Dangers of Steroids for Dogs – and the Importance of Correct Diagnosis for Your Dog
“Usdi” was a beautiful Beagle, who came into the lives of Sissy and Kim Shaffer from Bristol, Tennessee, in 1997, when she was only 6 weeks old, after being rejected by her mother. The Shaffers intended for Usdi to be an outside dog, but Usdi soon made it known that she intended to spend her leisure time indoors, making a break for the open door every chance she got!
The Shaffers relented, and soon Usdi was not only an inside dog, but even had a spot reserved for her in their bed each night.
Yes, Usdi knew exactly to get what she wanted. When she was hungry, she would pick up her plate and drop it at her owners’ feet. And if they ignored this, she would pick the plate up again and “hit” them with it. Usdi was an expert pitcher, and seemed to be able to throw her plate, or anything, anywhere she desired.
Sadly, Usdi lived for only nine years, when she could, and should have lived much longer. This unfortunate dog was the victim of overuse of steroids (also commonly known by the names Prednisone or Vetalog), and a failure to diagnose Diabetes on the part of her vet.
It’s unclear to me whether the dog Diabetes developed on its own, or whether it was itself the result of the steroids. But whatever the case, by the time Usdi had passed the point of no return, she was suffering not only from Diabetes, but breathing difficulties, heart disease, unexplained weight gain, probably kidney and liver failure and possibly Cushings disease.
How was all this allowed to occur without being diagnosed?
Usdi developed skin allergies. She was first taken to the vet with this problem at about age 2. It was a continuing problem for her. And her vet routinely gave her Vetalog – a steroid – over the next 7 years.
It is not uncommon for vets to prescribe steroids for dogs, and in particular skin allergies are often treated with steroids.
From my research, my understanding is that steroids are NOT safe in any circumstances. They can, and do, cause a multitude of side effect – including causing Cushing’s Disease in dogs, and Diabetes in both humans and dogs. Steroids are occasionally necessary – but never “safe”. There certainly are situations where steroids have saved lives in cases of acute illness of various types. But they’re given out far, far too readily, for all manner of illnesses.
Less than two weeks before Usdi passed away, she became very sick – her breathing was laboured, and she had difficulty holding her head up. A visit to the vet resulted in another steroid shot, and no investigations to find out what the problem was.
Further visits to the vet over the ensuing days resulted in more steroids and other drugs being administered to poor Usdi.
By the time the Shaffers sought a second opinion, after their vet told them there was nothing further he could do, it really was too late. The new vet immediately took blood tests and diagnosed severe Diabetes and commenced immediate treatment. But sadly, Usdi passed away the day the treatment commenced.
What can be learned from this tragic story?
ALWAYS question the need for any drugs administered by your vet. Never assume that the treatment is required or even desirable, without seeking further information in relation to the proposed medications. Ask about the side effects. Ask for a “patient information sheet” on all drugs prescribed for your dog’s health, and read them and understand how certain medications will affect your pet. Your dog’s health depends on YOU.
If your vet prescribes steroids and fails to explain the possible side effects, ask why. Ask for possible alternative treatments. And if your vet continues to recommend the steroids, ask him/her the specific reasons why. Investigate alternatives yourself if your dog is not suffering from a life threatening condition.
And learn from Usdi’s story, that if your pet is on any type of steroid therapy and hasn’t had blood tests carried out, demand these test no matter how much you trust your vet. The Shaffers trusted Usdi’s vet sadly to Usdi’s ultimate detriment. They were told that these tests WOULD have saved Usdi.