- Prednisone is a synthetic steroid used to treat inflammation — Steroids have provided effective anti-inflammatory treatment for dogs and humans for decades.
- When used as intended, few side effects typically occur — Common mild side effects include increased thirst and urination, plus hunger, panting, and fatigue.
- Prednisone can have serious side effects in long-term use — Dogs that are prescribed prednisone for more than three to four months should be evaluated by a veterinarian regularly.
What is prednisone?
Prednisone is a corticosteroid that’s often used to treat inflammation related to an allergic reaction. In high doses, however, it might suppress your pup’s immune system.
- Medication type: Glucocorticoid
- Form: Oral, topical, or injection
- Availability: Prescription
- FDA approved?: Yes
- Active ingredient names: Prednisone
- Common medications: Prednis-Tab, Deltasone, Rayos, Pediapred
- Life stage: All life stages
When is prednisone used for dogs?
Your vet may prescribe prednisone for your dog to lower inflammation due to infection, allergies, or auto-immune diseases. Prolonged inflammation can create further health problems for your pet, so it’s best to help them as quickly as possible. Here’s a closer look at each condition prednisone may be used for.
Inflammation. Chronic inflammation can be dangerous if you allow it to go unchecked. Not only are infections likely, but there’s also a greater risk of cancer in dogs with constant inflammation. Your vet may prescribe prednisone to control the inflammation levels in your dog’s body and help them quickly return to normal.
Diseases. Arthritis and lupus are two autoimmune diseases that may be treated with prednisone. This drug may also be required for certain skin diseases as well as inflammatory bowel disease.
Skin allergies. Prednisone may be used in dogs to calm chronic skin allergies or extreme allergic reactions. Your vet may give prednisone to your dog following anaphylactic shock, too, but your vet will likely use other steroids instead.
Central nervous system disorders. Prednisone may be given to reduce swelling of the brain and spinal cord.
Endocrine disorders. Prednisone may act as hormone replacement therapy for Addison’s disease, an illness where your pup’s adrenal glands don’t produce enough “fight or flight” hormones. This synthetic drug can mimic the natural steroids your dog’s body lacks.
How it’s administered
You’ll need a prescription from a vet for prednisone. If your pet’s condition is considered severe, your vet may give them injections in the office, but most times you’ll give your dog oral prednisone at home.
🚨 Never exceed the recommended dosage your vet prescribes or give your pet more than one dose a day. If you suspect your dog ingested more than its prescribed dosage, call your vet immediately.
Potential side effects
Though prednisone is considered a safe and effective treatment, no medicine comes without risks. Prednisone has relatively mild side effects for short-term use depending on the dosage and frequency, but long-term use (more than three to four months) can trigger serious symptoms such as behavioral changes. Here are some common side effects:
Short-term side effects of prednisone
- Increased urination
- Infections (especially skin)
- Vomiting or nausea
Long-term side effects of prednisone
- Thin skin or coat
- Development of calcium deposits (hard spots) on skin
- Slower wound healing
- Muscle weakness
- Fungal infections
- Cushing’s disease
- Behavioral changes
Corticosteroids shouldn’t be used in dogs that have Cushing’s disease or are undergoing allergy testing within a month from treatment. It should be used cautiously in dogs that are pregnant or nursing or in young, growing puppies. Some health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease are also risk factors. Most of the time, prednisone should only be used as a short-term treatment (less than four months), but this is up to the discretion of your vet. If your dog has a serious illness, the benefits of continued use may outweigh the risks.
Prednisone shouldn’t be used in combination with any other steroid treatments or most non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Here is a list of other medications that should be avoided while taking this drug:
- Amphotericin B
- Macrolide antibiotics
Alternatives to prednisone for dogs
If your dog is allergic to prednisone or has a serious risk factor, your vet may recommend other treatment. The appropriate alternative treatment depends on your dog’s condition and whether they need an anti-inflammatory drug, an immunosuppressant, or other medication to treat skin allergies.
CBD oil is a natural option to relieve pain and chronic inflammation. Ask your vet if this non-invasive treatment may be the right choice for your pet. Keep in mind that CBD oil lacks FDA approval, which means it’s a non-regulated treatment. Because of this, some states prohibit veterinarians from even discussing CBD products with clients.
NSAIDs are a group of anti-inflammatory medications that may relieve your pet’s pain. Talk to your vet about picking the most appropriate one.
Autoimmune diseases and cancer are two conditions that often require immunosuppressants. This type of drug can often have severe adverse effects, so your vet will consider the risks and benefits before prescribing these to your pet. Common immunosuppressants include Azathioprine, Cytoxan, Cyclosporin, and Chlorambucil.
Other skin allergy treatments
Prednisone is often used to treat itchy skin that results from allergies. If your vet believes the drug will put your dog at risk, they may prescribe Apoquel, Cytopoint (injection), and common antihistamines like Benadryl and Zyrtec.
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Frequently asked questions
How long does prednisone take to work in dogs?
Steroids may be able to provide quick relief from inflammation. Your dog should feel better within a couple of hours following the first treatment. However, how quickly prednisone helps your dog depends on the condition it’s treating.
Does prednisone relieve pain in dogs?
Steroids reduce inflammation and excessive immune responses, which may lessen your dog’s pain if they are suffering from an autoimmune disease or infection.
Is prednisone hard on a dog?
Steroid use in dogs is safe and effective in most circumstances, but there is always some risk of side effects. Most of the side effects are mild in short-term use (thirst, fatigue), but using prednisone for longer than four months has been linked to more serious side effects such as obesity, slow-healing wounds, hair loss, and Cushing’s disease.