Steroids are a staple of veterinary medicine, and canine steroids are used to treat a wide variety of medical conditions. There are three types of canine steroids: anabolic steroids, sex steroids and corticosteroids, all of which can have side effects. These steroids can be given via injection or as an oral medication.
Anabolic canine steroids are used in the treatment of underweight dogs. They stimulate the appetite and help the animals to gain weight. In injured animals, these steroids strengthen the existing muscles and help rebuild muscle mass. Some kinds of canine anemia also can be treated using anabolic steroids.
Sex steroids are canine steroids that are used as a hormone treatment. A dog's heat cycle can be induced or stopped completely using these steroids. Pregnancies can be terminated or supported and labor can be induced, if needed. Milk production also is supported by this steroid. The medication also can help to inhibit the growth of tumors.
Corticosteroids are an anti-inflammatory medication and the most commonly used kind of canine steroids. Addison's disease, shock, some forms of cancer, canine allergies and arthritis are all treated with these steroids. Autoimmune diseases also are treated with corticosteroids. This steroid treatment also may be used to reduce swelling in the stomach, intestines, spine and brain.
It is very important when using canine steroids that the directions are followed closely. Treatment normally begins at a high dosage and decreases over the course of treatment until the steroids are no longer needed. Steroids mimic adrenaline in the body and suppress the natural production of the hormone. If treatment is stopped suddenly, then the dog's health can be seriously affected.
Side effects can occur when steroid treatments are used in animals, and some of those side effects can be serious. Some of the most common side effects include an increase in appetite and thirst, panting and changes in the dog's behavior or mood. Dogs often will gain weight as a result of steroid use but typically lose the weight when treatment ends. Dogs that are on steroids for a long time can develop a disease called Cushing's disease, in which the body overproduces steroids. The condition has to be carefully monitored by a veterinarian to ensure that it does not require additional treatment.