Corticosteroids, or steroids, perform various physiological actions in the body.

Steroids are some of the most popular medications used in joint injections, particularly on horses, due to their anti-inflammatory properties. A decrease in inflammation results in a decrease in pain.1 In addition, when administered in higher dosages, they act as immunosuppressant drugs, meaning they suppress or prevent an immune response. However, most forms of steroids contain a large variety of synthetic materials, such as prednisone, prednisolone, dexamethasone, triamcinolone and methylprednisolone. While the body produces different types of steroids on its own, these synthetic forms are often more potent and come with an increased risk for side effects. Regarding animals, corticosteroids have both short and long-term side effects.1

Long-term Side Effects:

  • Urinary tract infections (affect up to 30% of patients)
  • Development of thin skin and a thinning hair coat
  • Decreased wound healing abilities
  • Weight gain due to increased appetite
  • Muscle weakness
  • Calcinosis cutis
  • Increased risk for bacterial infections
  • Increased risk for fungal infections
  • Development of skin mites or mange
  • Higher risk for developing diabetes

Short-term Side Effects:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Excessive panting (canines)
  • Lack of energy
  • Development or worsening of infections, especially bacterial skin infections
  • Vomiting or nausea/loss of appetite (less common)

  1. Hunter, T. (n.d.). Steroid Treatment – Effects in Dogs. Retrieved November 7, 2019, from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/steroid-treatment-long-term-effects-in-dogs.