Felis ISSN 2398-2950

Therapeutics: glucocorticoids

Synonym(s): steroids; steroidal anti-inflammatories; corticosteroids; glucocorticosteroids

Contributor(s): Jonathon Elliot, Linda Horspool, Lauren Trepanier


  • Prescribed for their anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressive, and anti-fibrotic effects.
  • Potency, duration of action, and relative mineralocorticoid activity vary with formulation.
  • Common side-effects of all glucocorticoids include PU/PD, increased appetite, panting, pyoderma, urinary tract infections, insulin resistance, proteinuria Proteinuria, and (probably) pancreatitis Pancreatitis.
  • Long term daily treatment can lead to iatrogenic hyperadrenocorticism  Hyperadrenocorticism  (thin skin, muscle wasting, pot belly, calcinosis cutis, adrenal suppression).
  • Sudden stopping of treatment can unmask adrenal suppression, which can last for weeks to months.
  • Glucocorticoids in topical preparations can be absorbed and lead to systemic side-effects (diabetogenic in cats), alkaline phosphatase induction, and adrenal suppression.
  • Glucocorticoids induce calciuresis and can be used to treat hypercalcemia Hypercalcemia: overview once the underlying cause is determined.
  • All glucocorticoids can potentially increase the risk of GI ulceration from NSAIDs, especially at high dosages.

Route of administration

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Examples of use of available agents

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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Lowe A D, Graves T K, Campbell K L et al (2009) A pilot study comparing the diabetogenic effects of dexamethasone and prednisolone in cats. JAAHA 45 (5), 215-224 PubMed.
  • Lowe A D, Campbell K L, Barger A et al (2008) Clinical, clinicopathological and histological changes observed in 14 cats treated with glucocorticoids. Vet Rec 162 (24), 777-783 PubMed.
  • Lowe A D, Campbell K L, Graves T (2008) Glucocorticoids in the cat. Vet Dermatol 19 (6), 340-347 PubMed.
  • Sharkey L C, Ployngam T, Tobias A H et al (2007) Effects of a single injection of methylprednisolone acetate on serum biochemical parameters in 11 cats. Vet Clin Pathol 36 (2), 184-187 PubMed.
  • Polyngam T, Tobias A H, Smith S A et al (2006) Hemodynamic effects of methylprednisolone acetate administration in cats. Am J Vet Res 67 (4), 583-587 PubMed.
  • Fukaya C, Katayama Y, Kasai M et al (2003) Evaluation of time-dependent spread of tissue damage in experimental spinal cord injury by killed-end evoked potential: effect of high-dose methylprednisolone. J Neurosurg 98 (1 Suppl), 56-62 PubMed.
  • Goodman S, Sprung C L, International Sepsis Forum (2002) The International Sepsis Forum's controversies in sepsis: corticosteroids should be used to treat septic shockCritical Care (5), 381-383 PubMed.
  • Daminet S, Paradis M, Refsal K R et al (1999) Short term influence of prednisone and phenobarbital on thyroid function in euthyroid dogsCan Vet J 40 (6), 411-415 PubMed.
  • Olby N (1999) Current concepts in the management of acute spinal cord injury. J Vet Intern Med 13 (5), 399-407 PubMed.
  • Rohrer C R, Hill R C, Fischer A et al (1999) Gastric hemorrhage in dogs given high doses of methylprednisolone sodium succinate. Am J Vet Res 60 (8), 977-981 PubMed.
  • Moore G E, Ferguson D C, Hoenig M (1993) Effects of oral administration of anti-inflammatory doses of prednisone on thyroid hormone response to thyrotropin-releasing hormone and thyrotropin in clinically normal dogs. Am J Vet Res 54 (1), 130-135 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Day M (2008) Glucocorticoids and Antihistamines. In: Maddison J E, Page S W, Church D B Small Animal Clinical Pharmacology. 2nd edn, Philadelphia: Saunders, Elsevier, pp 261-269.
  • Plumb D C (1999) Veterinary Drug Handbook. 3rd edition.
  • Schimmer B P, Parker K L (1996) ACTH; adrenocortical steroids and their synthetic analogs; inhibitors of the synthesis and actions of adrenocortical hormones. In: Hardman J G, Limbard L E, Goodman & Gilman's The Pharmacologic Basis of Therapeutics. 9th edition, New York: McGraw Hill, pp 1459-1485.