When most people think of steroids, they think of the pills athletes and body builders take to build their muscles and enhance their strength. These are a special kind of steroids, called anabolic steroids. I’ve never seen a muscle-bound pussycat. The steroids used by veterinarians are primarily anti-inflammatory drugs which affect the cats entire system.
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Please note: The information we provide is based on research and personal experience. We are not veterinarians and do not diagnose conditions or prescribe treatment or medications. We can, however, discuss certain conditions based upon our knowledge of and experience with them.
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Many cats placed on long term steroid therapy are seriously ill. Some of the severe side effects take a long time to develop. If your vet prescribes steroid therapy for your cat, be sure you discuss the treatment with him or her and thoroughly understand instructions regarding the dosage and administration. Used appropriately, steroid therapy can help your cat live a longer, more comfortable life.
No one can say for sure if there are any psychological or emotional side effects in the cat. NSAIDS (Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs) cannot be used on cats if they contain an analgesic (pain reliever), such as aspirin or acetaminophen, both of which are extremely toxic to cats. (Cats are unable to metabolize the components in aspirin and other analgesics. Their systems don’t break down the ingredients as humans do and different compounds form. In the cats system, aspirin converts to cyanide.) Suppression of the cats immune system is a side effect which must be seriously considered before long term treatment is begun.
Because of the seriousness of the side effects, long term steroid use is reserved for situations such as malignant cancers, when it is deemed the most appropriate course of action to treat the illness and keep the cat as comfortable as possible. Each case is different and the vet must evaluate the cat’s condition to determine if the benefits outweigh the risk of side effects, but in any case, long term therapy must be closely monitored.
Steroids used properly can be extremely beneficial. They are used primarily to reduce tissue inflammation and to treat allergic reactions and asthmatic conditions. In the case of flea bite allergy, the vet will usually give a steroid injection about once a month to treat the symptoms. This treatment is very effective and won’t harm the cat. Basically, vets use two types of steroids, short acting and long acting. They can be administered in the form of injections or pills. The pill therapy cannot be stopped abruptly. The dose must be reduced gradually over a period of days, weeks, or even longer, depending upon the length and dose of therapy.
These medications can be used for a variety of reasons, but whatever the reason, no competent vet will use steroids indiscriminately. Steroids don’t cure anything. They are very powerful drugs and if used inappropriately, they can mask symptoms of a serious illness and weaken the cats immune system. These drugs have severe side effects and if used improperly, can bring harm to the cat.