Depo-Medrol for cats is a long-acting steroid injection. It is used for inflammatory, immune-mediated, or allergy-type conditions. In this article, you’ll learn what Depo-Medrol is, when it may be used, the side effects to monitor for, and some frequently asked questions.
Quick Overview: Depo-Medrol For Cats
About Depo-Medrol For Cats
Depo-Medrol is a brand name for the injectable steroid drug methylprednisolone acetate. It is manufactured by Zoetis Animal Health.
There are a couple of different kinds of steroids. Steroid hormones, like progesterone and testosterone, act as signal messengers in the body. Anabolic steroids, such as those used by professional bodybuilders, are those that act to increase muscle and bone growth.
Corticosteroids are a third class of steroids. Corticosteroids are involved in a variety of mechanisms within the body, including stress response, immune response, regulation of inflammation, and others.
When we use corticosteroids, it is typically for anti-inflammatory activity to help reduce swelling and inflammation in the body. At higher doses, it suppresses the immune system, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on the disease being treated.
While similar to other glucocorticoid steroids like prednisone or hydrocortisone, methylprednisolone is far more potent. It is 4-5 times more potent than hydrocortisone.
Methylprednisolone comes in oral tablets and a couple of injectable forms, but the brand Depo-Medrol only refers to a long-acting injectable form of the drug.
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What Does Depo-Medrol Do For Cats?
Depo-Medrol is used in the same types of situations where an oral steroid like prednisolone may be used.
This most often includes inflammatory conditions, immune-mediated conditions where the immune system is overreacting to a stimulus and causing harm to the body, and in the case of allergic conditions.
Specifically, this may include inflammation secondary to a wound or infection, an immune-mediated condition such as those that cause blood disorders like low red blood cells or platelets. It also includes inflammatory allergy conditions like atopic dermatitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or feline asthma. It is also used for certain types of cancer that respond to corticosteroid therapy, such as lymphoma.
In a majority of cases, the preference for the type of steroid will be oral. Oral prednisolone in cats can be dosed very closely. Doses can be adjusted in the case of unwanted side effects or when the dose may need to be increased to be effective.
Cats are fairly infamous for rejecting oral medication. They often spit them out or drool excessively afterward. Because cats don’t like being given medicine orally, cat owners risk getting bitten or scratched when attempting to do this at home.
It is mostly in these situations that veterinarians reach for Depo-Medrol. Depo-Medrol for cats is injected, and a dose lasts for weeks or months.
However, while this may seem very convenient, methylprednisolone acetate’s potency and long duration of effect also carry the risk of more significant side effects. Because of this, it is often a last choice for many vets when looking to treat a cat with steroids
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Side Effects Of Depo-Medrol For Cats
Generally speaking, when compared to dogs, cats require higher doses of a steroid to accomplish the same effects. Still, noticeable side effects are much less apparent in cats.
The exception is when steroids are used for a longer period of time. Because Depo-Medrol is always a more potent and longer-acting medication compared to prednisolone, side effects are more noticeable, more concerning, and require more careful monitoring.
The side effects of any steroid include increased thirst, urination, and appetite. There are also digestive upset signs, with diarrhea being the most common in cats with the potential for vomiting or decreased appetite. While more commonly seen in dogs, ulcers of the stomach and upper digestive tract can also be a potential risk.
These are less appreciated in cats, especially in the short term. If these side effects show up, they generally resolve when the steroid is discontinued with some additional supportive care sometimes needed.
However, with a Depo-Medrol injection, the slow absorption can lead to effects that may last for weeks to months and can be different for each cat. So even with just a single Depo-Medrol injection, we have to consider the long-term use effects of steroids to look out for.
Other Risks And Considerations
A potent long-acting steroid must be used cautiously with any active bacterial or viral infections, especially severe infections. Oral steroids are often given alongside antibiotics for certain types of infections. With Depo-Medrol being more potent and its full duration in a feline patient not fully predictable, this could affect the immune system’s ability to fight infection.
The biggest risks for cats using Depo-Medrol are the development of diabetes mellitus and congestive heart failure.
The use of corticosteroids in the body can lead to a degree of resistance to insulin, the hormone that is needed to transport blood sugar from the bloodstream and into cells. This rarely has consequences over the short term, but long term, this resistance can lead to the full development of diabetes.
Cats who are overweight or obese and already at a higher risk of developing diabetes, are at the highest risk of crossing this threshold if a Depo-Medrol injection is used. Long-acting steroid use can also lead to weight gain.
Long-acting steroid use can lead a cat with heart disease to heart failure. This happens when fluid begins to build up in or around the lungs and sometimes also around the heart itself, as well as the abdomen.
These two significant risks of Depo-Medrol use have led many veterinarians to screen cats for risk prior to starting Depo-Medrol as a primary treatment choice. This includes checking blood sugar and the heart itself for abnormalities. This is done using a blood test, x-rays, or an ultrasound of the heart.
Depo-Medrol use should be avoided in pregnant cats and used cautiously for lactating animals.
Interactions With Other Medications And Overdoses
There are many medications that interact with steroid use, especially long-acting steroids. Common ones include other immunosuppressant drugs like cyclosporine, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (such as meloxicam or robenacoxib), and certain diuretic drugs like furosemide.
While the use of Depo-Medrol is avoided in diabetic cats, its use will often lead to increased insulin requirements to manage the condition.
If steroids are being used for immunosuppression, vaccination should be carefully considered, This is especially true for live-attenuated viral vaccines, because the immune system may not respond properly. The vaccine(s) for panleukopenia virus, herpesvirus, calicivirus, and Chlamydia may be modified live while vaccines for rabies and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) are not.
Because Depo-Medrol is given intramuscularly with a needle and syringe, some transient pain may be present at your kitty’s injection site. Make sure to contact your vet if noticeable soreness lasts for more than 24 hours.
Overdoses with Depo-Medrol are uncommon since this medication is always administered by a licensed veterinarian in accordance with guidelines and not given at home. However, even with an acceptable dose, side effects are possible.
If you are ever concerned that your kitty may have developed side effects or toxicity after receiving Depo-Medrol, make sure to contact your veterinarian, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435), or Pet Poison Helpline (1-855-764-7661) immediately for further advice.
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Depo-Medrol For Cats Dosage
Depo-Medrol is FDA-approved for intramuscular injection use in cats.
The usual intramuscular (IM) dose range for Depo-Medrol for cats is between 10 mg and 20 mg per cat. The dosage used will depend on the condition being treated. There are different concentrations of Depo-Medrol available, so the volume of the injection in milliliters (ml) may differ depending on what concentration your vet carries.
The goal of any steroid therapy is to use the lowest effective dose and the longest intervals between doses that still control signs of disease. It is common for Depo-Medrol injections to be given every 4-6 weeks for chronic conditions, or sooner if signs of disease return.
Depo-Medrol for cats is a potent long-acting steroid. It is used for very similar purposes as other steroids like prednisolone, but because of its potency and duration and risk for long-term side effects, is often restricted to use in cases where a cat cannot be administered an oral medication practically or safely. Any cat parent whose kitty is receiving a Depo-Medrol injection should be aware of the possible risks and alternatives to its use, if any.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What does Depo-Medrol do for cats?
Depo-Medrol is a long-acting steroid injection. It is used more often in cases where an oral steroid is not safe or practical to administer to a cat, especially where steroid therapy is needed for a longer period of time.
Depo-Medrol for cats is used in cases of inflammation, and immune-mediated disease to suppress the immune system from harming the body, allergic diseases like atopic dermatitis or feline asthma, and in cases of some cancers, such as lymphoma.
How long does a Depo-Medrol shot last in cats?
The onset of relief, anti-inflammatory effect, or immune-suppressing duration of any Depo-Medrol injection will vary from cat to cat. It is labeled as an injection for intramuscular administration and its slow absorption can lead to a duration of weeks to even a couple of months in some patients.
To know how long a Depo-Medrol shot may last, signs of disease return must be monitored for. Common intervals for Depo-Medrol injections may be every 4-6 weeks for chronic conditions, or sooner if signs of disease return more quickly.
What are the side effects of a steroid shot in a cat?
Cats often do not show much in the way of short-term side effects from steroid use. However, with long-acting injections like Depo-Medrol, side effects can be more apparent and sometimes more serious.
Excessive thirst, urination, appetite, and weight gain are all possible, as well as digestive upset effects like diarrhea, vomiting, and a decrease in appetite.
Cats at risk for diabetes mellitus, especially overweight or obese cats can be at higher risk of a long-acting potent steroid inducing diabetes.
Cats who have, or who are at risk for, an underlying heart disease condition, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) can be put at higher risk of developing congestive heart failure (CHF) from steroid use.