Prednisone is a steroidal hormone that is used to treat many different health problems in dogs. It is an anti-inflammatory drug that affects the immune system by interfering with your dog’s natural response to fight off infection thereby reducing swelling and allergic reactions in the dog’s body or environment.
Prednisone is not recommended for a long term use of more than 7 days in a row, due to the side effects of prednisone in dogs. Often a veterinarian will prescribe the drug to be given every second day to lessen the negative effects of prednisone.
When vets prescribe prednisone for dogs side effects are considered. Dogs with multiple health issues may not be prescribed prednisone as side effects can be compounded and create more harm to your dog than the good he would be getting from the medicine.
Prednisone is approved by the FDA for use with humans as well as pets.
To avoid using Prednisone in the first place, make sure your dog is not eating foods that cause allergic reactions. This can be food that is not part of his normal diet, or his regular food that your dog’s digestive system has become intolerant of. Try switching to hypoallergenic dog food, or a better-balanced premium dog food to see if that relieves allergies in your dog.
Uses of Prednisone for Dogs
Health conditions in dogs requiring the use of prednisone can include:
- Canine Lymphoma
- AIHA or Autoimmune hemolytic anemia
- Skin diseases and irritations
Prednisone for Dog Allergies
Prednisone may be prescribed for any type of dog allergies including:
- Inhalant allergies
- Food allergies
- Contact (skin) allergies
This drug reduces symptoms that are identified with these types of allergies such as:
- Inflammation of skin or lungs
Prednisone suppresses the immune system and slows the body’s response to allergens (a substance that causes an allergic reaction). It does not however, treat the allergies; it just shuts down or slows down the immune system’s reaction to the allergen.
Prednisone can be effectively combined with spray, liquid, or pill form antihistamines which will enhance the management of allergy symptoms.
Alternative Treatment for Dogs with Allergies
Many prednisone side effects in dogs are avoidable. They occur if the dog is given too much prednisone and it builds up in their system. Vets know this and long term treatment using prednisone is not recommended by them. Therefore, there are other treatment options you can do that will relieve your dog’s allergies that are not drug related:
- Eliminate the allergen from your dog’s environment – if you can find out what is causing the allergy with your dog, get rid of it. Is it a new dog food? Is it a new blanket that was added to his crate? Is it just the change in seasons? Spring allergies happen in dogs and humans.
- Change your dog’s food — Switch to a hypoallergenic dog food that may alleviate allergy symptoms such as rashes and sneezing.
- Antihistamines – to reduce swelling, generally safer and cause less side effects in dogs.
- Allergy shots – if you know what the allergy is caused from, tell your vet and he will prepare an allergy shot for that specific allergen. Over time this will boost your dog’s immunity in case that allergen reoccurs. Once a month for 3-6 months can be enough to eliminate the allergy.
- Ointments – applied to the dog’s skin, these can be used to fight skin rashes and itchiness.
- Fatty acid supplements – strengthens your dog’s immune system responses to food allergies.
Prednisone for Asthma in Dogs
Asthma is a term that simply means difficulty breathing. If caught early enough, prednisone for dog asthma can stop the immune system from swelling the airway and lungs due to the irritant causing the asthma. However, the irritant or allergen must be removed or asthma symptoms will return.
Asthma in dogs usually shows in any of several ways:
- Cough (dry, hacking)
- Lack of appetite
- Lack of motivation to exercise
- Lethargy / tiredness
- Open-mouth breathing
- Purple gums
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
These symptoms are caused by an allergen in the body, usually something that the dog inhaled, which causes the upper airways to inflame. If the allergen is not removed, the reaction can get worse, and over time may cause chronic bronchitis.
Environmental allergens that may cause asthma in dogs can include an ion this list:
- Cigarette smoke
- Dust mites
- Fireplaces or wood burning stoves
- Pollen from plants or grass clippings
- Spray or powder carpet deodorizers or air fresheners
Some of these are indoor allergens that cause breathing problems in humans as well as dogs, so removing smoking, or switching to a sealed gas fireplace from a wood burning one will improve everybody’s health.
Because of their smaller lungs, small dogs are more at risk of asthma than large dogs.
Prednisone for Arthritis in Dogs
Dog arthritis is the inflammation of the joints and is common in dogs. Symptoms of canine arthritis include:
- Change in the way your dog walks (his gait)
- Difficulty moving, walking, sitting, standing, jumping
- Heat, swelling, and stiffness around the joints
- Joint tenderness
- Reduced activity and reluctance to run, walk, play, or move, especially up stairs
Your vet will first treat your arthritic dog with naturally produced body compounds such as glucosamine and chondroitin. They actually repair cartilage, tendons (bone to muscle connectors), and ligaments (bone to bone connectors). Aspirin may be added if there is inflammation.
If that doesn’t work, your vet will then prescribe corticosteroids such as prednisone to reduce joint swelling. This will be given to your dog daily in pill form.
Prednisone for Canine Lymphoma
Canine lymphoma or lymphosarcoma is an aggressive form of cancer in dogs.
It affects lymph nodes, the liver and spleen. It is so aggressive because of the way the lymphatic system is set up in the body. It reaches everywhere and so provides a system of “highways” in the body allowing the disease to spread rapidly.
Breeds of dogs such as German Shepherds, Poodles, Boxers, and Rottweiler’s are genetically more at risk of canine lymphoma than other dog breeds.
Symptoms of Canine Lymphoma
- Lack of appetite
- Sudden weight loss
- Swelling in lymph nodes below the neck
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Weakness and tiredness
Drug treatment using prednisone for dogs with cancer
The main treatment prescribed by your vet will be chemotherapy drugs for a 6 month period to try to reduce or destroy the cancer. Prednisone enhances the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs. The combination of the two drugs carries a life expectancy of up to 1 ½ years, but treatments with Prednisone carries only a 60 day life expectancy.
Prednisone for Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA) in Dogs
AIHA, is a rare autoimmune condition that affects humans and canines. It is an immune system disease that results in a deficiency of red blood cells. These cells are actually attacked by the dog’s immune system and destroyed, resulting in a supply of red blood cells that is abnormally low.
Red blood cells carry oxygen so symptoms of AIHA can include fatigue, sleeping more than usual and white gums. An antibody test called a Coombs test can be given by a vet to determine if your dog has this disease.
Since prednisone in dogs suppresses their immune system, it can be used effectively to stop the immune system from destroying red blood cells.
Dog Prednisone Dosage
The exact prednisone dosage for dogs is determined by:
- The age of your dog
- The size (weight) of your dog
- How advanced the disease has spread
This drug can lead to dependency, so it should not be given for more than 7 days in a row.
If the damage from the disease does not respond to canine prednisone, your vet may recommend another group of drugs, immunoglobulin’s, or perhaps even a spleen removal.
Prednisone 5 mg for Dogs Skin Diseases and Irritations
Your dog may pick up allergens in his environment that can cause skin rashes, open sores, and hair loss. Sometimes you will see this around the collar where the irritation from the collar weakens the skin. Other times it may be on the dog’s paws because of walking, or around the mouth area from eating.
Your veterinarian will prescribe a small dosage of prednisone 5mg in a tablet form to be given to your dog for about a week. An increase to prednisone 10 mg may be considered if there is no response to the smaller dosage.
Keep in mind that prednisone for dogs is used to relieve symptoms but does not cure the rash or sore. The cause of the allergy must be found and eliminated.
To rule out food allergies, experiment by changing your dog’s diet completely to see if it is a food allergy. Feed him one specific type of food for a couple of weeks to see if he can tolerate it and the allergy goes away. Then move to another specific food and test that. Also, eliminate food with grains and fillers as these have been known to create allergies in animals.
To rule out allergies in the air, move your dog’s sleeping place for a couple of weeks. Something in the air near where he sleeps may be causing your dog’s allergy. Some veterinarians will offer allergy tests where they shave a patch of fur off the dog’s skin and apply specific allergens to small areas of the skin.
Mites and scabies may also cause skin rashes. Your vet can help determine that.
Benadryl tablets or liquids can also help with skin rashes on dogs.
Lupus in Dogs
Lupus in dogs is a disease that causes the immune system to attack itself. The cause is unknown but thought to be genetic. Viruses, drug reactions, and stress may also be causes.
Common Lupus dog symptoms are a skin disease that affects dogs around their mouths. This has been named “collie nose” and can affect the nose, mouth, lips, ears, feet, skin around the eyes, and genitalia.
Prednisone for dogs with Lupus resulting in skin diseases, is effective by slowing the immune system’s attack on itself, so skin diseases can be treated.
Systematic Lupus in dogs is a much more serious form of dog Lupus. There can be many symptoms of systematic Lupus, including:
- Depression and lethargy
- Enlarged organs such as spleen and liver
- Increased thirst and urination
- Muscle atrophy (muscle wasting away)
- Serious infections that can lead to death
- Shifting leg lameness
- Stiff gait (the way your dog walks)
Effects of Prednisone on Dogs
Antibiotics are the most useful and effective drug prescribed for dogs. Prednisone is probably the second most useful. If your dog is being given antibiotics, a quality probiotic can be fed to him after the antibiotic treatment is complete. It will help to restore natural bacteria needed in your dog’s digestive tract, and help him feel better and recover faster.
Good Effects of Prednisone on Dogs
There are so many uses of canine prednisone. In addition to the treatments listed above, here’s a list of other diseases treated with Prednisone for dogs:
- Addison’s disease – a disease of the adrenal glands that cause a deficiency of hormones
- Autoimmune disease – causes the immune system to stop producing antibodies, leaving the body open to infection
- Crohn’s disease – digestive tract disease resulting in bowel removal
- Inflammatory bowel disease – irritation of the digestive tract
- Kidney disease – caused my many factors, environmental, genetic, other diseases
- Rheumatoid arthritis – chronic arthritis and pain in the joints
- Spinal cord injuries – damage in the spinal cord can result in infection
- Ulcers and Tumors – related to cancer
All of these diseases involve the immune system of dogs going haywire in some way or another. Prednisone assists the body by suppressing the immune system.
Side Effects of Prednisone in Dogs
Prednisone for dogs is a powerful hormone that is an effective weapon in the treatment of diseases in dogs. However, it is a double-edged sword with as many or more bad qualities as good. There are many side effects of prednisone for dogs. During the treatment, when your dog is using prednisone, he may experience any of these affects:
Short-Term Side Effects
- Excessive thirst and frequent urination – will go away after treatment ends. In the meantime extra walking may be needed so your dog doesn’t have a bathroom accident indoors.
- Vomiting and diarrhea – this may be a result of too high a dose, so contact your vet or take your dog in if these things occur.
- Lethargy – again, can be caused by too large a dose. Contact your veterinarian if you notice your dog is sleeping too much or doesn’t want to exercise while on this drug.
Long-Term Side Effects of Prednisone in Dogs
- Diabetes – prednisone taken for a long time in high doses (dog prednisone dosage of more than 1mg per pound of body weight) can raise blood sugar levels, overwhelm the kidneys, and eventually result in diabetes.
- Cushing’s disease – also called hyperadrenocorticism, is too much corticosteroid production by the adrenal glands. This disease can also be a direct result of overdosing of prednisone.
- Addison’s disease – the opposite of Cushing’s disease, Addison’s disease is also called hypoadrenocorticism, and is a deficiency of hormones produced by the adrenal glands. Prednisone tricks the adrenal glands into thinking the body has enough corticostedoid hormone, so the glands shut down and don’t produce natural hormones.
- Suppressed Immune System – The major effect of prednisone in dogs is shutting down the immune system to reduce the symptoms of allergies. But in doing so, the drug leaves the body open to infection and can cause many more diseases and infections in dogs. For instance, a small wound that the dog’s immune system usually heals quickly can now become infected and spread.
- Digestive System Disorders – Colitis, stomach ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome can be caused when the protective layer of mucous in the stomach is destroyed by prednisone.
- Heart Attacks – stopping a high prednisone dosage for dogs can lead to a sudden effect on the heart.
How Much Does Prednisone Cost?
The cost of prednisone is relatively inexpensive due to its wide availability on the internet. Most online pet pharmacies will ask you to fax or email them a copy of a veterinarian’s prescription before they will let you buy prednisone. Price ranges are as follows:
- Prednisone 5 mg tablets can be found in bottles of 100 or more for about 20 cents per tablet ($20 a bottle)
- Prednisone 20mg dosage may cost a little more, up to 50 cents a tablet
Depending on your vet’s recommendation, you may have to dose your dog 1 to 3 tablets per day.
Generic prednisone is simply prednisone. It is not a brand name, prednisone is the generic name for prednisone. Therefore there is no way to save on cost of prednisone by looking for a prednisone generic form since it is one in the same.
Prednisolone Eye Drops for Dogs
For some allergies, prednisone eye drops are manufactured as prednisolone eye drops for dogs (or prednisolone acetate not prednisone acetate) and are available for less than $20 a bottle.
Dosage in the eye drop form is 3-4 drops a day. Side effects of Prednisolone Acetate may include a discharge of fluid from the eyes, eye pain, and blurry vision.
Sometimes the problem can be cleared with a less powerful over the counter drug such a eye lubricants or eye drops for dogs. You may want to give them a try first before buying more expensive, and possibly damaging (side effects) prednisolone medication.
The Difference between Prednisone and Prednisolone for Dogs
What is Prednisolone?
Both are used to treat diseases of the immune system in dogs. The difference is that prednisolone is naturally occurring and created when prednisone is metabolized by the liver. Some vet’s feel that prednisolone is easier to absorb than prednisone.
For dogs with liver conditions, prednisolone is preferred over prednisone because of its acceptance by the dog’s liver.
An average prednisone dosage comes in a prednisone 20 mg tablet form, whereas prednisolone generally comes in a smaller dosage such as a 5 mg pill or in liquid eye drop form for eye infections.
Prednisone Dosage for Dogs
Don’t be your own Veterinarian.
Even though prednisone is effective, it needs to be prescribed by a certified veterinarian. Serious side effects of prednisone in dogs can occur if you self-prescribe prednisone for your dog or are giving your dog the wrong dosage of prednisone. Dogs with the correctly prescribed dosage see the most benefit without the harmful effects of prednisone.
Tell your vet about any other drugs you are giving your dog, including any herbal, homeopathic, or natural remedies or treatments. Your vet will be able to tell prednisone will interfere with those treatments and medications.
When determining a prednisone dose for dogs, a veterinarian will consider the type of disease your dog has.
When prescribing prednisone for dogs, dosage is important and a few factors are considered. The first one is the weight of your dog. If the drug is prescribed to treat inflammatory diseases, then your vet will likely prescribe 0.1 to 0.4 mg per pound of your dog’s body weight.
So for example, if your dog has a skin rash and weighs 50 pounds, the dosage that your veterinarian would calculate would be one of these:
- 50 pounds x 0.1 mg per pound = prednisone 5mg tablet
- 50 pounds x 0.2 mg per pound = prednisone 10mg tablet
- 50 pounds x 0.3 mg per pound = prednisone 15mg tablet
- 50 pounds x 0.4 mg per pound = prednisone 20mg tablet
Use of this amount for this type of disease will usually be prescribed 2 times a day for 7 days, or 3 times a day every 2nd day for two weeks.
For a more serious autoimmune disease, 10x the dosage may be prescribed to be effective.
So for example, if your dog is diagnosed with Systematic Lupus and weighs 15 pounds, the dosage might be calculated this way:
- 15 pounds x 1 mg per pound = prednisone 15 mg tablet
- 15 pounds x 2 mg per pound = prednisone 30 mg tablet
- 15 pounds x 3 mg per pound = prednisone 45 mg tablet
- 15 pounds x 4 mg per pound = prednisone 60 mg tablet
These are just example dosages. Your vet will be more exact.
Short-term use for this purpose and for this amount of time is less likely to cause any side effects of prednisone for your dog.
Your vet may feel it is necessary to gradually increase dosage if it does not appear to be working.
This is something you should not do on your own, always follow your vets’ instructions and allow him to treat your dog.