Published: 05 Oct 2020 | Last Updated: 05 Oct 2020 15:49:19

Glucocorticoids are commonly used in companion animal veterinary practice. However, glucocorticoids have been associated with various side effects. This new VetCompass study used data from primary-care clinics in the UK. Review of the records of 3,000 randomly selected dogs treated with systemic glucocorticoids identified that 4.9% of these dogs had at least one side effect recorded within 31 days of therapy. Polydipsia (39% of the total presenting signs) and polyuria (28%) were the most frequent side effects followed by vomiting (16%) and diarrhea (15%). These results can assist veterinarians to optimise therapeutic selection for reduced side effect, to inform owners on common side effects, and help protect the welfare of pets and their owners.

Other key findings include:

  • Dogs receiving only oral systemic glucocorticoids had four-times increased risk of polydipsia and polyuria (PUPD) and dogs receiving both oral and injectable systemic glucocorticoid had ten-times increased risk of PUPD compared with dogs receiving only injectable systemic glucocorticoid.
  • Treatment with prednisolone tablets only increased the risk of PUPD by three times and treatment with both prednisolone tablets and injectable dexamethasone sodium phosphate increased risk of PUPD by seven times compared to treatment with injectable dexamethasone sodium phosphate only.

Doaa Elkholly, VetCompass epidemiologist and lead researcher on this study, said: “This is the first study to estimate the frequency of side effects and risk factors for PUPD to systemic glucocorticoids in a large population of dogs attending primary-care practices in UK. These results can help veterinarians to optimise decision-making when prescribing systemic glucocorticoids for dogs in order to reduce the risks of side effects. I would like to thank all the practices participating in VetCompass surveillance.”

The study, “Side effects to systemic glucocorticoid therapy in dogs under primary veterinary Care in the UK” is available in Frontiers in veterinary medicine.

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