The adrenal gland in animals serves the exact same function as it does in humans, to produce the functionally essential steroid. As steroids play a vital role in bodily functions in their natural form, veterinarians have come to use synthetically produced steroids as a powerful tool in fighting various diseases. The most common form of synthetic steroids is glucocorticoids and it includes such drugs as Prednisone, Prednisolone and Methylprednisolone.
The most common use for steroids is to treat inflammation resulting from allergic reactions. Cats, dogs and other pets can have severe reactions to various allergens, insect bites and even congenital conditions such as asthma and chronic arthritis. Medical steroid administration not only reduces swelling and inflammation, but it also improves recovery and reduces healing time.
The benefits of steroids however are not all positive as they can weaken the immune system and reduce the body’s ability to fight infection. The ability to suppress the immune system however can be an effective tool in fighting such autoimmune diseases as anemia and thrombocytopenia where the body’s hyperactive immune system can have a damaging effect on the its own healthy cells.
Veterinarians typically start a steroid regimen by applying high doses in the initial stages of the disease and then progressively reducing the dosage as the disease regresses. Tapering the dosage amount allows for the animal’s body to adjust to the fluctuating levels of steroids while reducing withdrawal symptoms.
While beneficial in numerous capacities and effective against a myriad of diseases, steroids can have some negative side effects albeit reversible in most cases. Pet owners can expect to notice various symptoms from increase in thirst and appetite, to lethargy and hair loss along the trunk area. In more extreme cases, dogs and cats may even develop intestinal or stomach ulcers and may become more prone to infection. Careful monitoring of your pet while on steroid medication is a key factor in guiding the veterinarian in titrating the dosage so that it may provide the most positive medical benefits while minimizing the negative side effects.
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