Using cortisone to help itchy dogs and cats
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.
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.