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Prednisone for Dogs

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Pain and inflammation can turn an otherwise happy and active dog into one miserable pup. It can seriously affect your pet’s quality of life and may prompt multiple veterinary trips. For severe cases of inflammation, allergies, autoimmune diseases and even cancer, your veterinarian may prescribe prednisone for dogs. But the prescription for this drug may come with many questions. What does prednisone do for dogs? How much prednisone can I give my dog? What are the side effects? At Petco, we’re not only a resource for finding your pet’s prescription medication but also here to provide helpful information on common drugs like canine prednisone.

What is prednisone for dogs?

Prednisone is an anti-inflammatory and immune-suppressing medication that is only available by a prescription from your veterinarian. It is a synthetic form of naturally occurring hormones called corticosteroids, which help reduce inflammation. Drugs like fludrocortisone also fall into this category. Because inflammation is an extremely common symptom that can indicate the presence of many different conditions, prednisone for dogs is prescribed for a wide range of medical uses.

What is prednisone used for in dogs?

Canine prednisone is used to relieve the symptoms of many different medical conditions. It can be used in emergencies to treat spinal cord injuries and allergic reactions. It’s also prescribed to help relieve symptoms of autoimmune disorders like Addison’s disease, hemolytic anemia, thrombocytopenia and lupus, as well as various conditions of the central nervous system. It is also frequently used to help treat certain kinds of cancers.

There are many more common uses of prednisone for dogs. Along with antihistamines—like cyproheptadine—it’s often used to treat the symptoms of allergies, including facial swelling, hives, redness and itching. It can also help with the symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. In addition to skin issues, prednisone can help relieve inflammation due to vertebral disc disease and asthma. While prednisone is not a cure for any of these conditions, it can often improve your pup’s quality of life.

How does prednisone for dogs work?

Canine prednisone mimics cortisol—a hormone naturally secreted by the adrenal gland. Almost all cells in the body have cortisol receptors—meaning this hormone affects many different bodily functions, including metabolism, blood pressure and the immune system.

Prednisone is converted to prednisolone in the liver and distributed throughout the body. Pets with decreased liver function may be prescribed prednisolone directly to help them process the medication—however, it is usually given in prednisone form.

Does prednisone help dogs with pain?

Yes, prednisone for dogs can help with certain types of pain—mostly related to inflammation. Because it is an anti-inflammatory, it can help relieve pain caused by conditions like vertebral disc disease and more rare diseases like limber tail syndrome. It can also help with pain caused by injuries and central nervous system conditions. Keep in mind that non-steroidal anti-inflammatories—like aspirin or carprofen—react negatively with prednisone. Talk to your veterinarian if your dog also takes NSAIDs for pain.

How do I give my dog prednisone?

Prednisone for dogs usually comes in a tablet form, but it can also come in an oral liquid. When used in a hospital setting for emergencies, prednisone comes in liquid form and is injected at a higher dose than is typically given for less severe conditions.

Because this medication can cause stomach irritation, it’s recommended to give oral prednisone with food. Prednisone for dogs should be given in the morning. The time of day matters as the dose should correspond with your pup’s natural hormone cycle.

If you happen to miss a dose, you can still give it as long as it is close to the usual administration time. However, if more than a few hours have passed, skip the dose and return to the regular schedule. Don’t double up on doses.

How much prednisone can I give my dog?

The dosage of prednisone for dogs varies based on the condition being treated, other medications they may be taking and how they respond to it. You should always follow your veterinarian’s treatment plan precisely. Their goal is to give enough prednisone to treat the condition effectively, but not so much that it will cause side effects.

Dosage levels of prednisone vary greatly based on the condition being treated. Lower doses are used for focused anti-inflammatory effects. Higher doses are needed to achieve immunosuppression for diseases such as immune mediated thrombocytopenia. Steroids such as prednisone should not be stopped cold turkey. Your vet will likely put your pet on what is called a tapering dose, where you will slowly wean your pet off the medication once their condition is controlled. If given for longer periods, your veterinarian may recommend giving it less frequently—for example, every other day or every three days—to avoid prednisone side effects in dogs.

What are the prednisone side effects in dogs?

Short-term use of prednisone for dogs typically doesn’t cause significant side effects. If they do occur, they usually appear as increased drinking and urination, panting or increased appetite .

Prednisone side effects in dogs more commonly occur with long-term use. They can include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive panting, increased thirst, increased appetite, excessive urination, ulcers, an enlarged liver and an increased risk of infection. Other side effects from long-term use can include weight gain, pot belly and thinning skin and hair. Pets who have been on prednisone long-term should be gradually weaned off the drug under supervision from their veterinarian.

What are the risk factors for prednisone?

Prednisone for dogs is a powerful prescription drug that suppresses the immune system and should always be given with caution. Immunosuppressants can increase the chances of your dog catching a bacterial or viral infection. Don’t use prednisone if your dog has a viral infection, a fungal infection other than Addison’s disease, ulcers or tuberculosis.

Let your veterinarian know if your dog has heart disease or heart failure, for which they may be taking medications like pimobendan. Diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, osteoporosis and cataracts are also conditions you should make your veterinarian aware of during your office visit. This medication shouldn’t be given to dogs who are pregnant or lactating.

Prednisone for dogs should never be given to pets on NSAIDs and should be administered with caution to those on diuretics like furosemide. It’s also important to let your veterinarian know if your dog is on insulin, digoxin, phenobarbital, ketoconazole, mitotane or other steroidal medications.

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Reviewed by Dr. Whitney Miller, DVM, MBA, DACVPM

As Petco’s Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Miller is the lead veterinary subject matter expert, overseeing the company’s standards of excellence in animal care and welfare, growth in pet services and much more. Dr. Miller leads Petco’s medical team, supporting over 200 full-service hospitals and mobile vaccination clinics operating in over 1,000 Petco Pet Care Centers nationwide