Corticosteroids are naturally produced in your pet’s adrenal gland. They are life sustaining. Corticosteroids are often incorrectly called "steroids". This leads to their being mistaken for anabolic (body building) steroids, also often called "steroids".
Corticosteroids are natural anti-inflammatory agents and are used as anti-inflammatory and antipruritic drugs. We may prescribe them as part of treatment for a variety of itchy skin conditions. At higher doses corticosteroids suppress the immune system. Corticosteroids are life saving when a pet is in clinical shock. They are absorbed into the blood stream just as fast by mouth as they are by intramuscular injection.
Long Term Use Is Complicated
Daily therapeutic doses of corticosteroid for longer than one month may suppress the adrenal glands. Side effects to corticosteroids are less common in dogs and cats than in us but include excess thirst and urinating, increased appetite and more panting. Excess thirst and urinating occur less frequently with methylprednisolone. There may be short term personality changes, usually for the worse, such as heightened irritability. Some older dogs, females in particular, become temporarily incontinent although this is uncommon in cats. In the longer term, weakness and weight gain may occur. Corticosteroid withdrawal is not as problematic with cats and dogs as it is with us. After prolonged use (over one month) the dose should be tapered off over a period of seven to 10 days.