Veterinarians also make use of corticosteroids (steroids) to address dog skin itch and inflammation. These are not prescribed for periods longer than 2 weeks unless needed due to potential side effects such as increased drinking (called polydipsia), increased appetite (polyphagia) and increased urination (polyuria). You may also see your dog panting more than usual and tiredness. The medications should be given after a morning meal. If you see any side effects, or changes in your dogs behavior or mental condition, be sure to immediately alert your veterinarian.
Other side effects which your vet will be on the lookout for include the increased risk of infection (due to suppression of the immune system), stomach ulcers, blood clots and diabetes (particularly in cats). In some dogs and cats, determining the appropriate dosage of steroids can be challenging, and it can be difficult to ensure that the right amount of medication is given to control the disease without having significant side effects. Sometimes we need to use other drugs to compliment the use of steroids, allowing us to reduce the steroid dose whilst still controlling the disease.
Researchers have recently begun exploring the possibility that many well-known diseases have an immune component. Endocrine diseases like hypothyroidism or diabetes mellitus may be caused by immune rejection of hormone-producing cells. Kerratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS or "dry eye") due to the shut-down of tear production responds to the antirejection drug cyclosporine. Chronic active hepatitis (liver disease) may also have an immune basis. These and many other areas of medicine are being explored for possible connection to the complicated world of autoimmune disease.