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Pain Relief Medications (Steroids) for Dogs and Cats

If your cat or dog has been diagnosed with arthritis, your vet will speak to you about ways to reduce their pain while dealing with the disease. One of these options may be the administration of steroids, which can provide powerful relief from pain and inflammation. However, like all medications, steroids come with their pros and cons, which you should be aware of before agreeing to treat your pet.

How steroids work

Steroids or corticosteroids are hormones that are produced naturally in the body of all warm-blooded animals, including your dog or cat. These hormones are responsible for managing a wide range of functions including the immune system response and the control of inflammation. The steroids that are prescribed for the treatment of arthritis are synthesized versions that mimic these natural hormones but in a much higher potency. Steroids, such as prednisone or dexamethasone, are usually prescribed to treat acute cases, rather than for ongoing care. Steroids can drastically reduce inflammation, which for pets with arthritis will aid movement and provide pain relief.

Precautions for steroid use

Unfortunately, steroids are not without their side effects. Although they are useful in acute cases for dealing with severe pain and inflammation, they are not recommended for long-term use. In fact, they can lead to further destruction of the joints and can cause stomach ulcers and liver damage. Cats tend not to suffer as seriously from the side-effects of steroids, but dogs are not usually prescribed steroids for pain and inflammation, as safer options are now available. Corticosteroids can also have negative interactions with other medications, including those used to treat arthritis.

Steroids vs NSAIDs

An alternative to steroids is what’s known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These work similarly to steroids in that they help with arthritis by reducing inflammation in the joint, and providing pain relief. Although they are considered much safer than steroids, NSAIDs may still produce occasional side effects, including nausea, vomiting, and lethargy. Some NSAIDs can be extremely toxic to cats, so never give your animal a medication that has not been prescribed by your vet.


Pain Relief Medications (Steroids) for Dogs and Cats

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