This has been a long ongoing discussion and definitely creates some controversy. Corticosteroids are used for a wide range of conditions in both human and veterinary medicine. Due to the nature of Unusual Pet and Avian medicine, corticosteroid use has been extrapolated from small animal and human medicine. Most of the research conducted for the common disease processes were done using mainstream animals, may it be dogs or cats.
Corticosteroids use in shock and neurologic injury, to rapidly decrease inflammation, has lost favour according to the American Neurological Surgeons Board. At this stage the disadvantages outweighs advantages. Side effects such as immunosuppression, delayed healing, GI mucosa damage and hepatic disease can occur.
Corticosteroids are used by researchers to immunosuppress birds. The chick embryo model was used to evaluate the detrimental effects of corticosteroids on lymphocyte proliferation by injecting the chickens with ACTH. In these models, the 3 week old chickens showed a leukopenia, mostly due to a lymphopenia (1 hour post injection); after that they showed a leukocytosis due to heterophilia at 4 and 12 hours post injection. The increase of heterophils and decrease of lymphocytes caused an overall suppression of antibody production. The lymphocytes remained in the lymphoid organs. In addition to these changes exogenous glucorticosteroids decrease inducible cellular cytoxiticy; lymphoproliferation, T- Cell immunity, interleukin-2 and gamma – interferon production.
In pigeon’s corticosteroids has had deleterious effects on the liver and possible negative effects on breeding.
All the evidence above shows that exogenous corticosteroid use in avian species may increase susceptibility to infectious agents and disease processes. Here at UPV we have seen a few cases involving corticosteroid use in avian dermatitis and ophthalmic conditions. In most of these cases, there have been a below normal white cell count on blood smear analysis.
The patients with dermatitis suffered from mixed bacterial and fungal dermatitis. These patients were lethargic and in septic shock. Some of these cases responded after aggressive anti-microbial and antifungal treatments.
The cessation of corticosteroids aided an immune response aided by antimicrobial and anti-fungal medication.
Although corticosteroids are useful in some species, think twice before using them in avian species.