr. Sean Egan . Unless the animal is in severe liver failure, prednisone and prednisolone can be used interchangeably.
Prednisolone may also be used in some dogs in certain circumstances where one may desire instant effects from the steroid. Prednisolone is typically used in cats as cats lack the enzyme in the liver responsible for converting prednisone to prednisolone.
Methylprednisolone is a synthetic type of steroid that may be used for treating severe inflammation and several autoimmune conditions. Also known by the brand name of Medrol, methylprednisolone is estimated to be five times more potent that cortisol.
An injectable form is available for dogs and is known by the brand name " Depo Medrol." This milky-white injectable solution (methylprednisolone acetate) is a long-acting steroid with many side effects which can last for days to weeks and will stop only once the drug wears off. A form of methylprednisolone sodium succinate may sometimes be given by vets by IV for emergency treatment of spinal trauma.
Triamcinolone acetonide is a synthetic, long acting steroid that is used in topical solutions for the treatment of allergic and inflammatory conditions in dogs. It is also available in an injection form. Triamcinolone is five times more potent than cortisol.
In veterinary medicine, triamcinolone is found in many prescription ointments and eye medications. On top of that, triamcinolone can also be found under the trade names of "Vetalog" or "Panalog." Vetalog comes in an injectable form that can be used for or the treatment of inflammation, acute arthritis and allergic and dermatologic disorders in dogs.
Panalog, on the other hand, is a combination medication containing nystatin (against fungal infections), neomycin (an antibiotic), thiostrepton (antibacterial) and triamcinolone acetonide (steroid for inflammation). It's available as an ointment or cream and is used to treat skin and external ear problems in dogs such as chronic otitis, interdigital cysts and anal gland infections.
Dexamethasone for Dogs
Dexamethasone is a synthetic, long acting steroid that may be used to control severe hypersensitivity reactions, shock and severe inflammation. It is also used in topical, otic, ophthalmologic solutions to treat allergic reactions and inflammation. Dexamethasone is 25 times stronger than cortisol.
Also known by the brand names of Azium®, Dexasone® or Pet-Derm®, dexamethasone is also available under the form of tablets.
Dexamethasone Ophthalmic Solution helps with any swelling, pain and light sensitivity affecting the dog's eyes and can help reduce eye inflammation due to infection in dogs. It can also help reduce any swelling due to surgery or injury.
Dexamethasone sodium phosphate is a salt of dexamethasone. This is a short-acting steroid, very short-lived with the disadvantages far outweighing the advantages when used for conditions such as chronic allergies. This form of dexamethasone may help only in the case of a really bad attack as it will only last a few hours to maybe a day. For more of a maintenance steroid, oral prednisone or prednisolone would be better choices, explains veterinarian Dr. Rebecca.
Did you know? Dexamethasone is also used in the Low-Dose Dexamethasone Suppression test (LDDS)
Bethamethasone is a synthetic, long acting steroid that is prescribed to treat allergic reactions and to control severe inflammation. Betamethasone is 25 times stronger than cortisol.
Betamethasone dipropionate is sold under the form of a cream, ointment or lotion that is used for the treatment of itchy rashes and other inflammatory skin conditions.
Betamethasone is also often used in conjunction with Gentamicin (an antibiotic that kills the bacteria) to treat the inflammation and reduce the itching associated with infections affecting a dog's ear. Betamethasone is also available in tablet and injectable form.
Hydrocortisone for Dogs
Hydrocortisone is a steroid that has the same chemical structure as cortisol and therefore it most closely resembles the natural hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Hydrocortisone is available in several different forms including creams and sprays.
One of the most common hydrocortisone formulations for dogs includes sprays to be applied topically (to the skin) as long as there are no open wounds. These sprays are mostly designed to sooth minor skin irritations.