Skin and ear infections are one of the most common ailments afflicting pet dogs out there. Seasoned vets are very familiar with these two canine maladies. Chronic inflammation of these regions is a common issue found in all dogs, irrespective of breed or age. And steroid medication is readily prescribed to control the local effects of inflammation by a majority of vets as a standard procedure. But common veterinary prescriptions for inflammation, like prednisone and the vast majority of ear ointments contain corticosteroids, powerful agents with the potential for equally unpleasant side-effects.

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Steroids are the go to drug to contain and reduce the localised discomfort caused by an inflammation. And they seemingly work wonders, removing the inflammatory effects in no time at all. The real problem lies in the fact that in chronic cases of recurring inflammation, steroids can actually worsen the condition in the medium-long term. Steroids suppress local inflammation at the cost of a heavy price: suppression of the dog’s overall immune system. And in the case of chronic inflammation, this is bad, very bad.

Most cases of chronic inflammation in dogs have some underlying issue that may be far removed from the location of the actual inflammation. A local inflammation of the skin might be the result of internal injury to the bone or tissue, while an ear infection may point towards increased stress on the jaws, neck or even a buildup of toxins in the dog’s system. Treating the symptom with steroids does not contribute to resolving the underlying cause. In fact, steroids use of any duration has the potential to severely weaken the immune system of the animal, causing extreme damage to its health in the long run and affecting its longevity.

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In the natural order of things, inflammation is part of an organism’s healing process. Though often  uncomfortable and painful, they are actually part of the body’s corrective mechanism in event of trauma. They speed up blood circulation, reduce physical activity and help facilitate rest and activate the immune system. Steroids are the magic wand that makes inflammation vanish. This is actually a bad thing. For one, it enables the animal to be active again, thereby increasing the chance of aggravating the deep-lying injury. And the dog’s immune system is also fooled into staying dormant, gradually weakening it as the body grows weaker from the untreated trauma/stress.

Inflammation is a painful thing, both for dogs as well as their loving owners. And the animals do deserve treatment to alleviate their pain and discomfort, we are not arguing against that. What we have to understand is that except in the case of conditions like Addison’s disease (an abnormality in the adrenal gland,  where the body fails to produce any natural corticosteroid), steroid use is largely counterproductive. Steroids interfere in the natural healing cycle of the body. Addressing the symptoms is one thing, but such a path ought not be pursued at the cost of ignoring the root cause. Exercising due caution in decisions involving steroid treatment can go a long way in prolonging healthy lives in your pets.