Pets Taking Steroids

Prednisone and prednisolone (glucocorticoids) are utilized often in veterinary medicine for their anti-inflammatory properties and at higher doses as an immunosuppressant.  These are steroids that rather than build the body up (as anabolic steroids do), they are designed to break down stored resources such as fats, sugars, and proteins so they may be used in times of stress.  These hormones are produced normally by the adrenal glands to prepare for physical exercise and stress.


There has never been a class of drug that has more applications in disease treatment.

That being said everything comes at a price.

Short-term side effects include; increased hunger, increased thirst, frequent urination, panting, loss of energy and hidden infections can be unmasked (a bladder infection for example ).  Pre-diabetic patients can be tipped into a diabetic state with steroid use.

Long Term side effects – greater than 4 months –  can include; urinary tract infections, development of poor skin coat, poor ability to heal wounds or grow hair, obesity, muscle weakness, weakening of immune defenses and development of Cushing’s syndrome.


Monitoring tests are very important for patients on long-term steroid use due to the potency of these medications especially since the use of steroids can mask the symptoms of other conditions.


Glucocorticoids are a relatively inexpensive treatment in veterinary medicine but we must not ignore the consequences of their use.  This is why your pet should get periodic urine cultures, check-ups, and blood testing while on glucocorticoids.


Written by The Hillcrest Animal Hospital Team