Long term steroid use for allergy control - Golden Retrievers : Golden Retriever Dog Forums
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post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-15-2011, 10:25 PM Thread Starter
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Long term steroid use for allergy control

Ruby suffers from severe allergies (food/environmental). She has been on shots for a year and a half, raw diet, weekly baths and any preventative measures that we can think of. I would say a month ago the biting, scratching and itching were to the point of insanity. Nothing had worked for her up until this point. I talked with the vet and she put her on a high dose of Temaril-P. This drug actually did the job. She was on 3 pills once a day for 2 weeks and now we are trying 3 pills a day every other day. We are trying to get her down to a low enough dose that makes her comfortable. I am just wondering if anyone knows what the long terms effects of being on a steroid are? I literally have exhausted every option I can think of. The last thing I ever wanted to do was put Ruby on steroids, but the quality of her life was miserable.


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9/1/07
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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-15-2011, 11:44 PM
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Although I'm not a vet and can't really answer "officially" about long term use, I wanted to let you know that I feel your pain and Ruby's too!

The bottom line for me: Without the steroids, I would not have had the pleasure of my girl's company for the last 10 years. That benefit outweighs any risks in my mind.

My decision to use steroids long term was a personal decision because her quality of life was so poor. For 5-6 months out of the year, she had to be aided to walk because the pads of her feet had pulled away from her feet swelling. Year round, she chewed and scratched to the point of creating skin infections, she was covered with pustules and had lumps like marbles under her skin in areas. I could not afford the oral cyclosporine (Atopica) and it has the same success rate as the allergy shots. Fortunately, she did respond to the allergy shots after a year or so (the foot swelling/pad peeling issue resolved to a couple of episodes a year).

My girl is 10.5 and has had severe allergies since about 12 weeks. She has essentially been on different levels of a steroid (prednisone) dose for most of that time. At one point, I was able to spread the maintenance dose out to 1 dose (20 mg) a week for about 6 months. Until this year, the main problem that she's had (outside of allergies ) due to chronic steroid use has been urinary tract infections. Earlier this year she was diagnosed with cancer (soft tissue sarcoma) and more recently we've added in kidney and heart issues. In an effort to address everything at once, we've just started a new regime with the right to go back to prednisone if things don't improve.

Our current regime includes: doxepin (an antidepressant that has a strong antihistamine), slowly increasing fish oils (very slowly as she has a sensitive tummy), off steroids and diphenhydramine, 2 medicated shampoos and a leave in rinse. We'll also be changing up her allergy shots slightly at the next appt. The main thing I've learned over the years is the importance of extreme discipline with her medication, baths, etc. If we're off by a bit, it throws her into a tailspin that takes a while to recover from.

I tracked back through your previous threads to see if I could get a sense of where you are coming from and what you've tried already. I had a couple of questions I didn't see addressed in the other threads:

- Has your primary vet been managing Ruby's care or were you referred to a board certified dermatologist?

- Was Ruby's allergy tested based on intradermal (prick) testing or on a blood draw? (one can give false negatives and the other false positives, so it's possible her allergy shot solution could be adjusted a bit if you've seen some relief from them) Was she on steroids at the time of the testing?

- Aside from upset stomach, chewing her feet and the lumps you mentioned on her neck in a previous thread, are there any other symptoms? Pustules, lesions, pads pulling away from toes, etc?

- Are you having to use antibiotics at all?

- Is she still on the thyroid supplementation?

ETA - I commend you for working so hard in Ruby's best interest. I know it's very frustrating. The combination of food and environmental allergies is tough and a human dander allergy is one I'm glad we don't have to deal with.

Last edited by hubbub; 11-16-2011 at 05:05 AM.
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post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-16-2011, 12:59 AM
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Long term steriod use can cause many issues. Such as Cushings Disease. I would never use a steriod on a dog long term.

Have you done any allergy testing like Dr.Dodds for the food allergies?
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post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-16-2011, 06:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Lincoln_16 View Post
Long term steriod use can cause many issues. Such as Cushings Disease. I would never use a steriod on a dog long term.

Have you done any allergy testing like Dr.Dodds for the food allergies?
"never" is a long time. I understand your point but, imho, you have to weigh the benefits/risks of any treatment. In many cases, such as the one posted above, the choice is long term use of pred or euthanasia.
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post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-16-2011, 06:40 AM
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For me (and my dogs) ....a shorter life with higher quality of life will always win out over a longer life of misery...

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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-16-2011, 11:26 AM Thread Starter
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- Has your primary vet been managing Ruby's care or were you referred to a board certified dermatologist?

Yes, Ruby's primary vet has been managing her care from the beginning.

- Was Ruby's allergy tested based on intradermal (prick) testing or on a blood draw? (one can give false negatives and the other false positives, so it's possible her allergy shot solution could be adjusted a bit if you've seen some relief from them) Was she on steroids at the time of the testing?

We did blood work back in May of 2010. No steroids at the time of testing.

- Aside from upset stomach, chewing her feet and the lumps you mentioned on her neck in a previous thread, are there any other symptoms? Pustules, lesions, pads pulling away from toes, etc?

It seems when she is at her worst, she attacks one area. Each attack has been treated with antibiotics. She will chew her feet until there is infection. No pads pulling away and oddly I have never seen open lesions. There is generally scabbing in the one area.

- Are you having to use antibiotics at all?

When she has caused an infection, antibiotics have been used.

- Is she still on the thyroid supplementation?

Ruby is on Soloxine 2 times a day. Her levels are checked regularly by Dr. Dodds.

ETA - I commend you for working so hard in Ruby's best interest. I know it's very frustrating. The combination of food and environmental allergies is tough and a human dander allergy is one I'm glad we don't have to deal with.

Thank you so much for your input. It was extremely helpful, especially the antidepressant. I have often thought that Ruby's extreme issues are anxiety related. When I met with the vet, I asked her if this just might be OCD and she said if the steroid doesn't help then we can discuss behavioral meds. I did a search on the Doxepin and unfortunately, the drug cannot be taken if the dog has a thyroid disorder.

I believe I have exhausted every avenue regarding Ruby's health. I was against steroids from the very beginning (puppy). Our lab mix from years ago suffered from AIHA and she was on pred for a number of years. I saw what it did and I can't believe we are back in the same boat. It is a quality of life issue right now and am hoping that she can be comfortable on a low dose so the side effects don't injure her further.


Vicky, mom to Ruby-8 years
9/1/07
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post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-16-2011, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by artbuc View Post
"never" is a long time. I understand your point but, imho, you have to weigh the benefits/risks of any treatment. In many cases, such as the one posted above, the choice is long term use of pred or euthanasia.
No I agree but if they knew exactly what the dog was allergic to maybe they could take efforts to limit the dogs exposure. Like if the dog was allergic to chicken, rather then feed chicken and give steriods you could stop feeding chicken and the dog wouldnt need steriods?

I have had many vets tell me Lincoln needs steriods. I wont do it. He was miserable on steriods and I never want to see him that way again. I am not sure how severe he is compared to your guy though. Mine scratches a good majority but its not constant.

I would want to make sure they know the dogs allergies before having him live on prednisone. Have you tried other avenues before such a harsh drug? Like special baths, less harmful drugs like Hydroxine etc.

Have you tried a (as much as I dont like them) prescription food?
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post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-16-2011, 05:16 PM
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Brewer was so miserable from allergies that he was literally mutilating himself because of the itching. We tried Atopica which is not a steriod. Atopica is essentially the same drug (Cyclosporine) that they give to people who have had transplant surgery.

Needless to say, it was very expensive, but the good news is that Brewer was comfortable for the first time in years. His hair grew back (he rubbed his face bald) and he did not have the side effects usually observed from taking steriods.

Over time, however, (he was getting old) his kidneys were losing function and he grew ill and crossed the bridge. Our vet believes that there were underlying health issues that worsened with age (he had been anemic for many years) and that the Atopica was not a major factor in his death at age 13+

If I had it to do over again I would choose the Atopica over Brewer's horrendous suffering.

I wish that we could breed allergies out of goldens!
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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-16-2011, 07:22 PM
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One other option that might possibly help is acupuncture. I don't know if there are any in your location, but it might be worth a few sessions to see if it helps. Our Barkley had terrible skin infections and allergies and spent a year on prednisone in rescue before we adopted him. We started taking him for acupuncture for his hip dysplasia and about six months later I noticed his allergies were greatly improved. The acupuncture vet had been treating him for that without me realizing. She said that all her hip dogs allergies improved.

He lived to one month shy of his 13th birthday when we released him due to complicataions of hemangiosarcoma.
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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-16-2011, 07:42 PM
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My Joey is on long-term use of Temaril-P as it has been the only thing that has even touched his allergies. I started out w/ a higher dosage and we are now down to 1 pill in the a.m. w/ a zyrtec in the p.m., although I increased that to 1 pill in a.m. and 1 in p.m. for the past couple of weeks as his allergies kicked up w/ the fall weather. I've tried to go every other day w/o with no luck. Like you, I weighed the pros and cons of long-term use and Joey's quality of life outweighed the cons. Joey will be about 8 next year (he's a rescue, DOB unknown) and I plan on getting a full senior panel done and continue to monitor his bloodwork.

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