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Antibiotics, Steroids and Your Dog's Health

Q: My 6 year old dog has skin problems along with arthritis and other medical problems. She gets cortisone shots or some type of antibiotic almost every other week, is this safe?  

A: Your dog could be suffering from an overabundance of shots. Read the information provided below to get an idea of what exactly is happening with your dogs immune system.

Drug Treatment and Suppression by Dr. Jeffrey Levy DVM PCH

Treatment with allopathic drugs (antibiotics, steroids, hormones, etc.) should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. The need for drug treatment is actually quite unusual, and should be considered a last resort.

Antibiotics are often completely superfluous, such as in treating abscesses or viral infections. They should also not be used routinely to prevent infection, such as after most surgery or dental procedures. For most situations in which antibiotics are given, there are safe, effective alternatives.

Corticosteroids (cortisone-type anti-inflammatory drugs) are the most abused and dangerous class of drugs. Not only do they not cure the underlying cause of the problem, they usually make the underlying problem, that is, the real problem, worse.

The greatest harm of drug treatment is usually not so much the toxicity or side effects as it is the effects of suppression. Allopathic (conventional Western) medical thinking generally seeks immediate gratification: just make the symptom go away. So the patient may be better in the short term, but is usually worse in the longer term. Homeopathy is just the opposite: sometimes the symptoms are worse in the short term (such as with aggravation or the reversal of a previous suppression), but the real benefit is in the longer term.

A symptom, say itchy skin, is the body's response to a deeper problem. When a symptom is suppressed, it is only the outward manifestation of the problem that goes away. Since the deeper problem is still there, the body may, in time, produce the same symptom again. Another possibility is that, as a result of the suppression, the deeper problem progresses to the point that a deeper, more serious symptom is produced. So the itchy skin may go away, but then chronic diarrhea develops. If the diarrhea is then suppressed as well, it may lead to, say, liver disease. But hey, at least the skin is cleared up!

I see this pattern, or variations on it, very frequently in reviewing the medical records of new patients. It is the unrecognized, and often high, price that we pay for the quick fix, for immediate gratification, for the shot or pill that seems to make the problem go away.

Antibiotics - Friend or Foe?
Antibiotics literally means "against life"
(anti = against, biotic = life)

In a healthy body, there is both good and bad bacteria in the intestinal tract. There should be about 80% good bacteria and about 20% bad bacteria. Let's be very clear about antibiotics: They are used to kill bacteria. When antibiotics are used, both good and bad bacteria are destroyed in your dogs intestinal tract. Once the antibiotics are stopped, the bad bacteria grow back first - and faster.

Bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics when they have been exposed to the antibiotic but have developed ways to fight and survive them. Resistant bacteria can be transmitted to others and they too will become ill with antibiotic resistant strains. Antibiotics increase the chance of a particular bacterium to change its basic. The result: the more antibiotics you use-the more unhealthy becomes your dog.

Some friendly bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus protect the body from yeast infection and unfriendly bacteria. Some of the good guys manufacture B vitamins, others lactase, still others their own form of antibiotics against flora. The good bacteria fight tumors, work to lower high cholesterol levels, and improve digestion.

Candida albicans is a normal inhabitant of the body, but when antibiotics knock out its competitors, it spreads. This leads to infections, producing antigens and toxins which cause a weak immune system, neurological, and endocrinology disorders.

The overgrowth of yeast leads to food allergies, autoimmune disorders, eczema, skin rashes, mange etc. To make matters worse, antibiotics can inhibit the availability of several of the B vitamins, vitamin A, folic acid, zinc, and magnesium. When antibiotics cause diarrhea, this problem becomes serious.

Diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, skin disorders, fever, elevated white blood cell count, weak immune system, vomiting, dehydration, potassium deficiencies, allergies, bad breath, eczema, yeast infections, nutritional deficiencies and constipation are just some of the many side effects and problems linked to antibiotics.

How to Help your Dog

Reinstate your dogs intestinal tract with friendly bacteria using Probiotics. Probiotic bacterial cultures are intended to assist the body's naturally occurring gut flora to reestablish themselves. They are sometimes recommended by doctors, and more frequently, by nutritionists, after a course of antibiotics or as part of the treatment for gut related candidiasis.

Yogurt too (plain), is another beneficial product which helps to recolonize gut flora after a round of antibiotics. Be certain the label says either "active cultures" or "lactobacilius", otherwise it is only a good tasting treat with no particular benefit. 


If you are unable to locate Probiotics, then Echinacea (an herb) may be more readily found at most stores carrying vitamins.

Echinacea has been called "the natural antibiotic" and is actually more effective than antibiotics when fighting infections. The majority of prescribed antibiotics only fight bacterial infections and don't have the capacity to kill viruses. For example, when a doctor prescribes an antibiotic for strep throat, he doesn't know what organism caused the sore throat unless a throat culture is ordered. If the sore throat was caused by a virus, antibiotics will have little or no effect. Also, antibiotics tear down and weaken the immune system. Not only does echinacea help to fight off and kill infection, but more importantly, it helps to stimulate and strengthen the immune system.

Echinacea should not be used for more than 7-10 days consecutively.  It is only used to help strengthen your dog's immune system until it can do the job it was designed to do.

Chicken soup is another food which will help boost your dogs immune system. 

Steroids - The Great Pretender
(Cortisone, Prednisone, Dexamethasone)

Doctors tell you that steroids only cause side effects after many years. But new research shows that permanent damage is immediate and devastating. Studies show that steroids cause permanent, debilitating effects after a single dosage. 'Steroids are probably the most sleazy of modern day medications,' says John Mills, former professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and chief of infectious diseases at San Francisco General Hospital.

You take your dog to the vet with a skin disorder. Your vet gives your dog a steroid injection. The skin disorder clears up. Later, you discover your dog has kidney disease. Is there a clear connection between the steroid injection and your dog's diseased kidneys? You don't know. But we do know that steroids are known to damage kidneys. We also know, from the drug manufacturers' own data sheets, that steroids can cause liver damage, brittle bones, diabetes, adrenal insufficiency, inability to deal with stress, and damage to the immune system.

Like antibiotics, steroids are one of the most abused class of drugs in the orthodox veterinarian field of medicine. At one time, they were reserved for the extreme emergency cases. Today, they are being used on the most trivial of conditions. Why? They give the appearance of an instant miracle cure which matches the “expectation” level of the client. Thus, many vets turn to steroids as the first line of attack for their anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic effects.

Steroids mimic the action of the adrenal glands, the body's most powerful regulator of general metabolism. Far from being a wonder drug a cure all at steroids cannot cure one single condition. All they do is suppress the body's ability to express a normal response.

Steroids are all broad spectrum that is, they don't specify simply the area of the body you wish to treat, but scatter through every cell including the central nervous system, cells in bone, smooth muscle, blood, liver, etc.

They are considered the drug of choice for asthma, eczema, arthritis, back problems, bowel problems, and for any and all inflammations or allergic reactions

How many vets have provided their clients with any indication of the possible dangers of steroids, prior to administering the drug? How many vets are even aware that even short course application can present permanent damage?

With the many natural methods available to deal with problems where steroids are called for, why not do what's best for your dog. What if your dog had the choice? 

Overuse of Steroids Can Cause Diabetes

Administration of prednisone or other corticosteroids increases blood sugar by interfering with the actions of insulin and stimulating sugar release from the liver.

When the body does not have enough insulin, the dog may show symptoms of high blood glucose, such as:

  • Low energy, lethargy
  • Losing weight
  • Eating excessively, not eating, or other changes in interest in food
  • Drinking large amounts of water
  • Urinating frequently, which may cause waking up at odd times to urinate

The pancreas serves two functions: one is the production of digestive enzymes; the other is the regulation of blood sugar (also known as blood glucose level). The pancreas produces and releases enzymes into the small intestine to break down food into nutrients. It also releases hormones into the bloodstream to help the body use sugar (glucose).

One of these hormones, insulin, controls the uptake of glucose into cells. The job of insulin is to take the excess sugar out of the bloodstream and store it as fat. Essentially, fat is stored sugar or energy.

NSAIDs & Antibiotics Increasing Risk of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma  by Michael Dorausch, D.C.


Some of todays news briefs regarding NSAIDS or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs...

A study recently published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that using antibiotics more than 10 times during childhood or being a heavy user of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) increases the risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).

While, according to the study, there was a strong association between antibiotic use and NHL, heavy NSAID use increased the overall risk of NHL.

Study shows people unaware of harmful effects of painkillers


According to a study, an alarming number of people are ignorant to the potential side effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). The study found that both over-the-counter and prescription painkillers are often used inappropriately. The study is published in the November issue of the Journal of Rheumatology.

More than 50% of people involved in the study were not aware of the potential side effects of NSAID drugs. According to the study, more than 36 million people are taking NSAIDs, prescription and over-the-counter, and nearly 25% of those are exceeding the recommended dosage.

According to some estimates, the side effects of long-term NSAID use cause nearly 103,000 hospitalizations and 16,500 deaths per year.