Prednisone for Your Dog

by Lilly

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Prednisone for Your Dog

Prednisone for your dog is a synthetic corticosteroid that is often prescribed to treat medical illness in your pup, especially severe allergies. It is used to manage swelling and inflammation in conditions where the immune system has a significant role. It suppresses immune responses that cause certain types of inflammation. Prednisone is a common medication that you may have had prescribed for yourself at one time or another by your own doctor. It is a steroid that is an anti-inflammatory drug and is offered as a treatment to your pet if they are suffering from:

  • Allergies
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Addison’s disease
  • Orthopedic diseases like arthritis
  • Joint pain caused by arthritis
  • Skin issues such as eczema and dermatitis
  • Lupus
  • Asthma
  • Anaphylactic shock
  • Disorders of the central nervous system
  • Liver conditions
  • Cancers such as lymphomas
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

Why Does My Dog Need Prednisone?

Your dog’s veterinarian may prescribe prednisone to treat various ailments that are present due to a cortisol problem in your pet. Cortisol is an essential adrenal hormone that comes from the adrenal cortex (gland). It is also referred to as the stress hormone which mediates many of the functions related to stress reactions as well as immune responses. They include:

  • Mediating immune responses
  • Regulating blood pressure
  • Blood glucose levels
  • Anti-inflammatory actions
  • Nutrient metabolism
  • Maintenance of blood electrolyte levels
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Prednisone is a synthetically produced catabolic steroid and a form of synthetic corticosteroid therapy. It closely resembles natural cortisol but is stronger. It is able to mimic cortisol and effectively alter symptoms that are troubling your dog. It is more potent than naturally produced cortisol and supports cortisol function when your pet’s levels are low. Prednisone comes in two forms. One is Prednisone and the other is prednisolone. They both have the same function but just processed by your pet’s body differently. Prednisone is processed by the liver and turned into prednisolone. If a dog has liver issues the veterinarian, then prescribes Prednisolone in place of prednisone to produce the needed synthetic hormone.

When Shouldn’t My Dog Take Prednisone?

As helpful as prednisone can be to your dog, make sure their veterinarian knows about all the medications they might be taking. Prednisone is usually not taken with NSAIDs. It also can react with digoxin, diuretics, insulin, phenobarbital, ketoconazole, and mitotane. Owners must also be very careful if their pup is diabetic or pregnant.

How Does My Dog Take Prednisone?


Prednisone comes in pills, creams or injectables. Your dog’s veterinarian will decide which is more appropriate for your pet that is dependent on the medical condition, the dog’s weight and dosages of a particular form. Dosages are higher for endocrine problems like Lupus or anemia. Smaller doses for something like pain or swelling. Below are some basic guidelines of dosages to give an example of what you might expect for your dog:

  • Addison’s disease, 0.05 to 0.18 mg per pound should be given to dogs until the condition is under control then it will be decreased.
  • To reduce the symptoms of allergies, a dose of 0.25 mg per pound. This may change depending on how your dog reacts and if symptoms are being controlled. It may go up to 1 mg a day.
  • Other conditions amounts are variable and may be dosed differently. A hypoadrenal crisis may need an injection but skin conditions like eczema or itches may be treated with creams.

Prednisone Side Effects in Dogs

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Common side effects of prednisone (and most other steroids) include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increase hunger
  • Increase urination
  • Panting
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of energy
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Skin infection
  • Secondary infections due to a suppressed immune system
  • Fluid retention
  • Hormone fluctuations causing oily or dry and flaky skin

An owner also has to watch for bacterial issues such as skin infections that may worsen. Prednisone represses the immune system so it’s important that infections don’t become a secondary issue to the other ones being treated. Pet owners also have to be aware of pets taking too much of the drug. Overdosing on this drug can have very serious consequences. It can cause itching, seizures, loss of hearing, anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure.

Side Effects of Long-Term Use of Prednisone

Prednisone is usually prescribed on a short-term basis, meaning fewer than four months. Just long enough to effect change in the medical issue bothering your pup. However, there are times when the drug needs to be in place long term. If that is the case, then you need to work very closely with your dog’s veterinarian to monitor your dog in case of long-term negative effects. They need to have their liver and kidney function regularly checked to make sure the medication does not cause dysfunction.

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It is also possible that your pup could develop diabetes or Cushing’s disease after long-term use of prednisone. However, both of these can usually be avoided if caught through health monitoring and the prednisone is halted.

The starred reactions need to be dealt with immediately. Other potential side effects of long-term prednisone and prednisolone usage as listed need to be addressed if they appear:

  • Allergic reactions including swelling of lips, face, or tongue
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Hives
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Change in behavior
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Slow growth in puppies
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle weakness
  • Delayed healing
  • Development of diabetes
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Ulcers
  • Liver and/or Kidney damage


Prednisone is a drug that is helpful in treating many medical issues in your dog. The issues that arise from the drug itself can be addressed by being an observant owner and having your dog monitored by their veterinarian. Be aware that the adrenal glands need to adjust slowly to getting back to their normal function of producing corticosteroids when your dog is healed. They need to be weaned off their medication. Be wary of stopping prednisone suddenly as your pup can go into shock due to a condition known as Addisonian crises brought on by lack of sufficient cortisol in the body. If your pup is monitored and sufficiently dosed, then Prednisone can be beneficial for them and lead to a much more comfortable lifestyle.