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Steroids Can Change Your Dog's Behavior

Here's the recent research on the subject.

By Emily D. Levine, DVM, DACVB, MRCVS; Animal Emergency and Referral Associates of New Jersey.

A while back, I shared results on a small study that looked at the potential behavioral side effects of steroids in dogs. A more recent study was completed by Notari, Burman, and Mills that took the next step into studying the effects of steroids on dogs. This study found that, similarly to people, steroids do have side effects that are not just physical (drinking more water, urinating more ...) but also behavioral.

Dogs on corticosteroids were reported by their owners to be:

  • More restless/nervous
  • More fearful/less confident
  • More aggressive in the presence of food
  • Barked more
  • More prone to startle
  • More prone to react aggressively when disturbed
  • More prone to avoiding people and unusual situations.

The real takeaway from this study, from a very pragmatic perspective, is simply that when side effects of this medication are discussed with owners, behavioral side effects need to be discussed in addition to the physical side effects so clients can take proper precaution if needed or discuss alternatives for treatment (if that possibility exists).

With the information above, it is important to maintain perspective. Not all dogs will have side effects and steroids may be the best treatment option in certain cases. It is just nice to be informed of all side effects so we know what to watch for and can make informed choices about medical care for our pets.

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