Steroids for dogs are among the most commonly prescribed conventional treatment for dogs with inflammation, but the danger and negative effects of using steroids are often left on the sidelines.

In this article, we’ll present a balanced point of view of steroids for dogs that takes these adverse aspects into account with regard to choosing how to treat your dog’s pain or allergies.

The first thing to establish when discussing steroid use is that there are two main categories of steroids: anabolic and anti-inflammatory.

Which Types of Steroids for Dogs are Available in Market?

Anabolic steroids are the sort of steroids that you hear about in weight-lifters and other athletes trying to gain muscle mass.

These steroids are rarely if ever prescribed for pets, but anti-inflammatory steroids are among the most commonly prescribed of all treatments.

Anti-inflammatory steroids are also known as corticosteroids or catabolic steroids. Corticosteroids are produced naturally in the body by the adrenal glands and have a variety of functions. They are involved in the immune system, in the metabolism of nutrients, in the maintenance of blood electrolyte levels, and even in your dog’s stress response.

The body produces two types of corticosteroids: glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids. The former regulates carbohydrates, the metabolism of fats and proteins, and the reduction of inflammation. Mineralocorticoids handle the body’s water levels and deal with electrolytes.

Can Steroids Harm my Dog?

negative effects of using steroids in dogs

The issue here isn’t with corticosteroid treatment in RESPONSIBLE applications. The issue is with the overuse of prescribing steroids for dogs. Steroids and antibiotics are the go to choice from traditional veterinarians for almost any problem dogs seem to have and sadly our pets are feeling the negative effects of the repeated and ongoing use of these synthetic drugs.

Sometimes these side effects must be mitigated with the original condition. Sometimes the side effects of steroids for dogs are even worse than the original condition. The biggest issue of all, however, is that corticosteroids treat the inflammation, BUT NOT the root cause of the inflammation, which essentially means that the underlying cause is still present.

Many pet owners aren’t even aware of the fact that their dogs are receiving corticosteroid treatments, which means that many pet owners aren’t aware of the pile of side effects and the potential for leaving the main condition untreated.

“The epitome of modern medicine treats the symptoms and leaves the cause of those symptoms untreated.”

What Negative Effects of Using Steroids Have on Dogs?

Considering the value of corticosteroids in the body, one might imagine that the prescription of these hormones in medical applications for your dog would be relatively safe. That is, unfortunately, not always the case.

The most common forms of corticosteroids prescribed to dogs are prednisone, prednisolone, triamcinolone, and dexamethasone. Methylprednisolone is also commonly prescribed. These are all that are known as “synthetic corticosteroids,” which have increased effectiveness and period of activity. These steroids are generally approved in pill format or through injections.

Emergency use…

The most common reason a veterinarian will prescribe a corticosteroid is inflammation, but there are other applications as well. Sometimes glucocorticoids will be prescribed in emergencies, like if your dog has a sudden injury and requires rapid treatment of things like brain swelling or other traumatic effects. In these cases, corticosteroids are beneficial and life-saving.

Non-emergency use…..

But in most cases, corticosteroids are prescribed in non-emergency situations where other treatments would present less risk. Conditions like dermatitis, colitis, and enteritis are often treated with steroids. Bowel conditions like inflammatory bowel disease are also associated with corticosteroid treatments, while everything from inflamed gums to asthma is also on the list.

Csteroids for dogshanging the Treatment Mindset

Considering the cause of inflammation and not just the symptom of inflammation clearly changes the role that corticosteroids will have in your treatment arsenal.

Doing this requires you to be an active pet owner, one who is engaged in the life of your four-legged friend and one who knows the various things he or she is ingesting or handling on a daily basis. This is not always easy.

But changing the treatment mindset is the safest and most compassionate way forward. Learn more about using herbs.
We can’t simply treat symptoms as they arrive with bandaged medicine. We must treat the root causes and root conditions to avoid the onset of other symptoms and problematic, harmful side effects.

Pets with allergies must be treated in a way that eliminates the cause of the allergies (allergens and so on) and allows the pet a chance at recovery and happy life free of symptoms.

Regrettably, much of Western medicine is calculated around treating symptoms and flouting causes and I find this heartbreaking.  Think of most advertisements for headache medications, for instance. Treating the headaches to “get you back to normal” is a big part of the game for pharmaceutical companies because it ensures you continue to treat the headaches without expounding on the source of the headaches.

It’s the same way for pets. Why wouldn’t a company dependent on cash from corticosteroids continue to peddle these “treatments” as the ultimate option? Why cure a dog’s condition when you can continuously and perpetually treat the symptoms from the said condition?

You can just see the dollar signs, can’t you?

Of course, there are always those who will sell the efficacy of corticosteroids as treatment options. These professionals are not wrong. They are effective treatment options in certain cases, but they are not cures. They treat symptoms and should be consequently approached accordingly.

Keep the negative effects of using steroids in dogs in mind. Educate yourself. Make an informed choice.

And, flush out all the garbage in your dog’s body by using Bentonite Clay daily for four months and then once daily for a week every three months.


Editor’s Note: The blogpost was originally published in June 2014 and completely revamped and updated for accuracy on November 2019.

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Showing 58 comments
  • Jane Brumley

    My 3-year-old Shih Tzu has ear allergies. She’s been on Apoquell (and still is). I explained to vet her paws are constantly scratching her ears. So, he added Tresaderm drops twice a day (a steroid). It is okay for her to be on both permanently? Thank you! (Until I began with the drops, she far too often would shake her head repeatedly.)

    • janie knetzer

      Hi Jane:

      You really don’t need either of these dangerous steroids for her allergies short term and especially for life! There’s natural remedies you can use along with diet to stop the allergy symptoms. You also have to curb over vaccinating her. These chronic conditions we see in dogs now are related to over vaccinating regardless of what your vet tells you.

      What do you feed her and do you give any supplements? When and what was she last vaccinated for?

      Do you use chemical flea and tick products on her?

      If you want some help, use my contact form here and reach out to me via email with the answers to the questions I asked above and I’ll gladly help.

      Warmest regards,


  • janie

    My border collie was in pain after falling on her rump chasing a squirrel.I panicked and ran her into the vet who said she will feel better after a steroid shot…the following week she developed a wart on her tail which she chewed off two days later.

    A week later a small mass started to developed on her stomach. Took her to another vet where he removed it and informed me it was cancer…she died a year later..

    Two months later my friends dog fell down the stairs so he took him in for a steroid shot..the dog developed cancer and died six months later.

    • janie

      Hi Barbara:

      I’m so very sorry to hear this. This makes me so sad.

      I’m going to move your comment to our page where we discuss steroid use. I think that’s where it belongs and where more people looking for that topic will find it easier.

      I’m truly so sorry for you and your friend. What a shame.

      Our pets are dying and becoming chronically sick at the hands of those who are supposed to be putting their health first.

      Warmest regards,

  • James Hosford

    My chocolate lab is on Prednisone and all of a sudden he can’t stop panting and crying. He seems like he is in extreme pain and I’m afraid he is seriously ill. What can I do

    • janie

      You need to take your dog to the vet James!


      • larry shelton

        prednisone should be banned for dogs and anyone vet who gives it should be taken out and horse whipped. my chessie was once a wonderful, funny, happy boy now he suffers daily, cries, hides and nothing like he was. I hope he returns to himself someday. I absolutely have hatred in my heart for the vet who gave him the prednisone. i will never forgive this vet and I hope one day when she and her family are traveling that a semi crosses the center lane of any highway and hits them headon.

        • janie knetzer

          Oh Larry, I’m so very, very sorry for what you’re going through.

          Do you need some help? What have you done to try and eliminate the symptoms? Did she also give her the rabies vaccine and when? They symptoms you are describing can also be associated with that.

          YourOldDog Admin.

    • Melissa

      James my dog is having similar issues, what happened with your dog?

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