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Cortisone Shot Side Effects

Last Modified on Nov 15, 2015

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 changesĀ 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.

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Posted by Om (Hope BC, Canada) on 07/12/2013

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

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Posted by Adam T (Wa Australia) on 08/25/2015

[DEATH REPORTED]  Cortisone killed my cat. Had a growth is his throat which was tiny, got bigger I think due to an injection given to him by a home vet . I think once it got air all the cells spread and got bigger. Despite this he was still his normal self and played outside and ate heaps etc. Heaps of energy. The first shot he stemmed fine . Had another shot a week later. That was the end of him. The next day he wasn't making any noise and just slept all day. During the next few days he was really bad , not eating, not moving, looking depressed and rapid breathing. One night he could barely sit up, drooped over. The 4th day his body split open , looked like a burst tumor. My boy went berserk with the " immunisation " never seen him like that. He must have known that was going to be his downfall. The cortisone set him off and I know for a fact that was what made him Real sick because he changed completely for the worse after it.

Cortisone is horrible. Don't get it for your pet. It kills them.

Posted by Jennifer (Amarillo, Tx) on 07/15/2015

[DEATH REPORTED]  Out 12 year old Dachshund was having lots of itching and yeast infections. The vet suggested a steroid shot. We agreed. Within 48 hours of the shot our precious dog was lethargic, withdrawn, panting and not eating. The breathing got worse so we contacted the vet who said that can happen and bring him in if it worsens?? Within hours our dog was dead...all over a shot to stop itching! We are devastated and this was so preventable.

Replied by Deborah
Chino Valley

I'm so, so sorry to hear this about your beloved Dachshund. My husband's and my thoughts are with you and your family at this time. A terrible tragedy. We are so sorry, and thank you for alerting others to this even in your time of sorrow.

Posted by Eva (France) on 07/07/2015

[SIDE EFFECTS]  Our little terrier mix (14 months) got a steroid shot in her knee to deal with a partially torn cross band. The shot was supposed to be slow release for 3 weeks. She developped side effects straight away: Lethergic, drinking enormous amounts and urinating constantly, her kidneys stopped working properly (needed two mornings of infusions and meds from the vet), skin problems. And now, after 6 weeks, she still has more skin sores appearing and is not her own self: She is tired, she isn't running fast and seems to have totally forgotten how to play. Just stands there and stares at her toys or growls at our other dog when he is showing her any attention. Does anyone have an idea how long this may still last or what we can do?

Replied by Theresa Donate

Mpls., Mn

Hey Eva!

You might try putting your terrier on a prednisone detox regimen. Consider these herbs: Milk thistle, Burdock root, dandelion and Essiac tea. Read the recommended dosage on each bottle and adjust by weigh accordingly - your dog might need 1/2 capsule for a doggie dose vs 1 full capsule for adult human dose; this is something you will have to tailor for your particular dog when compared to the particular strength of the herbal product you have in hand, so I cannot be more exact on the dose to use.

For dosing schedule you might do the Burdock Root first thing in the morning and then again in the evening on an empty stomach. Dose the Dandelion Root twice daily also. Dose the Milk Thistle three times a day, with meals. After the 15 days discontinue the Burdock root and start the Essica tea; dose the Essiac Tea for fifteen days, three times a day - you can continue the dandelion and Milk thistle on the Essiac.

Please report back on how your terrier recovers!

Posted by Doris (Phillipsburg , Nj ) on 07/05/2015

[DEATH REPORTED]  My dog was given steroids for itching, and developed Cushing's disease and internal bleeding. After 3 months of round the clock care, she died. It cost me over $10 K to try to save her. I still miss her everyday. Don't believe the vets - cortisone is NOT safe for dogs.

Posted by Twila (Bay St. Louis, Miss.) on 06/10/2015

[SIDE EFFECTS]  My great pyrenees had hot spot on leg. Took to vet and got shot of cortisone. It's been one week and he has went to restroom four x at night now. He is four and never done this since a puppy. Seems really thirsty also.

Replied by Theresa Donate

Mpls., Mn

Hey Twila!

This is a common side effect from the cortisone shot - increased thirst, increased hunger, panting when it doesn't feel hot outside and increased urination due to increased water intake.

You might consider Ted's Mange Remedy followed up with a sprintzer bottle of Ted's Anti-fungal/Anti-staph dip to treat any trouble spots on your dog. Alkalizing the water with baking soda can also help keep the hot spots in check.

Replied by Wendy
Columbus, Oh

One of the known side effects of steroids (cortisone is a steroid) is excessive thirst. Just make sure your dog has lots of available, clean, cold water to drink, and take him out often.
Replied by Eva

Sorry, this is a very late reply and I hope everything is OK for you now. Just wanted to say that it's important to let the vet check the kidney function as the continued drinking may also be a sign that they can't cope on their own.

Posted by Jeannie (Wv) on 05/16/2015

[DEATH REPORTED]  These posts have solved a 10 year mystery for me.

in 2002, I took my Great Dane in for a regular check-up and the vet said he heard a heart murmur. He explained dogs can live a long time with them and it was nothing to worry about. So I didn't...

By 2005, we had moved and I had a new vet. By then, the dog was 9 years old (old for a GD), and having trouble with arthritis. Omega 3 fish oil pills helped for a while. Then, the vet said she could give her cortisone shots but explained, if used over a long period of time, they could cause kidney failure. No other side-effects were mentioned. (The heart murmur was never discussed; I assumed she knew of it because she had listened several times). I decided to take the risk to ease the dog's pain, as she would likely not live long enough for kidney failure to kick in.

She got 3 shots over a period of a few months without any abnormal side effects that I recall. Maybe some extra drinking, but she drank a lot of water anyway. Each time, she perked right up and would prance around like a puppy for 3-4 weeks before starting to slow down again.

When it was time for her 4th shot, there was a substitute vet, as mine was on vacation. Everything went fine in the office. But, when we got home, I took her for her walk and she didn't make it far before she had to lay down. Her back legs had completely given out and she never regained her strength. Lethargy set in, she stopped eating and wouldn't move.

Within five days, I had my regular vet come put her down at home. We both chalked it up to the cortisone just wasn't doing it anymore, but I wasn't fully convinced because she dropped so quickly after the shot.

Looking at pictures later, I realized how much weight she had lost in the course of the regiment. I remembered she had not been weighed as was the usual practice before giving her the shot. So, I thought the substitute vet may have given her an overdose for her size. But I never knew for sure.

Now, I think it was the heart issue, and the cortisone exacerbated any congestive heart failure that may have developed from the murmur. I'll see if my thinks that was a possibility.

Replied by Theresa Donate

Mpls., Mn

Awww, Jeannie - after 10 years I know the grief and pain remain. I am glad you have an answer of sorts.


Posted by Rosslyn (Australia) on 01/05/2015

[SIDE EFFECTS]  I took my silky terrier to the vet because he was red all over his stomach the vet gave him a cortisone injection and cream to apply I did tell the vet that he previously has had yeast infections. Next day all he did was sit on the sofa and shake was very depressed and lethargic although he ate well. Two weeks later the skin on his stomach started flaking off, so I stopped using the cortisone cream. Now four weeks later he is no longer red and itchy but his skin is still peeling off and he smells yeasty, I put him on a raw diet no starches no grains and have been bathing him in tea tree oil shampoo which has helped a lot he also has omega 3/6 oil and is almost better he has lots of bald patches hopefully his fur will grow back and his playful personality is almost back to normal. I will never allow my pets to be given cortisone again.

Posted by Pam (Bristow, Va) on 01/05/2015

[DEATH REPORTED]  My cat starting having uti issues in September and took Orbax. The systems came back in December and she lost some weight. Bloodwork, ultrasound, xrays, etc revealed no known issues. Suggested I take her to a specialist, but she was 16-years-old and didn't make sense to spend another $1,000. No vomiting or diarrhea just some blood in the urine. She started losing weight so the Veterinarian gave her a steroid shot, Dexamethasone to make her hungry and perk her up. She died 5 days later. She had severe vomiting that night and couldn't walk the next day. She couldn't stand to eat out of a food bowl and I had to hold the water bowl for her. She was very disoriented and just became lifeless.

Posted by Denise (England) on 01/03/2015

[DEATH REPORTED]  My cat died today 15 minutes after a cortisone shot. I am devastated. Vet never mentioned any risk. Wish I'd seen your website before now.

Replied by Theresa Donate

Mpls., Mn

Denise, I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your kitty :-(
Replied by Pam
Bristow, Va

I am so sorry for your loss. My cat just died from a steroid injection this morning. She had Dexamethasone.

Posted by Christineo (Minneapolis, Mn) on 11/30/2014

[DEATH REPORTED]  I took my cat Lucy to the vet on Friday because she was breathing rapidly and had a noise when she did. She was otherwise fine. Ate, drank, played like normal. I decided to take her in and at 5:30, she received a cortisone and penicillin shot. The vet thought MAYbe asthma, MAYbe pneumonia. Sent me home with a round of steroids and antibiotics to continue beginning 24 hours later for a week.

She was fine when we got home, though the other cats hissed at her per usual when one of them goes to the vet. She was fine at 10pm when I gave her her nightly treats. I woke up the next morning and she was dead. She WOULD HAVE BEEN two years old in January. Devastated!!! I can only think that the penicillin would have caused a reaction within a couple of hours due to the immune system, so I am inclined to think that cortisone was the issue. When I researched death after penicillin, I got a plethora of articles about the cortisone probably being the culprit.

I am devastated to think she was alone when she died. I was with my other cats when put to sleep, but Lucy was so YOUNG and full of vitality! She was the biggest sweetheart ever!! My heart is broken.

Replied by Theresa Donate

Mpls., Mn

Hey Christineo!

I am very sorry to hear about the death of Lucy :(

I did research also as the death *yound* Lucy over a cortizone shot baffled me. This is what I found out.

"A less common side effect of corticosteroid use is to uncover hidden congestive heart failure (CHF). If heart disease is undetected (occult), especially if a heart murmur is not heard, fluid can rapidly fill up the lungs causing labored breathing and distress after a steroid injection is given. If the patient is promptly seen by a vet on an emergency basis and CHF is diagnosed by a chest x-ray, oxygen therapy and diuretic injections generally cause the fluid to be urinated out and an echocardiogram can be performed to further define the heart condition."


Lucy very likely had an undiagnosed cardiac condition - something your vet could not have anticipated. In hindsight the presenting symptoms are cardiac related, but in such a young cat asthma or pneumonia would be any vet's first guess, and the shot - properly indicated for asthma or pneumonia - pushed the cardiac condition over the edge. I suppose you could do an autopsy to confirm, but it won't bring her back.

My heart goes out to you for your sudden loss of Lucy~


Replied by Christineo
Minneapolis, Mn

Thank you so much, Theresa!! I adopted Lucy and her sister as well as their mother (couldn't separate them) in early 2013. I sent Paws and Claws a letter about Lucy's sudden death today and she did mention cardiomyopathy as a possibility. I couldn't afford a necropsy, though I would think they would do one for learning purposes. Probably not. I have read articles stating that a cat with a murmur of any kind shouldn't be given steroids as CHF is likely. That murmurs should always be investigated first.

She (vet) heard the murmur a few months ago when they got their shots, but Lucy was so mad being there, it was a possibility that it was stress induced. She was quite flippant about the seriousness of it then AND the night I brought her in last week (I asked it her murmur needed treatment. "No."). I never would have guessed any of this would have happened. Surely she ought to know steroid precautions??

I just can't help but feel like we let Lucy down.

Replied by Theresa Donate

Mpls., Mn

Hey Christineo!

I had the best cat *ever* who died of aortic thrombosis; he was the healthiest cat I knew of, who caught most of his meals - bunnies, chipmunks and the like. Waking up one morning to find him paralyzed in the rear was unreal, and even more surreal the diagnosis from my vet whom I love and respect and would follow to the ends of the earth that PTS was the best option. Goliath was just 12 years old -too soon for him to leave me, but his number was simply up: it was time for him to go on to his next mission, his next assignment. His early leaving allowed him to greet my two senior pitbulls Conan and Sonja who left 6 months and 9 months afterward. In hind sight I do not regret his untimely passing, as I know he greeted Conan and Sonja on the rainbow bridge only like a soul mate could.

I ask that you think about Lucy with different eyes; she has a soul path, a mission, and this early and shocking passing was part of her plan.

Look at her legacy; she sure taught that VET a thing or two!! This is huge - as some vet's cannot be told, but must learn in painful and embarrassing ways.

I urge you to write your vet a letter, explaining the situation. Explain that the murmur was a known pre-existing conditiont, that you brought it up prior to the shot, and that death after cortisone shot in cats is directly related to cardiomyopathy. The vet needs to know that you know... and that others that follow may be just as intelligent as you in their research.

I also want you to consider that CHF in cats is not a fun path to mosey down, and in passing early - while unexpected - saved Lucy pain and suffering and saved putting YOU through a draining experience of watching her waste away before your eyes as you wait for the other shoe to drop.


{{{Thank you Lucy for your lesson! }}}

Replied by Christineo
Minneapolis, Mn

Thank you so much for your kind and compassionate words, Theresa! I truly, truly appreciate them.

The idea that her death served a purpose is actually something I just posted on my Facebook page. That maybe, just maybe, her dying was a way of saving us both from the angst of getting the medications in her and possible complications from the actual cause of the murmur. I have to believe in something good in all of this. It's the only thing holding the pieces of my heart together.

In the same post, I did express confusion as to how she did not realize murmurs and cortisone don't "go together". And that I fully intended to address this with the vet's office. Is she a 'new' older vet? What is her background? She is new to the practice this year, but I don't know anything about her. I need to address this with the vet to save potential damage to future pets and their owners. She needs to consider the idea that small murmurs are still murmurs. And until you know 'why', you can't assume they are negligible. I've read in several places that you can't determine the severity of the murmur based on sound. It needs to be investigated. does take money.

Again, I SO appreciate your words. I definitely believe in soul purpose and currently submerged in the belief/understanding of it. I will always struggle with the inability to be with her when she passed. But I suppose if I'd found her in distress and couldn't get her treated in time, it would have just been a whole new set of grief (different reasons). I need to just let it go and appreciate what time we did have together. And the love we gave each other.


Replied by Christineo
Minneapolis, Mn

Oh, Theresa. I had sent a message to the agency I adopted the kitties from to let them know. She had actually mentioned cardiomyopathy as a possibility and sent me links for it. I read that in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep and that was the first time I ever felt any peace since she passed. The "who knows" limbo is incredibly miserable. I feel confident that I now know the answer to what happened to Lucy. <3
Replied by Christina

Earily- my cats name was Lucy too. I took her to the vet last week for a skin issue. She was given a shot of cortisone. 3 days later she died of congestive heart failure at the vet's office. She had a heart murmur that the vet had asked me about minutes before she gave her the shot. She should have never been given the shot. I called the vet the day before she died and informed her of the symptoms and she said it was probably a reaction to the shot. By the time we took her in the next day it was too late. Malpractice??

Posted by Holly (Victoria, Tx) on 06/01/2014

My heart goes out to those that have had complications with the cortisone shot. My 4 yr old Schitzu (sorry for the spelling), Darcy, has had excessive itching for about 3 yrs. I thought it was under control after changing her food 3 times. Then it started all over again. She's had 3 cortisone shots in that 3 yr time period. It worked wonderfully with the only side effect of eating, drinking and of course gaining weight.

Well, here we are and she needs another shot but I'm weary about her having too many. I started using Tea Tree Oil and it worked great but the odor was way too strong. I accidentally discovered something else that seems to work really well. I bought a (what I would call a stupid spray that I believed was a sales gimic) made by Top Paw, with Lavender, it has lidocaine, allantion, hydrocortisone, glycerin, and wheat germ oil.

I always believed her itching was from anxiety not so much allergies, because I work long hours.

You won't believe what I just discovered this morning, you know how lavender is suppose to be calming, I took the lid off the bottle and let her smell and lick it and pretended to spray her back-end where she bites the most and now she's asleep and snoring.

I will get a bigger bottle and continue to use this method as long as it'll work. I'm so excited!!!!!! I'll try to keep posted with the progress. Please let me know if anyone else has tried lavender to calm down their pet. I wish the best to everyone. When Darcy is miserable, I'm miserable. She's a gift from God. :)

Posted by Mere (Apalachin, Ny) on 10/13/2013

[SIDE EFFECTS]  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?

Thanks, Mere

Replied by Theresa Donate

Mpls., Mn

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.

Posted by Lawrence (Chatsworth Ca) on 08/27/2013

[DEATH REPORTED]  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.

Posted by Miss E (Texarkana, Ar) on 07/12/2013

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.