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Can dogs get side effects from cortisone?

Dogs are sometimes treated with cortisone, just like us humans. Treatment with the drug can have both short-term and long-term side effects that cause different symptoms in your dog. In this article, you will find out which symptoms to watch out for.

What are the most common short-term side effects?

Short-term side effects are those that we expect a pet to experience and develop when they have recently been put on cortisone as a treatment. Exactly which side effects the dog gets and how serious they are depends on several factors such as the disease to be treated, the dose, how long the dog has been on cortisone and any other medication.

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Increased appetite
  • The dog often starts panting more, increased breathing
  • Changed energy level in some dogs which can be interpreted as anxiety
  • Any infection may break out or an existing one may worsen
  • Vomiting or nausea (less common)

Some prediabetic dogs can become diabetic (develop diabetes) after cortisone use. In many cases, the symptoms of diabetes disappear when the treatment ends.

If some of these side effects occur, they can often be eliminated by reducing the dose of the cortisone treatment. In some cases, your veterinarian may prescribe a different type of cortisone that often has fewer of the side effects described above. The goal is to use as little cortisone as possible and with as few side effects as possible so that the treatment is still effective.

What are some of the most common long-term side effects?

Some diseases and medical conditions require long-term treatment with cortisone. When cortisone needs to be prescribed for more than 3-4 months, new side effects can cause problems. The most common are:

Increased risk of bacterial infections. For example, urinary tract infections are seen in up to 30% of our dogs and cats receiving cortisone. Cortisone inhibits the body's inflammation system, which makes it easier for infections to take hold and cause a urinary tract infection.

  • Thinner skin and a thinner and more tired looking coat
  • Development of calluses or spots on the skin
  • Increased susceptibility to fungal infections (especially in the nose)
  • Worse ability to heal wounds (NOTE important to consider during surgery)
  • Development of obesity due to increased hunger
  • Weaker muscles due to the body's proteins being broken down (catabolized)
  • Lower fertility and some bitches have irregular heats
  • Greater risk of developing diabetes

When should I contact the vet?

If you feel that your dog is showing symptoms of side effects of cortisone, contact your vet.

If you have an Agria Pet Insurance policy, you can use the Agria Vet Guide app for free advice, 24/7.

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