Animals on Steroids

Looking at the history and development of steroids, Berthold conducted experiments with testosterone, a natural steroid, in cockerels in 1849. Later, steroids were artificially developed in 1930’s by German scientists for legitimate medical purposes. “In 1936, testosterone was supplemented in experiments in castrated dogs to increase its body weight (Sharpe 02)”. However, by the 1960’s several organizations had already banned their use, and initiated extensive drug testing policies. ( Animals should not be injected with steroids because they cause short term damage, long term health side effects and cause addictive behaviour in animals.

Steroids are: any of a class of natural or synthetic organic chemical compounds characterized by a molecular structure of 17 carbon atoms arranged in four rings. In the parent structure (named gonane and referred to as the steroid nucleus), the carbon atoms are bonded by 28 hydrogen atoms. There are three types of steroids. They are corticosteroids (hormones associated with the adrenal cortex), estrogens and Progestogens (female sex hormones) and Androgens (male sex hormones). Encyclopaedia Britannica 08

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Steroids are used in animals as medicines for therapy, in animal testing experiments and for growth enhancement in animal husbandry. Corticosteroid steroids have a potent effect on the immune system. In animals with arthritis or allergies, corticosteroids are used to relieve pain, inflammation and itching. “Prednisone and Prednisolone (corticosteroids) are among the most frequently used and abused drugs in veterinary medicines (Mitchell 20)”. Testing effects of steroids in animals is done as part of animal experimentation where researchers use animal models to mimic human health problems and is a form of cruelty.

Use of anabolic steroids is often applied in animal husbandry for growth enhancement, reduction of rearing time and beneficial effects on the food conversion ratio, meat composition and texture. “Low doses of steroids in animals at short periods of time can cause short term effects (Ward and Tony 312)”. Most of the side effects associated with an effective minimum dose, short-term therapy are mild and species dependent and may resolve once therapy stops. The most common symptoms include increased water consumption, increased urination, increased appetite (weight gain), depression, hyperactivity, panting, and diarrhea (Ward and Tony).

Long term effects are caused due to prolonged usage of steroids. Effects can be detected on the heart, skin, and eye, reproductive, immune, metabolic, musculoskeletal, nervous and respiratory systems (Mitchell 8). Changes in liver enzymes, white blood cell values and the thyroid can also be observed. Betablockers like Pronethanol and Propranolol administration in animals revealed an unacceptable number of side effects including heart failure. Shortly after long term clinical trials in a certain (Alderley Park) strain of the laboratory mouse produces cancer of the thymus gland.

Moderate to high doses caused rats to collapse and dogs to vomit severely (Sharpe). Corticosteroids are widely used in veterinary medicine due to their potent effects on the immune system. They can prove to be dangerous to pregnant mice and rabbits. In some strains of mice, cortisone produces cleft palate in up to 100% of the offspring. With rabbits, corticosteroids, mainly affect the heart, but can also cause severe growth retardation in the uterus and death of the foetus (Sharpe). Steroids can cause addictive behaviour in animals (Scott et al 2)”.

Research was conducted by the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine to test whether the androgenic-anabolic steroids may be addictive. The results found that hamsters exposed to the compounds demonstrated addictive behaviour over time (Scott et al 68). Although, steroid use in animals is not very popular with the public and various animal rights groups lobbying against animal experimentation and various legislations in place, steroid use is far from declining.