PetMeds® Using Cortisone to Help Itchy Dogs and Cats

 
Filed under Dr. Dym's Vet Blog
Skin allergies are amongst the most frustrating health problems exhibited by both dogs and cats, and are likely the most common reason for veterinary visits outside of wellness exams.  Pets present with various manifestations of self trauma from licking, biting or scratching at themselves. Commonly affected areas include the lower back, feet, ears, chest and abdomen. However, any area of the body can be affected.  Many pets can develop secondary yeast or bacterial infections of the skin or ear canals, which often add to the discomfort. basset-hound

The most common causes of allergies include flea bite allergens, inhalant/contact allergies, and food allergies. That’s why it is necessary for veterinarians to address the potential underlying causes or the problem will recur. While such a workup and treatment often takes time and patience, animal guardians are often most insistent about relieving their pets of itching discomfort as quickly as possible. While shampoo therapy, antihistamines, antibiotics and dietary changes can offer sometimes gradual relief, depending upon which of the above underlying causes are involved, it is often only the prescription of cortisone by injection or oral medication that often is the only class of medicine that offers dramatic and quick relief which animal guardians are demanding. Various concerns expressed by both veterinarians and animal guardians center around the short and more importantly long term potential side effects of cortisone. These include its suppressive effect on the immune system and increased risk of infection, to thinning/weakening of the bones, ligaments and skin, as well as weight gain, excessive thirst, urination and appetite.

If cortisone is overused or misused, some animals have an increased risk of diabetes as well. And while most veterinarians will always offer other options, including other drugs like Cyclosporine or Atopica, as well as even referral to veterinary dermatologists for allergy testing on long term skin/ear cases, many animal guardians simply do not have the money in today’s economy for these more expensive treatment options.

Repeated injections of long acting cortisone derivatives like Depo-Medrol have much more of a risk for the side effects mentioned above. However, if cortisone is used appropriately, most safely by the oral route and tapered to the lowest effective dose,  many pets can be maintained during their allergy seasons or even longer on every other to every third day oral therapy. When Prednisone or Prednisolone is prescribed in this manner, and the pet is monitored periodically by the veterinarian, most pets do indeed tolerate long term oral cortisone safely, and animal guardians are able to offer their animals relief of frustrating skin problems that bother both them and their animal companions.  And when other adjunctive treatments such as shampoo therapy, omega 3 fatty acid therapy, as well as other supplements like Proanthozone and Vetri-DMG, many pets can eventually have their cortisone doses lowered and discontinued.

Read Related Posts on PetMeds Blog:

  1. Natural Allergy Treatment Alternatives for Pets (NAET)
  2. PetMeds® Common Causes of a Smelly Pet
  3. PetMeds® Using Atopica to Manage Your Pet’s Allergies
  4. Giving Your Dog or Cat Cortisone (Prednisone/Prednisolone)
  5. PetMeds® Relieving Your Dog’s Skin Allergies

9 Comments

  1. Posted August 14, 2010 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    A dog’s skin allergies can be very difficult to diagnose and treat. You must go through all types of testing and be prescribed a lot of drugs to treat allergies in your dog. i have read all the reasons and treatment of allergies mentioned in this website.

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  2. Posted November 27, 2010 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Yes. Using the correct shampoo can provide the much needed relief for a dog with itchy, irritable skin due to allergies.

    Some brands of natural dog shampoo contains essential oils that has skin healing properties. It helps to reduce the itchiness and soothe inflamed skin.

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    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    Thank you for sharing. Topical therapy is quite helpful in my opinion in removing contact allergens that can contribute to itchy dogs. Shampooing a few times weekly can be quite helpful during itchy seasons.

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  3. Jmo
    Posted February 28, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    We went through every diet and specialist allergy testing option yet cortison was the only relief for our Labrador. Unfortunately he only made it to 4yrs old and died from pancreatitis. It was a tragic case and other factors such as too many fatty bones were involved but if we had understood the increased risk of pancreatitis due to cortison use we would have been more conscious of avoiding fatty foods such as bones. Please educate people on this risk and potential side effect!

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    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    Sorry to hear of the loss of your dog to pancreatitis. Will indeed share your story on this blog so others may potentially benefit.

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  4. Ron
    Posted June 1, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Can a daily dose of cortisone cause death in a 8 year old German Shepard that was in perfect health>she just had blood work and everything cked out.She was deemed fine until the p[ills for a bump on the ear.

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    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    Unless the cortisone caused a bleeding ulcer it should not have caused the death.

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  5. Ron
    Posted June 1, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    the dog died on the operating table for what the vet thought was a ruptured spline.If they are telling my just was bleeding internally wouldn’t that be consistant with a bleeding ulcer?

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    Ron Reply:

    I would like to add after doing some research.That cortisone is one of the leading drugs that can bring on a bleeding ulcer,in a dog.

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    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    Not necessarily. Bleeding tumors are common causes of death in dogs on the spleen.

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  6. Ron
    Posted June 2, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    you were the one that said a bleeding ulcer,now I pointed out that this drug can causes one.So why would you jump ship on be bleeding ulcer?My other questions would be why didnt the vet just lance the ear,that’s the most common way to fix it,why the drug for weeks with the bad stuff that occurs with it?I read this steroids is a quick fix for a vet.They use way to much on trivial stuff like a simple busted blood vessel in an ear in the ear.

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  7. Adrienne
    Posted December 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    My cat is currently on 0.8ml of prednisone 2x/day for 5 days then daily for 5 days then every other day for 5 days. I was wondering if half a benadryl could be given to her in conjunction as during this time we will be encountering a 12 hour car ride. I wasn’t sure as to the interactions and I’ve been researching exhaustively online without answers. She is 8lbs and 13 years old. FIV positive.

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    Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian Reply:

    HI Adrienne. I dont think benadryl should be harmful to your cat. Perhaps try 1/2 childrens dose. Also consider natural remedies like be serene from 1800petmeds, as well as DMG liquid to boost immune system.

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  8. Ally
    Posted December 23, 2012 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    My cat has had serious itching problems around the ears for over a year. He was scratching and tearing up his skin so badly that we has to remove both sets of claws so he would stop bleeding. He still itches, has no ear mites and we clean his ears every other day with a q-tip and cleanser from the vet. Is cortisone cream ok? I was also thinking of going him Benadryl, but I wasn’t sure of the weight/dosage ratio.

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  9. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarian
    Posted December 24, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    HI Ron: I was not aware from your initial questions several months that your dog had an ear hematoma, or broken blood vessel in the ear. Treatment of that conditions is usually with surgical drainage, and NOT cortiocsteroids. Steroid use may cause GI ulcers in some cases, which may bleed out if severe. Abdominal masses such as hemangiosarcoma may also rupture and cause sudden death in dogs. Sometimes the only way to know when presented with a collapsed dog is through tapping the abdomen for free blood in the belly or doing an ultrasound of the abdomen. Endoscopy can also demonstrate a stomach ulcer. Otherwise, exploratory surgery is often the ultimate definitive diagnosis, if these other diagnostics are not possible in an acute situation.

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