What does prednisolone do for dogs? A Complete Guide

Are there any potential side effects?

The most common side effects include increased drinking, increased urination, and increased appetite. At higher doses and during long-term use, side effects may also include vomiting, diarrhea, mild behavioral changes, and panting. Serious side effects include gastrointestinal ulceration characterized by a lack of appetite, black or bloody stools, bloody vomit, or high fever, as well as haircoat changes, pot belly, weight gain, weakness, liver and lipid elevations, aggressive behavior, muscle wasting, abnormally low energy, or diabetes characterized by weight loss in the face of good appetite, excessive thirst and urination.

This short-acting medication should stop working within 24 hours, although effects can be longer in pets with liver or kidney disease.

What is prednisone/prednisolone?

Prednisone/prednisolone (brand name: Prednis-Tab®, Deltasone®, Rayos®, Pediapred®) is a glucocorticoid used to treat many conditions in many species. Broad uses include the following: replacement therapy for Addison’s disease, an anti-inflammatory, an immune suppressant, and an antineoplastic (cancer treatment). Although they are distinct drugs, prednisone is quickly converted to prednisolone in the liver, so they are considered bioequivalent (equally absorbed).

While some products are labeled for use in some animals with certain conditions, its use in cats, dogs, horses, small mammals, birds, and reptiles to treat inflammation, immune-mediated disease, Addison’s disease, and neoplasia is often ‘off label’ or ‘extra label’. Many drugs are commonly prescribed for off label use in veterinary medicine. In these instances, follow your veterinarian’s directions and cautions very carefully as their directions may be significantly different from those on the label.

Prednisone/prednisolone is given by mouth in the form of a tablet or liquid solution. Give this medication with food. It can also be given as an injection in the hospital setting. Measure liquid forms carefully. If your pet is on a once daily dosing, if possible, give it in the morning to dogs and horses, and give it in the evening to cats. Do not stop this medication abruptly; taper it slowly to avoid complications.

Do not use in pets that are undergoing allergy testing within the next month, unless otherwise advised by your veterinarian.

This medication will take effect quickly, in about 1 to 2 hours, and improvement in clinical signs should follow.

What Is Prednisone Used for in Dogs?

Prednisone is used for treating a broad range of medical conditions in dogs. Vets prescribe it as an immunosuppressant and/or anti-inflammatory medicine to treat a wide range of conditions, including:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Itching
  • Hives
  • Skin diseases linked with inflammation
  • Arthritis and orthopedic diseases
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Asthma
  • Autoimmune diseases such as lupus and autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA)
  • Prednisone has many uses. It can be used as replacement therapy for endocrine (hormonal) disorders, including Addisons disease. Replacement therapy is a kind of therapy in which a substance that is deficient in the body, such as hormones or nutrients, is given.Â

    Prednisone also treats neoplasia (abnormal cells or cancer). The medicine is used to treat anaphylactic shock (a life-threatening allergic reaction) and spinal cord trauma.

    Steroids in Dogs and Cats: should you avoid prednisone? (essential guide!) – Pet Health Vet Advice

    Love it or hate it, prednisolone is the most misunderstood drug in veterinary medicine. Its uses and side effects are too varied and complex to understand easily. Here I’ll help you to get informed.

    The term ‘steroid’ is often used as shorthand for anabolic steroids, but the reality is very different. There are many different steroid molecules in the body. Some of the most famous are:

    The one we’re interested in here is cortisol. Artificially synthesised as hydrocortisone it was the first medication of its class. These days we rarely use it, thanks to newer, more potent relatives. They include dexamethasone, prednisone and of course prednisolone.

    Before moving on, it’s worth mentioning that prednisone and prednisolone are almost the same. If your pet has been prescribed prednisone, everything I say from here is just as true.

    If we like the effect, we call it a use. If we don’t like it then we call it a side effect! Although this is a very artificial divide, I’ll stick with it to describe everything that prednisolone does, both good and bad.

    Prednisolone comes in 5mg and 20mg tablets for veterinary use. It is most commonly employed for its anti inflammatory effect. This is very useful for itchy skin diseases like atopic dermatitis, flea allergy, insect bite and hot spots. The dose here typically starts at 0.5 to 1 mg/kg per day.

    What prednisolone also does here that’s just as important is stop self trauma. These dogs often get rapidly worse due to the damage caused by licking and scratching. Prednisolone helps them forget the itch so that the skin can heal.

    Prednisolone at similar doses is also one of the few drugs which can reduce swelling. That’s essential for many diseases of the brain and spinal canal to reduce the pressure caused by swelling in a closed space.

    At doses of 1 to 2 mg/kg once to twice daily, the immunosuppressive effect becomes great enough to treat autoimmune diseases. Without prednisolone we would have much more trouble controlling conditions like these:

    Prednisolone at similar doses can also be used as an anti cancer drug, mainly for lymphoma. Lastly, at very low doses prednisolone can be used in Addison’s disease as a replacement hormone, though at Walkerville Vet we prefer cortisone.

    An adrenal crisis is a self- induced form of Addison’s disease caused by feedback suppression of the adrenal gland. After 14 days or more of daily treatment, dogs and cats should be weaned off corticosteroids gradually by changing to every second day dosing for at least two weeks.

    With all of these problems, you’d wonder why anyone would use prednisolone. Of course, with careful management, and only using it for selected cases, we usually only see the top few, and only mildly. Sometimes the disease is so severe that we willingly accept some of these effects as the price to pay for control.

    There is no evidence of reduced lifespans in dogs or cats taking prednisolone. There is also no theoretical reason why this would occur. In our clinic we observe that animals on prednisolone live well into old age as long as side effects are kept under control, especially weight gain.

    Some other side effects reported by others that I don’t see are liver damage or pancreatitis.

    Dose sparing strategies are anything that allows you to get away with a lower dose. Examples in itchy dogs might be:

    Prednisolone will always be an integral part of veterinary medicine. If you’re concerned about it, that’s normal. I hope I’ve given you enough to make an informed decision with your vet.

    I’ve also covered the specific case of using prednisolone in allergic skin diseases at Can I Give My Itchy Dog Prednisolone? You’ll see comparisons with the other common skin medications.

    Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours. By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.

    Note: comments are now closed, but you should be able to find the answers to many common questions by looking through previous replies.