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What Are the Uses of Dexamethasone for Dogs?

Dexamethasone might cause fatigue in dogs.
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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 23 July 2014
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The uses of dexamethasone for dogs vary widely, from cancer to conditions that cause inflammation. It might be prescribed for arthritis, some autoimmune diseases, skin problems, and to treat shock or other nervous system disorders. Some gastrointestinal disorders might improve using dexamethasone. A veterinarian might also use the drug before and after surgery, along with antibiotics, to aid healing and prevent infection.

Dexamethasone for dogs is a strong, synthetic corticosteroid available in tablet and liquid forms. Studies show the drug’s anti-inflammatory properties might be 20 times as effective as other prednisolone drugs and up to 80 times stronger than hydrocortisones. This newer drug is more potent than older corticorsteroids, meaning dexamethasone usually requires lower doses.

As an anti-inflammatory veterinary medication, dexamethasone might reduce swelling and pain from conditions such as arthritis. It also treats skin problems, like eczema, by aiding healing and reducing discomfort. Veterinarians determine the dose of dexamethasone by analyzing the condition and evaluating how a dog responds to the drug. The liquid version can be administered by injection to quickly restore hormonal levels.

Pet owners using dexamethasone for dogs should watch for a list of side effects that might occur. Dogs might suffer fatigue and weakness from loss of muscle tone while on the drug. It also could suppress an animal’s immune system, causing wounds to heal slowly, and affect a dog’s adrenal system, especially if used over a long period of time. Some dogs develop stomach ulcers as a side effect.

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The drug might also cause a dog to drink and urinate excessively. Appetite might be affected and lead to low weight in some animals. Another adverse reaction could alter blood sugar levels, and the drug is not recommended for animals with diabetes.

Dexamethasone for dogs might not be appropriate in animals with other health conditions, such as liver or heart problems. Pets that suffer from seizures may also want to avoid the product. Osteoporosis might become worse in dogs using this drug, and pregnant animals might go into premature labor while taking the medication.

Other risks include interactions with other drugs. Dexamethasone should not be combined with drugs used to thin the blood or medication a dog takes for seizures. If it is combined with other steroid drugs, an overdose might occur. Veterinarians typically caution pet owners to discontinue the use of this medication gradually to prevent withdrawal complications.

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Discuss this Article

anon962424
Post 6

I thought my dog had a seizure after being on this for a month. She is lethargic and can't walk very well without almost losing her balance all the time. I have to decrease this and take her off of it. The vet never explained this med to me at all.

anon951687
Post 5

My 15 day old pup was lethargic with no appetite and couldn’t nurse. We rushed her to the vet. According to her, my pup Elsa had fever. She advised a CBC to be done, but I refused since I knew the major problem was no appetite to eat as well as being lethargic. So there was no laboratory investigation done.

She ordered IV medication for fever and I agreed. She prepared the drug. I asked and checked what she was preparing and she said "dexamethasone.” I asked her if this med was used for fever for dogs and she said yes.

I am a nurse, so that's why I was amazed about its action in animals. So I allowed her to give the medication. When I reached home I started to check the internet and whether it was indicated for pups. I was really surprised that this drug must be given to those severe cases, not with just simply those with fever and lethargy.

I am feeding her every two hours manually, without sleep 24/7. I love Elsa so much and that's why I can bear to sacrifice, but the outcome of medication is the worst. After a day, Elsa's condition became worse. She refused food and is now gasping for breath and disoriented. She had no facial expression anymore and I guess was comatose without muscle tone. The worst thing is she's refusing milk already. That's what I'm worried about. Maybe she will die before the dawn.

I am telling her to give me sign if she will survive by raising her head and she repeatedly did. I was in tears and praying to St. Francis of Assisi for his mercy. But just today at midnight I decide to give her to 2.5 ml milk due to her condition (gasping for breath) which will interfere with her breathing pattern. I am still hoping for a miracle to happen.

anon346040
Post 4

My dog, an eight year old Lhasa-pom (13 pounds) has just had three dosages of 1M over a week's time and I can't get her off this soon enough. She has is lethargic, can hardly stand without help and almost refuses to eat. It's like she turned into a zombie that won't wake up. I can't even get her to go pee in the yard and now she is constipated too.

I have had to be with her 24 hours a day for over a week now and really thought she was going to die a few times. The vet now thinks she has a brain tumor because of how she's acting. I know her and it's this drug causing it. All because I took her to her vet for some back pain that made it hard for her to stand. She was probably in pain from re-injuring a vertebrae.

Once I can get this out of her system I won't let her have another drug. Our next step is an acupuncturist. You really don't know how your dog will react to this drug. I'd never let my dog have this again.

ysmina
Post 3

@ddljohn-- Unfortunately, this drug does have side effects which are more serious the longer the drug is used. My dog was on it for several months and suffered from some liver damage (developed fatty liver) in that time period. There were a few more side effects like drinking and eating more, urinating more. But the liver issue was the most serious.

In my opinion, this drug is good for short term treatment. It's effective and can provide a good amount of relief to an animal suffering from diseases like autoimmune disease, vertebral disease and cancer. But if it is used for the longer term, it will shorten the animal's life. So I would not suggest that it be used for the long term unless the animal is not expected to live long and the emphasis of the treatment is to provide comfort.

Of course, veterinarians would know best. You should seek the advice of several veterinarians before making a decision.

ddljohn
Post 2

I would like to hear from those whose dog has been on dexamethasone. I've heard some bad things about this drug in terms of side effects. My dog's vet wants to put her on this and I'm worried.

stoneMason
Post 1

My neighbor, whom I've known all my life, has a 15 year old dog with arthritis. The poor thing is suffering a lot. He has a lot of pain and he's on dexamethasone among other pain relieving medications.

I'm sure the medication helps, but the dog still seems to be in discomfort/pain. One can see it in his eyes. He also has no tolerance for cold because of the arthritis. He has to stay warm all the time. My neighbor is such a good owner. This guy prepares and places hot water bags under his dog throughout the day to help with his pain.

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