You adore your dog. After all, your four-legged friend is a member of your family. We understand, our dogs are very much our family members as well.
That's why when something is wrong with Fido, dog owners can often find themselves quickly spiraling into panic mode. A timely trip to the veterinarian will often leave a pet owner feeling calmer in one sense, but potentially more concerned in other areas.
What are all these medications? Are they all necessary? Why do they have a laundry list of associated side effects?
Again, we understand what a worrisome time it can be. First, your beloved pup is ill, which is bad enough on its own. But then, you have to make the difficult choices as to what is the right answer in terms of medication.
The fine print may read that your pup's allergy drug may also have long-term, irreversible side effects. How does that make logical sense? Spoiler alert- it doesn't.
In this article, we are breaking down an extremely popular steroid drug called prednisone. We hope to answer all of your questions and concerns and help our readers become as educated as possible on the medication so that they can make the best decision possible in terms of their fur baby's health.
What is Prednisone for Dogs
Prednisone is a synthetic steroid that is commonly prescribed as a treatment method for a wide array of ailments. In fact, you may have heard of the steroid before because it's also commonly prescribed to humans.
The steroid is an anti-inflammatory drug and is a key player when it comes to reducing inflammation in both dogs (and humans).
For example, prednisone is often prescribed to treat inflammatory conditions such as shock, immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, neoplasia, asthma, inflammatory orthopedic disease, and Addison's disease.
What are Corticosteroids
Corticosteroids are often referred to as steroids or cortisone. Corticosteroids are a type of steroid hormones that are produced in the adrenal cortex of vertebrates and are involved in a wide array of activity in the dog's body, including:
- Stress response
- Immune system response
- Control of inflammation
- Nutrient metabolism
- Maintenance of blood electrolyte levels
The steroid hormones can also be produced synthetically, often in the form of prednisone. Prednisone is a form of synthetic corticosteroid therapy.
It is very similar to but more potent than cortisol, a naturally produced adrenal hormone that is found in healthy dogs.
When cortisol levels are low (when the dog is experiencing an illness or condition that lowers the natural, healthy levels), often times a synthetic form the cortisol (like prednisone for dogs) is required.
What is a Steroid
The word steroid is short for corticosteroids. Steroids are artificial, manufactured drugs that closely resemble cortisol, a hormone that your adrenal glands naturally produce.
You may have heard of steroids being used illegally in sports or thought to yourself that the rage-filled gym junky is "probs on steroids".
However, steroids are also very important in the world of western medicine to treat individuals suffering from a wide range of conditions.
What is Prednisolone
Prednisone and prednisolone are corticosteroids. This means that both prednisone and prednisolone are used to treat inflammation, autoimmune diseases, and regulate the immune system. However, there is an important difference: how they are metabolized.
Once a pet parent administers the prednisone, the dog's liver naturally metabolizes it. Once metabolized, prednisone becomes prednisolone.
If your dog has a pre-existing liver condition, any form of liver dysfunction, or has high liver enzymes – ALT, ALK(P), AST or GGTs, then your veterinarian will prescribe prednisolone instead of prednisone.
By prescribing prednisolone, the vet can ensure that the body is able to absorb and process the drug effectively.
Typical Prednisone Uses
Prednisone for dogs is typically used to treat the following conditions:
- Allergies and allergic reaction to medications or environmental causes
- Autoimmune disease
- Cushing's disease
- Addison's disease
- Orthopedic diseases that result in inflammation, i.e. arthritis
- Joint pain caused arthritis
- Skin diseases such as eczema, itchy skin, and dermatitis
- Anaphylactic shock
- Disorders of the central nervous system
- Liver conditions
- Cancers such as lymphomas (non-Hodgkin lymphoma)
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Prednisone Side Effects in Dogs
Common side effects of prednisone (and most other steroids) include:
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger
- A loss of energy
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Skin infections
Development of or worsening of infections (particularly bacterial skin infections)
Steroid Side Effects
The side effects of steroids mimic those of prednisone (as prednisone is, in fact, a steroid).
Side Effects of Prednisone When Used Long-Term
In most cases, steroid drugs such as prednisone are given on a short-term basis.
However, if your vet prescribes prednisone for more of a long-term period of time (generally longer than four months), make sure that you are taking Fido in to see the vet regularly to monitor for liver and kidney dysfunction caused by the medication.
It is possible for a dog to develop diabetes or Cushing's Disease if prednisone is being administered on a long-term basis.
In the cases of diabetes or Cushing's Disease, the condition can typically be resolved if caught early on and the use of prednisone is stopped.
Here is a list of the potential side effects of long-term prednisone and prednisolone usage:
- Increased risk of infection
- A change in behavior (including aggression)
- Development of urinary tract infections (UTI) in up to 30% of patients
- Inhibited growth in young animals
- Muscle weakness
- Delayed healing
- Development of diabetes
- In cases where the dog has preexisting diabetes, the condition can often worsen
- Cushing’s disease (which develops from excess production of cortisol from the adrenal cortex)
- Ulceration in the digestive tract
Administering Prednisone for Dogs
The vast majority of experts in the field of veterinary medicine state that the use of prednisone and prednisolone should be on a short-term basis and at a small dose level to reduce the possibility of adverse reactions.
A general rule of thumb is to use as much as required, but as little as possible. Additionally, as soon as the dog's specific condition allows, owners should wean their pup off the drug.
Even a small daily dose has the potential to cause serious, harmful reactions. For this reason, pet owners should ensure that they are keeping an eye on Fido whenever new medications (especially a heavy steroid like prednisone) is being added to their dog's life.
You may not necessarily notice a side effect of prednisone but that one symptom can turn into a slew of issues seemingly overnight. Thus why it is imperative for dog parents to be aware of the potential side effects in order to know what to look for.
The common dose of prednisone and prednisolone is
- 0.5 mg/lb for anti-inflammatory effect
- 1 mg/lb to suppress the immune system
The exact dose should be determined by your veterinarian based on your dog's specific condition and needs.
Cats may also be prescribed prednisone and prednisolone and their dose will typically vary as well.
Furthermore, it is also extremely important that pet owners do not accidentally miss a dose when administering the steroid.
Prednisone for dogs must be given at the same time of the day (or as close to it as possible) and at even intervals
Again, prednisone is used when the body is not making enough glucocorticoid on its own and serves as a replacement. However, prednisone is not supposed to be used as a permanent replacement for the deficiency.
It is incredibly important that dog owners make sure that their vet is implicitly aware of any other medications that their pup is on.
This is due to the fact that prednisone and prednisolone can have very harmful reactions when mixed with certain other drugs. The medications that can cause reactions include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (including Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Etogesic, Metacam, Previcox, Novocox, Vetprofen, and aspirin)
- Additional steroid medications
As you likely picked up on, prednisone is a medication that pet owners must take seriously when it is prescribed to their pup. Dog owners must ensure that they administer the drug appropriately and that they are able to monitor Fido during this time.
If not, unfortunately, irreversible damage to the dog's immune system and body is completely in the realm of possibilities. We know your dog means the world to you. The last thing you want is for the medication they are on to cause more harm than good.
Natural Alternatives to Prednisone for Dogs
Luckily, there are other options. As pet owners, we are incredibly fortunate to be living in a time where we have natural alternatives.
Every day, more and more holistic options making headway in the world of natural healing (and we are super grateful).
Additional Natural Remedies
While CBD is our number one favorite all-natural remedy, we want to provide pet parents with information on other supplemental herbs that can also greatly benefit Fido.
Turmeric is a great herbal solution for a wide range of inflammation conditions. It has an anti-inflammatory effect without the potentially toxic anti-inflammatory medication. That's why we include it in our Relief CBD Dog Treats. Turmeric is also great for pet parents!
The herbal supplement known as yucca root is definitely one you'll want to look into. Yucca root contains beneficial levels of:
- Vitamin C
- B vitamins
Furthermore, studies show that yucca root alleviates allergies, joint and arthritis pain, and can also boost the appetite in dogs not receiving the necessary nutrients from their food source.
We do want to note that dog owners should not give their pups yucca root on a daily basis. Too much yucca root as the potential to irritate the digestive tract.
Therefore, pet owners should use yucca root to treat specific conditions, and not as an everyday day supplement.
Echinacea is a wonderful, natural way to boost your dog's immune system. While it is very beneficial there is one downside. Eventually, your pup's body gets used to the herbal supplement and therefore stops responding to it.
This doesn't cause your dog harm, but of course, you want an herbal supplement to benefit Fido in all the ways possible. Therefore, it's best to use echinacea off and on for ultimate results.
Have you heard of the incredible powers of licorice root? Get ready for a nice, health-conscious surprise. Licorice root is a natural corticosteroid.
The herbal solution stimulates the secretion of hormones by the adrenal gland. That's right, it aids in producing the same hormones that prednisone aims to produce, except licorice root is all natural.
The herb, therefore, acts as an anti-inflammatory and reduces swelling. It also eases skin conditions and associated skin allergy symptoms.
Ginger is another excellent way to reduce inflammation as well as associated pain and swelling.
The herbal solution blocks the body from producing inflammatory chemicals such as prostaglandin and leukotriene.
Comfrey can also reduce bone inflammation in a natural, healthy, and effective way.
It's easy to forget just how important diet is. In both humans and our fur babies, we really should consider food as a means to heal. Whenever possible, we recommend pet parents to feed Fido a species appropriate, raw food diet.
Raw food diets have the necessary nutrients for your dog to live their best, healthiest life possible.
So many kibble diets are massively processed and while they may have a flashy label with all the supposed ingredients listed, it's really hard to say how much nutrients is actually making it into Fido's food bowl after all the processing takes place. Therefore, we are firm believers of raw food diets!
Along with a great, health-conscious diet, we encourage pet parents to not overlook the benefits stemming from a consistent exercise regimen and physical therapy when seeking to heal specific conditions.
Pet owners should ensure that their pup stays at a healthy weight and is getting plenty of physical (and mental) stimulation every day.
Prednisone for Dogs: A Final Thought
At the end of the day, trust us when we say that we understand your undying need to ensure that your pup lives the best life possible. In order for this to be possible, as pet owners, we have to know everything we can about what we are giving our babies.
Understanding the dangers of conventional medicine is not in efforts to scare our readers away from western medicine but rather to educate. When you know better, you do better. Consider a holistic, natural source of healing. You won't regret it.