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Ask a Vet: Good meds may have side effects
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When I was about 12, Jake “the Snake” Roberts was a scary, scary man. His finishing move, the DDT, was the most devastating maneuver in professional wrestling. He would tuck your neck under his arm, then drive your forehead into the mat.

One dose of that and you might be in the hospital for months. So I had a pretty bad impression of DDT. You may be the same.

Of course DDT has another meaning. I knew it was a pesticide chemical that caused eggshells in some birds to become really fragile and thus messed up the ecosystem.

But recently I read a book and learned something I hadn’t realized about it. DDT is the main reason nobody dies of malaria in North America. We used it to kill the mosquitoes that spread the disease, while draining their swampy reproductive areas. And we used massive amounts.

Decades later we realized the impact on other animals and we stopped using the chemical. But in the time it was in use, it saved an estimated 50 million human lives.

And still, when we realized what would happen if we continued its use, we stopped. How shockingly responsible of us.

Some drugs are the same for your pets, or even for your human family.

Veterinarians used synthetic hormones for years to help with problems such as skin disorders in pets. But it turned out they massively increased the risk of certain kinds of cancer. So we hardly ever use them now.

But desperate times call for desperate measures, and some risky drugs are the best option in a bad situation. Steroids such as prednisone have many side effects, but work wonders for out-of-control immune systems or some cancers. In those situations, we weigh the risk of side effects versus the desired benefits and go with the (hopefully) best bet.

All drugs have a risk of side effect. If you have concerns, consult your veterinarian. Doctor’s opinions may vary, but it would behoove you to seek out professional guidance.

You don’t want your dog to suffer the side effects of a needless medication. But again, you don’t want your dog to suffer if a medication will help.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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