The steroid dexamethasone treats all sorts of diseases in cats. Increased drinking and peeing are side effects whose severity depends on how and why the medication is administered. Other side effects can occur with the use of dexamethasone, so keep an eye on Kitty as long as she takes it.
Dexamethasone is a "catabolic" steroid. That word has nothing to do with felines, but means it breaks down the body's resources, such as muscle mass, for fuel when the body experiences stress. The stress can range from an allergic reaction to insects to autoimmune diseases, when the body overreacts to its own tissues. It's similar to the natural hormone, cortisol, produced by the adrenal glands. For cats, dexamethasone is prescribed as an anti-inflammatory.
Although dexamethasone tablets are available in various sizes, the 0.5 milligram version is generally prescribed for cats. It's also available in an injectable form, used by the vet. It's important to carefully follow the vet's dosing instructions. That includes not stopping the drug without the vet's OK. Suddenly stopping this medication can lead to withdrawal symptoms.
Your vet might prescribe oral dexamethasone or use the injectable version if Kitty suffers from skin disorders, joint problems, shock, trauma, neurological problems, some cancers and allergic reactions to other medications. It's also used to reduce swelling. If your cat is diagnosed with thrombocytopenia, a decrease in blood platelets, dexamethasone might be prescribed. This depends on what testing reveals as the cause of platelet loss. A topical version, marketed under the name Tresaderm, might be prescribed for skin and ear infections. There's also an ophthalmic ointment prescribed for certain eye infections.
If Kitty receives the oral medication or regularly receives injections of dexamethasone, he probably will suffer from increased thirst, accompanied by frequent urination. Dexamethasone causes the body to retain salt, so Kitty will be thirsty all the time. These side effects are unlikely to occur with Tresaderm or the eye ointment. Other side effects of oral or injectable dexamethasone include appetite loss, weakness, urinary tract infections and muscle wasting. The adrenal glands may not produce sufficient levels of hormone. Dexamethasone might interact with other drugs, so tell your vet about any prescription medication Kitty receives as well as over-the-counter or herbal remedies.
Don't give dexamethasone to pregnant cats. If Kitty is epileptic or diabetic, or has liver problems, he shouldn't receive the drug. Administering other anti-inflammatory medications along with dexamethasone can cause bleeding or ulcers in Kitty's gastrointestinal tract. This is a strong medication -- it's 10 times stronger than another commonly prescribed anti-inflammatory, prednisone. If your cat receives the drug long-term, he might take it only twice a week rather than daily as with other anti-inflammatories. Your vet will monitor his condition regularly.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.