Last Modified on Nov 29, 2013
Cortisone shots are widely used by veterinarians as a treatment for allergies when a dog or cat is in a constant state of itching, chewing and scratching. Cortisone injections are also frequently used to treat arthritis in dogs as the cortisone creates an anti-inflammatory effect similar to cortisol that is helpful in reducing inflammation.
Cortisone Side Effects: On the flip side, it is reported that cortisone shots can sometimes produce quite serious side effects in dogs and cats. These side effects include panting, lethargy, vomiting, blood in the stools and dramatic changes of personality, and organ failure.
Below you will read reports from our readers about the side effects their pets experienced after receiving a cortisone shot. Sadly 21 people suspect that cortisone shots caused the untimely death of their pet.
Please let us know about any side effects you have witnessed after your pet's cortisone shot.
07/12/2013: Om from Hope BC, Canada: "Another cortizone shot side effect. I know of other pets who became diabetic after c. shot and also after prednizone.
I am diabetic but after learning from EC how diabetic allopathic meds kill (see also GreenMed Info. Com) I threw all that paraphernalia away and, being vegan now, feel very healhy and very different than before. Insulin kills.
As to your kitty I would suggest do some research on natural health lines. There must be something that would provide an answer. I have found all my health answers online, on EC and MMS. That is where I would go. MMS have a supportive team. Right now I have three cats on MMS for various complaints. Believe me, it is affordable and effective. Start with one half drop for kitty and go no further than 2 drops. I wish you both all the best. Love, Om"
[SIDE EFFECTS] 10/13/2013: Mere from Apalachin, Ny: "My cat Dinque was given a cortizone shot for excessive itching. She has had the itching for years and nothing has helped. So the vet gave her a cortizone shot, I did not ask about the dosage or about the side effects. However, she is very lethargic and I just searched the web to understand the side effects and learned that lethargy is one. She weighs about 11pounds and is bait 5 years old. Do you how long it will take for the shot to wear off? The vet said I should bring her back in 3 months to see if there is improvement .
Do you know if there is any brand of food to which many cats have an allergy? Or, any additive I should be aware of?
10/14/2013: Theresa from Mpls., Mn replies: "Hey Mere!
The depression and lethargy *typically* lasts for 24 hours. The steroids last in the system 3-6 weeks - and sometimes a bit longer -its all individual.
As a general rule of thumb, foods with grains should be avoided and foods with real meat in the first 3-5 ingredients should be favored. Foods with coloring agents and dyes should be avoided. There are websites such as 'cat food advisor' that help make choosing a diet a bit easier.
Take a read of your cat food ingredient label - this will help you get an idea of your next step. And keep a full bowl of fresh, clean water out for your kitty as some will develop a tremendous thirst as they process the steroids out of their system."
[DEATH REPORTED] 08/27/2013: Lawrence from Chatsworth Ca: "We just recently lost are beloved 8 1/2 year old Yorkie, Mordy. 12-26-2004-7/09/2013 After 1-3 Kenalog Shots yearly from 6 months to 5 years old for skin allergies. Later found to be a food allergy. Was not warned until age 5. Autoimmune reactions from the Kenalog ( Cortisone ) Heartworm pills, excessive Vaccinations, Flea meds, etc. The final trigger was a mistake by a vet tech that gave Mordy 3 Vaccinations, Bordetella, Corona and Provo on the same day on 8/31/2010. Within 24 hrs started drinking excessive amounts of water and then went back to normal after 3-4 days. This was a warning sign along with the mood swings and intolerance to heat, Panting, etc of a Hormone imbalance. Mordy never received another Vaccination, Flea treatment, Heartworm pills, etc for the rest of his life. A Holistic vet said the most likely cause is the excessive Cortisone, Vaccinations, Flea meds, etc that caused a major Hormone imbalance, RISE in Estrogen, Adrenal fatigue, Rise in Cortisol from the Shots. Then Adrenal exhaustion that led to SARDS. With the Hormone imbalance the Body starts attacking itself. Calcium influx into the retinas, GI upset, low IGA, Thyroid levels, etc. After a dog attack on 12/6/2010 Mordys Adrenals went into exhaustion. With in 30 days Mordy started going Blind. Long story short after a MRI in 4/2011 and a IV of Medrol. On the next day Mordy was able to see better. We then started on the wrong daily treatment, Prednisone tabs at to high of a daily dosage. That process through the liver and should never be used. Lowered the daily dosage over a period of 14 days to 1. 5mg daily for a 17lb dog. After 30 days on Pred switched to Medrol at 1. 2mg daily. A more powerful steroid that goes directly into the blood stream but can cause more GI upset. Prednisolone also goes directly into the blood stream and if you have no choice this is the one to use and only at a very low dosage, ( may produce less acid in the GI over Medrol ) and should be taken a min of 30 min after a antacid. A Thyroid Pill must be taken twice daily at the correct dosage to cycle the Steroid out of the body in a 24 hr period. After 60 days on medrol and a 100 days on the Plectner/Levin treatment plan to raise the body's daily cortisol to the normal levels, balance the hormone levels and slowly lower the ESTROGEN, Raise the Thyroid and IGA levels to save some of Mordys Vison and stop the Body from attacking itself, Calcium influx, etc. Mordy devoloped Pancreatitis, 7/2011 A reaction from Medrol a steroid changed to after 30 days of Pred. Mordy had a allergic reaction to the Medrol along with blood sugar issues. After a Plasma transfusion with the help of Dr Dodds we started Mordy on MODUCARE a holistic option, will not raise the Adrenals to the same level. Mordy did well on Moducare, Estrogen was continuing to drop but not to the normal levels, IGA was still below normal at 60, ( Some Dr's feel a IGA under 70 over a extended period of time can led to GI irritation, Cancer, etc ). in late April, 4/2013 Mordy ate some cat poop mistaken it for Chicken droppings next to the bar-b-q and within 24 hrs started drinking excessive amounts of water, Diarrhea, Started giving Edosorb tabs for the Diarrhea. Then in early May, 5/2013 stopped eating took to the Vet. Ran a blood test was in stage 3 Kidney failure. Ran a Ultrasound found a Tumor mass in the Lower GI-Colon. Was on IV fluids daily for 5 days at the hospital. Took Mordy home and started the daily fluids and Kidney Protocol to continue to lower Mordys numbers. Late June 6/2013 Mordy was getting picky on his food choices and on 7/5/2013 stopped eating, Gums were very pale, Anemic. Took Mordy to the Hospital ran another blood test now in stage 4 renal failure. RBC was very low, Anemia set in they feel the tumor was bleeding, Blood in the colon. Two blood transfusion, RBC went up but would not hold. Tried Carafate to stop the bleeding. Surgery was not a option so at 10am on 7/9/2013 we took Mordy home to spend are last day together and had a Dr come to the house at 6:30pm to set Mordy free.
I am not a Dr but after doing alot of research and responses from two top DR's they feel the possible causes are Excessive Vaccinations, Steroids shots, Flea meds, Heartworm etc caused the Hormone imbalance that eventually led to the Adrenal/Hormone imbalance, above normal estrogen, Low IGA that opens the door to Cancer, Kidney/Liver damage, etc.
Moducare really helped Mordy live longer but was not enough to fully balance his Hormone levels.
Now with what I have learned I would have first ran a food allergy test.
HEMOPET.ORG has a Saliva test kit the is very accurate and once you know what foods are causing the issue you can slowing make a change. Grain free can dog food is a safer option over Kibble. Home cooked is a better option along with home made dehydrated Sweet Potatoes that are much better and safer over Processed Beef or chicken strips.
And you can keep Vaccinations to a Min by having a resistance test done first. Then with the help of a Holistic Vet look at all the options first and if needed they can use the lowest dosage possible. You can also get a Rabies exception letter from your vet.
We miss Mordy every day but in the end we know Mordy is in a better place. Playing with my first Yorkie mix that I set free in may 1987.
Look into all the options first. Check the Thorne Research website and Look up ModucareVet. For Allergies and to help balance the immune response."
07/12/2013: Miss E from Texarkana, Ar: "I inherited my Uncle's cat, Kitty, when he passed away a few months ago. Kitty was scratching all of the time because of fleas, and she had scabs all over her chest and face. The vet said it was flea allergy dermatitis, and he gave her a cortisone shot. The shot cleared the scabs up, but soon after, Kitty started drinking TONS of water and peeing A LOT! She hasn't been acting like herself lately, so I took her to the vet today. He did a blood test, and her blood glucose was 500! He's keeping her over the weekend to give her insulin; he wants to bring the glucose down and see if she is really diabetic or if this was a result of the cortisone shot."
[SIDE EFFECTS] 07/07/2013: Erica from Highlands Ranch, Co: "My cat had been having an itchy ear canal for months. I had tried so many different home remedies. She would itch and itch that ear and it was chronically scabbed from the incessant scratching. I had sanitized it, put salve on it, antibiotic cream, hydrogen peroxide, organic pet sprays, and even resorted to benadryl cream. My husband got fed up and wanted to take her to the vet. The vet had already seen it when she had a tooth infection and they had given me some drops to use. The drops never made any difference. So several months later, when he took her, they suggested a cortisone shot. I'm a chiropractor and do not really subscribe to very many traditional medical or veterinary practices. But my cat had really been suffering with this itchy ear and I had exhausted all topical remedies and they verified it wasn't anything else to worry about.
I have been noticing and EXTREME amount of cat pee to clean up in her 2 litter boxes. It is more in a couple/few days than when I still had 2 cats. It took me a while to realize this was the case but I had also realized her water bowl, which has a tank on top of it empties much faster than it used to.
Fortunately her ear stopped itching within a couple of days and the scabs finally went away. She had scratched fur and skin off of a very wide area on her head, so it was a relief that she was looking better. But now I"m concerned that the shot has ruined her organs. It is not okay that she has to pee and drink so much. And the vet didn't give my husband any warning about side effects or I wouldn't have given my permission. It doesn't seem like her health has otherwise deteriorated. She never had anything wrong in 15 years until after her "brother" died last year. That itchy ear was frustrating but jeez, organ failure for a shot for something that wasn't life threatening? That same vet did an INCREDIBLE job for an infected tooth that had eaten through her jaw bone and she didn't have one moment of trouble recovering from that. But I see the glibness with which drugs are given and it is really a shame. If I could find so much info on the internet in the top half of a google page, it MUST be a well-known problem."
[SIDE EFFECTS] 06/27/2013: Marie-Ange from Columbus, Oh: "My dog of 115-lbs was given a Cortisone shot 8 days ago & is still having severe panting episodes everyday. I am SO frightened. Called office 2x only to be told w/sarcastic tone "Ma'am, your little dog is not going to die. " He claims the labored breathing could be from anything. If poor Rocky lives thru this week, I will search for a holistic office. I can't believe I allowed him to suffer this way. Vet never told me side effects until after he gave the shot. I would have NEVER agreed to any med causing excessive panting to my poor Rocky who is overweight/6 yrs old/neurotic from abandonment 4x & death of dog pal of 6yrs."
[DEATH REPORTED] 06/02/2013: Maria from Aston, Pa: "My baby girl Sophie was 6 yrs old she started limping so I got worried never sick a day in her life took her to the vet on a Sunday they said she had some swelling in her spine not sure exact cause only mricould see everything gave her a shot of rimadyl she came home lethargic, tongue slightly hanging out drooling a bit falling ever time she stood and barely eating, after a few days I started to get real worried after stopping the med she wasn't getting better took her back to the vet and the stupid vet gave her a sot of steroids I have no idea why never explaining anything she left there barely responsive couldn't stand at all drooling so bad it was just pouring out of her mouth we took her back a few hours later she said there was nothing she could do unless she did back surgery that night she started having seizures and I eventually had to put her to sleep sat morning I know that she killed my dog and not one dr would listen they all said it wasn't the drugs it was something else I am having an autopsy done because I feel I killed her by not doing everything possible I miss her so much it is killing me I haven't stopped crying its all I do I close my eyes and see her pretty little face."
[SIDE EFFECTS] 03/17/2013: Shayne from Raleigh, North Carolina: "I am reading about the side effects of cortizone shots. I took my cat in for allergies and the cat had no prior allergies before. He was given a cortizone-steroid he had no change and the vet recommended another to offset the shot... I figured he would be better. 2 weeks after that the vet gave him a cortizone shot without my permission.
My cat's personality has changed from being content to being grumpy... He DOESN'T stop asking for food!! (no worms or parasites) and the biggest is he can't stop overgrooming. :(
before the shot:
and this is not even the worst of it. :(
another example. :(
I wish they'd ban these from pet practices!"
[DEATH REPORTED] 02/14/2013: Helen from Santa Barbara, Ca: "If your cat is suffering and needs a cortisone shot, please make sure you get your cat an ultrasound before you do that. I took my cat for an ear infection and they gave her a cortisone shot that brought out a heart condition that she already had and she was dead in two weeks. BE AWARE OF WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!!"
[DEATH REPORTED] 01/16/2013: Kim from Baltimore, Maryland: "Vet gave my 3 year old cat a steroid shot for a skin allergy (without explaining anything) and for the first few days the cat ate and drank alot then he hid under the bed and wouldn't eat or drink for a few days. He then came out and acted fine for the next week and then I came home one evening to find the cat unable to use his hind legs. Rushed to the vet and was told that it was either a disc problem or a blood clot. The x-ray showed nothing wrong with his spine so they assumed it was a blood clot. We opted to leave him at the vet for them to try an aspirin regiment to possibly break up the clot and before we got home they called to say the cat was convulsing and almost comatose so we should come back. When we got there we decided to have him put to sleep as he was still having convulsions. He looked like a different cat laying on that table. I asked if the shot could have caused any of this and of course the answer was no but I still think it had something to do with the cat having all of these problems."
[SIDE EFFECTS] 11/05/2012: Cindy from Huntington Beach, Ca: "Our 7 lb. , 1 yr old kitten was playful and doing great, except her skin allergy. She couldn't stop licking her fur, so I brought her to the vet and he administered a cortisone shot (that was a Friday). By Monday morning I had her back in the office, as she had not eaten much all weekend, and seemed too lethargic to walk, and had vomited the little she had eaten. I thought she was going to die. The vet had her "walk" acrosss the room and she barely could, as her balance was so off, and the hind-leg where she received the injection limped as well. Her front two legs were crooked, almost like they were broken, and her back to legs stayed higher up. It was unbearable to watch.
The vet ran a full blood panel on her as he suspected luekemia (the "sluggish muscle movement"), but everything came back okay. Nothing wrong with kidneys, she doesn't have leukemia, cancer, etc. Etc. The only thing it showed was that she had an infection. (Her white blood cell count was up). Big shocker.
From that moment on, she has not been the same. He has since then given me antibiotics, oral ones, that I give her 2x a day for the next two weeks.
She has regained her appetite, is no longer vomiting, and her lethargy is abating. She does however still limp, and her front legs go into that "weak, broken legs" position off and on throughout the day, but thankfully it's not all the time like it used to be.
Sadly, she went from bring a perfectly happy, healthy lively cat, to a timid, shy one.
I would never suggest that anyone give their pet a cortisone shot. I would go for a topical solution of any kind first, and then perhaps an oral route.
I have paid over $600 and seriously harmed my cat. We are only 1 week into this, so I have no idea if this is permanent or not, but not one single moment nor penny has been worth it.
Be informed. Let others know."
09/11/2012: Anna from St. Albans, Vermont: "Be aware, antihistamine shot can kill your pet! My cat was another sufferer of deadly side effects of cortisteroid treatment.
My 17 years old cat was healthy and happy her entire life, but in January 2012 she was sick (digestive problems), so in addition to antibiotic she was then prescribed, I changed permanently her diet from groceries stores' canned cat's junk food that she ate her entire life for an expensive but better quality, grain free brand name cat food. That really changed the quality of my senior queen's life. She not only stopped to have her digestive problems but started to behave like a much younger cat. She had good appetite, no more vomiting (it happened very frequently being on old diet), had nice shiny fur, and having more energy she played and ran around the house like a kitten. If she not slept long hours daily (perfectly normal for her age) you would not guess how old she already was. Even a vet (a different one) could not believe she was 17 and complemented her excellent shape and condition when on August 13th I visited (unfortunately) him with my cat.
The reason for our trip to the vet was a small, pea size cyst (benign) my cat had on her neck for several months that she scratched sometimes to making it occasionally bleed. Because she was too old to make her operation to remove the cyst, I naively believed he might rather help my cat with some miraculous ointment or cream. He offered her Depo injection instead. He told me that antihistamine injection that would last for a couple of weeks might stop the itching that in consequence my cat would stop scratching, and it would stop bleeding, and the cyst itself may even shrink in size. He also told me that the injection may not help at all, so then there would be no reason to repeat it in the future. So, why not try? Thus, I allowed him to do that. I was wrong because the doctor did not to tell me that my cat might die from that shot
When we back home she hid in the basement and showed up only to eat. I did not bother her since I knew she was in a big stress after that trip (she was always scared to death to ride a car and visit the vet office). But next day I noticed something wrong happened to her. She still showed up for food but did not run to me happily meowing (as she always did) when I went to her during her daily naps. When she tried to wake up and jump from her bed she looked like she had a problem with her balance. She looked scared and sad. For so many years she always assisted me in the evening routine activities like watching TV together (I watched, she napped on my laps), assisted me in the kitchen, followed me to the bathroom, then to my bedroom. For seventeen years I always could count on my little furry friend to wake me up in the morning, or at least waited for me outside of my bedroom door just to run with me to the kitchen. On Friday morning on the forth day since the injection, I saw my cat in my bedroom, she laid on the chair in front of my bed. I noticed she looked at me and her beautiful large eyes were sad, they were heartbreaking sad Few moments later I noticed her painful, labored breathing. I tried to contact the vet office but I was told the doctor was off for the weekend and I was advised to bring her to them on Monday! ? I did not want to wait that long. I comforted her for many hours crying and blaming myself for the pain and discomfort she suffered. I do not know if steroids injected to her body just caused those problems or just triggered failure of her weak organs, but I know for sure she did not have to die yet. Not in such a terrible pain, not as unexpectedly. That injection ended her life. The only thing I could then do for her was not to let her suffer any more. I did not want to stress my very sick little friend by another long distance car trip to the emergency vet clinic, so I found the doctor that came to my house the same day. My cat's lungs were full of fluids. The doctor could not do for her anything but let her go. So, he did. She peacefully fell asleep. At least on her favorite couch, at least at home "Replies
[DEATH REPORTED] 10/18/2012: Ladyrockafella from Philadelphia, Pa replies: "[2nd Cat that died after having the shot] I had 2 cats with long hair and they both had skin allergies to something. My first cat (Raiden) that died had the shot about a week or two before we found him just laying in the floor dead.... Huh. This was about two years ago.
The 2nd cat (Sweetie Pie) had the shot about a year ago and it helped her skin problem and she didn't have any side effects... Last week I took her back to the same vet that gave her the shot before becasue she seemed to be irritated by the skin allergies very badly this time. The vet gave her the same shot again... 1 week later (which was last night) Sweetie Pie began to have severe health issues... I noticed that she was laying in front of our front door and when people walked by she didn't move.... Then a little while later she was dragging her back paws, then she couldn't move her front paws and till she couldn't even hold her head up. I rushed her to the ER and they took an xray and said that she had fluid on either her heart or lungs... The also said it appeared that her lung had collasped.... Well, sadly my Sweetie Pie could not recover and I would have had to spend thousands of dollars to run tests and treatment still not knowing if that would have saved her life. So we chose to put her to sleep... I don't recommend this shot to anyone... I have lost 2 cats behind that shot and I am truly devestated."
[SIDE EFFECTS] 08/29/2012: "I recently had my yorkie at the vet for what appears to be a staph infection on his skin. The first visit they gave him a 2 wk injection of antibiotic along with an injection of cortisone. That night he seemed agitated and larthigic. In his sleep he let out a gut wrenching howl. I immediately scooped him up and he seemed dazed. His skin did not respond completely and I had to bring him in for a second course of antibiotics. This time they gave me cortisone pills. I gave him the first pill and he fell asleep. About an hour later he let out another gut wrenching howl. I have not given him any more. For the two week period with the cortisone injection his behavior was anxious and he spent a lot of time under the bed which was unusual for him. He seems ok since the pill I gave him is out of his system. I will let my vet know and will not allow him to take this medication. I would recommend the pill form over an injection so you can see if your pet is going to have an unusual reaction at least you can stop giving the medication. Im not sure if it helped or hurt him."
[DEATH REPORTED] 08/24/2012: Polly from Snow Hill, Maryland: "My 14 year-old Yorkie developed an allergy to fleas and the vet gave her a cortisone shot. She became lethargic and within a few days had stopped eating entirely. The vet said it was a reaction to the shot and gave us two medicines to give her every 8 hours to ease her stomach pain which was supposed to get her eating again. But the medicine didn't help. One week after the shot she started panting heavily and we called the vet who said to bring her in immediately. But before we could get her there she died. She was truly our best friend and we miss her more than words could ever say."
08/03/2012: Glen from Alpha, Nj: "My cat Max experiences seasonal allergies and scratches at his ears. We thought a cortisone shot would help and it did alleviate the itchy ears.
Soon after I discovered Max was ill and having difficulty breathing. We brought him to the vet and they had to put him in the oxygen cage. They told us he had myocardiopathy and his condition deteriorated over a couple of days and they asked us to come to say goodbye to him.
I didn't want him to die in the vets office so we brought him home. He looked as though he was going to die but it became apparent that he had a chance.
We got heart meds from the vet (diltiazem) splitting the tablet 4 ways (7.5mg dose) and began feeding him chicken broth, then baby food and over the 2 weeks more solid foods. He made a full recovery and the vet was no less than amazed.
About 6 weeks later we tried to do an ultrasound to get a definitive diagnosis but even with mild sedation (very dangerous with a possible heart condition) he wouldn't hold still.
Bottom line; 3 years later (putting the 7.5mg dose of diltiazem down his throat 2x per day he looks and behaves like a normal perfectly healthy cat.
I believe there is a possibility that the steroid shot may have triggered a latent heart condition. I would strongly caution anyone against using steroids on their cat and to look at other solutions that don't pose a potential risk.
He is a kinder, gentler pussycat after his near death experience. I'm a bit nicer too."