Steroids are medications that relieve pain and inflammation. Pharmaceutical corticosteroids mimic natural steroids, but are in a much higher concentration. They are generally used for emergency rather than chronic treatment of painful conditions. Because steroid drugs have serious side effects, they require a prescription, and your veterinarian may request periodic blood tests to confirm your pet's liver remains healthy. Some veterinarians recommend supplementing with SAMe (Denosyl) to protect the liver.
Pain medication for pets can be applied topically to your pet's eye and skin for pain relief (as a steroid cream), taken orally, or as a steroid injection into the joints and muscles. Oral or injectible forms of prednisone, prednisolone, dexamethasone, and triamcinolone are used to treat pets with bone and joint pain. These medications require a prescription.
Steroids affect every organ, and possibly every cell in your pet's body. They are used to control inflammation, allergic reactions, and pain. They can be used for emergency treatment when your pet's system is overreacting and causing life-threatening swelling, and for routine use to control pain, allergic symptoms, itching, and swelling. Steroids are routinely used to supplement pets whose adrenal glands aren't producing steroids; and they can be used to treat some forms of cancer.
Steroids are powerful healing drugs. Like any powerful drug they can also cause harm. Some steroid side effects that may occur in your pet include stomach ulcers, delayed wound healing, thyroid hormone suppression, immune suppression so that the body doesn't fight infection well, high blood sugar, and swollen liver. Many pets will drink more and urinate more (polydipsia and polyuria or PUPD). Some pets will have an increased appetite, and some will have fluid retention (edema).
With long-term use, your pet's bones may weaken (osteoporosis), skin may thin and hair may fall out (alopecia). If given to pregnant pets, fetuses can be malformed, or they may be miscarried. Steroids can affect your pet's sense of well-being. Some pets feel happy, and others become irritable.