I'm not sure if this post will be very useful, but I wrote this for the AADR magazine and wanted to share it. If anything, you can learn about this steroid in case your vet wants to use it.
When I first got into the breed, I did not want to go into it blind so I looked for a mentor. One of the people I considered agreed to sit down and talk with me about conditioning, raising, and handling this breed. I was so excited because I just knew with the success this person had in the show ring, that this meeting would be the beginning of an amazing relationship with them and this breed! You would not have imagined my surprise when this person told me to “DEX” my dog a day before the show to “DRY” them out. I was shocked. I was a newbie in this breed, but even then I knew there was NO WAY I was going to do this to my dog. It wasn’t until recently that I became more interested in why people do this to their dogs, what it is used for and what it does to our dog’s systems.
Drying out a dog is a fairly common practice in the American Pit Bull Terrier because in the conformation show ring, they want their dog to look as lean and muscled as possible. A “wet” dog looses this look, so people do a number of things to make this less apparent. Some people use natural diuretics such as garlic or vinegar, while other’s go so far as to use steroids, the most commonly used, Dexmethasone, commonly called Dex. “Dexing” your dog is usually done during a keep or conditioning program prior to the show the dog is attending. I have heard people using it the day before the show, the day of or even the week of the show.
Dexmethasone is used for many things in the veterinary world and is usually given by injection or by tablet. It is only supposed to be available veterinary prescription in the United States, but since it is not a controlled substance, it can be found fairly easily. When I researched the ways to get this, I was able to find it online without a prescription. It is most commonly used in dogs to treat difficult ear infections, adrenal insufficiency, allergies, asthma, tumor growth, inflammatory bowel disease, emergency shock, nervous system disease, and other related illnesses and diseases. It is also used to test for a dog with Cushing’s syndrome because it elevates the level of cortisol produced by the animal. (Dexamethasone - Pet, Dog and Cat Medication and Prescription List | petMD
) After reading what it was used for, most places I looked had long lists of side effects that can be caused by taking this drug regularly.
The side effects included:
Change in disposition, psychiatric disturbances, including personality changes, irritability, euphoria, or mania and mood swings.
Increase in seizure activity
Increase in food and water intake
Increased susceptibility for viral and bacterial infections
Ulceration of the digestive tract
Abortion of litter in bitches
Polyuria, polydipsia and muscle-wasting
Elevated liver enzymes, fatty liver degeneration
It was noted on one website(Dexamethasone for Veterinary Use
), “Adverse effects due to corticosteroid treatment usually occur with long-term administration of the drug, especially when high doses are used. Alternate-day therapy with short-acting preparations is preferred. Animals that have received long-term therapy should be withdrawn slowly by tapering the dosage and prolonging the interval between doses.”
After looking at the side effects, most of these are reasons to rush our dogs to the vet in fear that they have a terrible illness and could possibly loose our animals. Also, a lot of these side effects can cause a dog to dehydrate and with an overly active breed such as the American Pit Bull Terrier, this could happen very quickly. Most people cannot do an IV alone without a vet, and do not have the proper equipment to ensure the dog does not die from dehydration. Giving a dog water alone will not keep it from dying if it has begun to dehydrate. With these side effects, is it worth our animals health to win a trophy or a ribbon?
A side effect that really worried me was the change in disposition. In the breed as strong and as looked down upon as the American Pit Bull Terrier, why would we risk using a drug that could possibly cause them to be aggressive. While a change in disposition does not only mean aggression, it is the one that I would be the most worried about. One thing I pride this breed about is the fact that they have a bullet proof temperament. Why add a drug to their system that could cause them to loose this very important trait and even worse, possibly cause the dog to bite or attack someone unprovoked? This would not just be a problem for the owner, but the breed as a whole. We fight to show people we have this amazing breed with amazing temperaments and then give them stuff to destroy it. Why would we do this?
Re-capping. People give this to their dogs so that they look lean enough to win trophies and ribbons? Yes. Is this common? Apparently, as I hear about it all the time and no one seems alarmed. Has this harmed any dogs? Possibly. Side effects are not always a problem with every animal, but without proper veterinary consultation, who actually knows the amount of animals harmed by this practice and it is never noticed. Now, the big question is one I cannot answer. WHY? Why do people do this to their animals? Why do people take their animal’s life into their hands? I hypothesize that is it ego or just the want for a win, but even that is not a good enough reason to put the animal’s health into their hands.
So, what’s dexing really worth?