The powerful anti-inflammatory known as dexamethasone is prescribed by veterinarians for various canine ailments. This corticosteroid is often used for long-term treatment, but its effects can last for two to three days, so daily administration is generally not necessary. Available in tablet and injectable forms, dexamethasone is marketed under various brand names. These include Azium, Pet-Derm, Voren, Dex-a-Vet and Dexameth-a-Vet.
Over the years, you might find your vet prescribing dexamethasone for seemingly unrelated issues. If your dog suffers from allergies or skin problems, dexamethasone can get the itching under control. As he ages and his joints start aching, the vet might prescribe the drug for pain relief. Dogs diagnosed with cancer might receive dexamethasone, as might those with immune system disorders. In addition, dogs with central nervous system issues, liver issues or respiratory problems might be treated with dexamethasone.
If your dog is rushed to an emergency veterinary hospital, there's a good chance he'll receive dexamethasone if he's in a state of shock. If he's been hit by a car or suffered some other sort of trauma, dexamethasone helps relieve swelling in his spinal cord and brain.
If your vet suspects your dog has Cushing's disease, formally known as hyperadrenocorticism, she might perform dexamethasone suppression tests on him. These tests consist of low-dose and high-dose versions. The former is used for Cushing's disease diagnosis, while the latter differentiates the type of Cushing's disease. The tests are similar, except for the amount of the drug used. Each test requires three blood samples and eight hours for completion. The vet takes the initial blood sample before injecting dexamethasone, taking the second sample four hours later and the final sample eight hour after the first. Both tests are not run on the same day.
Side Effects and Contraindications
Dexamethasone side effects include increased drinking and urination, increased appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, excitability, behavioral changes and panting. Dogs experiencing intestinal upset might do better when the dosage is lowered. Diabetic dogs should not receive dexamethasone. Avoid giving dexamethasone to dogs with active infections. Pregnant dogs should not receive dexamethasone, as it can cause them to abort. Dogs receiving long-term dexamethasone treatment might experience hair loss, urinary tract infections, digestive tract ulcers and liver problems.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.