If you are one of the many millions of pet owners out there with an allergic, itchy pet; you will most likely at some point have been given a course of steroid tablets to dose your pet (also known as cortisone or prednisolone). As vets, we also give these tablets for any pets that suffer with an autoimmune condition or with inflammatory conditions such as in the bowels or ears.
We always advise that the dose starts off relatively high to reach the effect we are after (stop the scratching or head shaking); and always to give it in the morning as the body produces a natural cortisol surge as soon as your pet wakes up, so we need to follow this natural rise. We will always follow this up with warning you that your pet may suddenly appear really thirsty and hungry – yes sadly steroids increase the hunger in your pets that already may be prone to appearing hungry all the time anyway!!
If they are certain breeds such as Labradors or Pugs or Cavaliers, they may begin to scavenge, raid dustbins, steal food off the table and appear to have an insatiable urge to eat. Do not give in! Stick with feeding the healthy treats we recommend and the same allowance of food that they are allowed in a day.
If you have been very unfortunate to have epilepsy diagnosed in your beloved pet, the treatment for this too – phenobarbitone, causes a surge in hunger. It is known to have this side effect in humans too and is the same drug that we use in humans. There are also behaviour modification medications such as amitriptyline and Prozac that can lead to unwanted pounds; and certain high blood pressure medications such as propanolol can cause weight gain in certain dogs.
Another very new drug that we do not tend to prescribe as vets but we know many of our pet owners use, is cbd (cannaboid) oil. As it is not licensed for use in pets in the UK so no data is available on how much to give, I recently had a consultation with a loving pet owner giving their gorgeous black Lab Paris 4 drops of cbd oil twice a day as she suffered from elbow arthritis. The owner was concerned that when he prepared her food, she was so ravenously hungry that she would jump up and almost knock him over so he had to steady himself in the kitchen against the counter. He suffered with health issues himself and I immediately noticed the danger in this situation.
My advice was to cut the dose right back to 2 drops once daily and see what a difference that made to Paris’ uncontrolled behaviour as cbd oil is known to give dogs an insatiable appetite, especially at high doses.
Having an overweight pet is definitely not always your fault – especially if they have been prescribed medication!
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