Prednisone is a synthetic drug used as an immunosuppressant drug, as well as treating inflammatory diseases, autoimmune diseases and even some types of cancer. It is a synthetically made steroid based on the naturally occurring steroid hormones produced in the vertebrates, called corticosteroids. For people, it is used for asthma, rheumatic disorders, Crohn’s disease, hypercalcemia (due to cancer), multiple sclerosis and many other disorders. However, there are some adverse effects that come as a result of using Prednisone, both hormonal and physical. So is prednisone suitable for dogs?
Can you give prednisone to dogs?
Yes, you can give prednisone to dogs. Prednisone can be life-saving medicine and improve the quality of life for your canine friend.
In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about prednisone, its side effects, dosage information, and illnesses you can treat with this medicine.
Prednisone for humans
In simpler terms, prednisone prevents the release of substances that cause inflammation in the body. This makes it very useful for extreme allergic reactions to airborne toxins as well as more serious problems. It can also help with skin conditions, such as eczema. The problem with using a steroid like prednisone is that steroids generally weaken the immune system, which makes it much easier for you to receive infections.
In relation to prednisone’s uses with asthma, for which it is most commonly used, it is taken orally, and so goes straight into the bloodstream, whereas an inhaled steroid, such as those from an asthma puffer, will go straight to the lungs. Prednisone is used during asthma attacks and helps to regulate and control asthma on a longer term basis. It decreases your body’s response to toxins, reducing the swelling and allergic reactions that occur in response. Obviously, this is problematic.
By reducing your body’s ability to react to toxins, you are making yourself vulnerable to toxins of any kind. You essentially damage and break down your immune system, making it much easier to suffer infections and diseases whilst simultaneously finding relief from your body’s defense mechanism from allergens.
Prednisone can be taken in a high dosage for short amount of time, perhaps just a few days, which is called a steroid burst. This is the most likely outcome of a relatively serious asthma attack. It can also be used on a low dosage, perhaps taken every few days, in order to regulate and control asthma in the long-term. Obviously a steroid burst is going to significantly lower your immune system afterwards. You will most likely be detained in the hospital for a period after in order to build it up again. However, small doses over a long period are likely to maintain your immune system at a lower level for long periods.
As already mentioned, the use of prednisone can have both major and minor side effects. The major side effects include increased blood sugar levels for diabetics, loss of concentration, facial swelling, weight gain, depression, mania and psychosis, abdominal pain and many others. These make prednisone a very unappealing drug to be taking. Minor side effects include nervousness, acne, skin rash, increased appetite, increased thirst, diarrhea, sensitive teeth and others. Even the minor side effects are pretty unappealing.
Suppression of the adrenal gland will occur after about seven days’ use of prednisone. This can cause the body to temporarily lose its ability to make natural corticosteroids, which are needed for the body’s response to stress and immunity, as well as protein catabolism, behavior regulation, regulating carbohydrate metabolism and inflammation. Losing these abilities will result in a dependency on prednisone. For this reason, prednisone use should not cease abruptly. This weaning process can take a few days in order for your body to readjust. But if the patient was a long term user, it can take months.
The withdrawal process
The level and speed of reducing the dosage of prednisone is totally subjective and differs from case to case, based on the condition for which the drug was given, as well as considering the current dependency level. The level of dependency must also be considered; if the individual is likely to relapse, a slower withdrawal process will be necessary. An abrupt stoppage can be given to those whose disease is unlikely to reoccur, as well as for those who have been on the drug fro three weeks or less. This involves an initial dramatic reduction of the drug, followed by a slower pace of withdrawal.
Prednisone for dogs
Prednisone can be used to treat many ailments in dogs such as:
For dogs, prednisone is used for Addison’s disease. This occurs when your dog’s glands fail to produce the right amount of cortisol of their own. Like with humans, they are often also used to prevent the immune system from reacting to allergens and can also be used in the treatment of a dog suffering from a sever case of anaphylactic shock
Prednisone is a precursor to prednisolone. Prednisone is converted to prednisolone in the liver, so some vets will use prednisolone instead of prednisone for dogs that have a weak liver, reducing the need for a conversion . The benefits of using prednisolone instead or prednisone are that it can be injected as many dogs find it difficult to consume drugs orally, as well as reducing the necessity of the liver needing to work hard to break the substance down.
Prednisone can be effective in the treatment of many illnesses in dogs. It’s been proven to help in the recovery of Addison’s disease, whereby the body fails to manufacture its own glucocorticoids. It has also helped with autoimmune diseases like Lupus and AIHA, where the body fails to produce antibodies, leaving a very weak immune system and an inability to fight viruses. It’s often used in cancer treatments, allergic reactions and asthma.
Asthma is actually surprisingly common in dogs. You may not have noticed it until your dog began wheezing, but it is generally allergens in the air that will trigger this fit of wheezing, often followed by coughing or sneezing. Your vet will be able to determine for you whether it is a case of nasal irritation or something more serious like asthma. This isn’t something you need to be overly concerned with, but it is something you should keep an eye on and ask your vet about with each check up. If it appears to be asthma, your vet may recommend the use of prednisone.
Allergens like pollen or dust can irritate the nasal cavities and air passages. If you find your dog suffering from canine hay fever, consult your vet for the best course of action. There may be allergy relief medication readily available to help them through the summer months. If this is the case, you should refrain from smoking around your dog, if you’re a smoker. If they suffer from allergies in the air, it’s probable that it’s more than just pollen that’s going to set them off. If it is a persistent problem for your dog, prednisone might be a course of action your vet will recommend.
Other canine conditions treated with prednisone:
- Crohn’s disease (an inflammatory bowel disease)
- Nervous system disorders
- Autoimmune diseases
- Kidney disease
- Excessive and unhealthy calcium levels in blood
- Skin diseases and itchy skin
- Spinal cord damage
- Eye problems (red eyes or itchy eyes)
Administration and dosage
Prednisone should be given to your dog in the way explained by your vet. Usually this will be orally, and so you should feed the medication with food to help digestion and avoid irritation in the digestive system. The amount of prednisone should be determined solely by a professional; otherwise you risk severe side effects, to the point of fatality. The dosage will be determined by a number of factors: age, size, weight and the severity of the condition being treated.
Usually, the dosage will begin at a high level, which will decrease with time. Again, only your vet can tell you exactly how and when to go through this course of treatment with the dosages. So listen to them carefully if they prescribe prednisone for your dog’s problem.
General guidelines for dosage are as follows:
A dog suffering from Addison’s disease will usually require a dosage of 0.5 to 0.18 mg a day until improvements become apparent. Once the improvements have begun, consult your vet as to how to decrease the dosage.
Dogs with a new allergy will require a starting dose of 0.25 mg. These should be evenly divided throughout the day in case any improvements go undetected. Once again, when the improvements are detected, you will reduce the dosage accordingly.
It is incredibly important to try and not miss a single dosage when giving prednisone to your dog. Set a schedule to make it easier for you not to miss a dosage. For example, once at breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you miss a dosage, try to give it as soon as possible, but never give a double dosage. You should give your dog its dosages at the same time every day, so meal times are an ideal time to give them, as your dog will also be consuming food, which will prevent stomach irritation.
Once improvements begin, it is essential to lower the dosage. Consult your vet about this as they will already have an idea of when the improvements will begin. A sudden stoppage of dosing will result in Addison’s disease and a very potential heart attack.
If you have overdosed your dog it is important they receive medical attention as soon as possible. Surprisingly, it is not a large, once off dose that will cause damage, but a prolonged period of taking prednisone. Symptoms of an overdose will include significant weight gain, heavy breathing, increased thirst and hunger, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive urination, Cushing’s syndrome (which is the over production of cortisol, resulting in hair loss, a pot-bellied appearance, increased appetite and excessive urination), seizures, anxiety, depression and itchiness.
Short and long term side effects
Short term side effects may include:
- Increased hunger
- Increased urination and thirst
- Loss of energy
- Panting (especially dogs)
- Vomiting or nausea
- Infections that worsen or develop (especially bacterial skin infections)
Long term side effects:
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
- poor wound healing ability
- poor or thin hair coat
- muscle weakness. secondary to protein breakdown (catabolism)
- development of obesity due to increased hunger
- development of hard plaques or spots on the skin called calcinosis cutis.
- increased susceptibility to fungal infections (especially of the nasal cavity)
- increased susceptibility to bacterial infections
- predisposition to diabetes mellitus
- development of adult onset demodectic mange
- may cause Cushing’s disease
How to reduce these these side effects:
- Use it only during the initial treatment phase. Avoid using it long term, except when it is specifically instructed by your veterinarian.
- If your dog needs it more than 3-4 months, see if other treatment options can be be pursued. .
- If your dog must take prednisone for long term, make sure he is monitored quarterly with urine cultures and blood tests every 6 months.
When is prednisone not recommended for dogs?
Prednisone is not suitable for dogs who have certain illnesses or conditions such as:
- Pregnant dogs ( may induce miscarriage)
- If your dog is breeding
- If your dog has diabetes
- Puppies under 6 months (may be damaging to their body)
- If your dog has heart disease
- If your dog has a serious infection (prednisone suppresses immune system which will diminsh the ability to fight infection)
- If your dog has mites
- If your dog has cancer
- If your dog gets vaccines to combat a certain illness
Not all dogs are suited to prednisone, so it is incredibly important that you contact your vet before considering this course of action. It can lead to an abortion in pregnant dogs, and is also unsuitable for breeding dogs or young dogs, as it could damage the development of their body. There are many other reasons it may be unsuitable for your dog, so when considering the best route to recovery, the best thing to do in almost any case is to consult a professional.
Prednisone is often given as a relief for arthritis, but the long term effects, including a dependebce as the dog can no longer produce certain hormones itself, not to mention the effect on the kidneys, IMHO merit looking for other treatments at all costs, in this case.
It was prescribed for my Lab, who only had stiffness in his back train, and after 6 months, at low dosage, he had to be put down, due to internal hemorraging. His kidneys couldn’t take it.
Unfortunately I found to late the indisireable side effects.