Pet parents always want what’s best for their charismatic canines – whether they’re suffering from a seasonal allergy or diagnosed with a chronic condition, you do whatever it takes to ensure your dog is living well. At times, your pooch may be feeling under the weather, and giving him an over-the-counter medication intended for humans might seem like a perfectly safe option.
However, administering any treatment without consulting a licensed vet first can actually do more harm than good. Whether it’s an OTC remedy or a prescription drug, leave it to the professionals to determine the safest ways to care for your pet. This article will discuss Prednisolone and Prednisone and how they may affect your dog in the event they’re prescribed by your vet.
Understanding The Medication: What Is Prednisolone?
Prednisolone and Prednisone belong to a group of drugs formulated for humans known as corticosteroids. These medications are used to manage inflammation or diseases where the immune system plays a primary role. Normally, the body manufactures cortisol, a natural corticosteroid produced in the adrenal gland. Corticosteroids are essential for life – they not only affect metabolism, but the function of all cells and organ systems. Because they perform various actions at a cellular level, their anti-inflammatory properties are vast and affect the entire body.
Prednisolone and prednisone deliver anti-inflammatory effects that are approximately four times stronger than the body’s biologically-occurring cortisol. By mimicking the effects of cortisol, they are capable of a wide range of effects, including inflammation reduction, immune system suppression, appetite stimulation, inhibiting healing, altering mood, increasing the secretion of gastric acid, weakening muscles, and thinning of the skin, among others. Vets have often used forms of Prednisolone and Prednisone to treat animals for similar conditions as experienced by humans, including dogs and cats.
There are many different types of corticosteroid drugs available to treat a variety of medical conditions, such as reducing inflammation, suppressing the immune system, treating certain types of cancer, and as a replacement when the body is not producing enough of its own corticosteroids.
However, inappropriate or chronic usage of corticosteroids can result in life-threatening metabolic and hormonal changes. Studies have shown that drugs such as Prednisone and Prednisolone are most effective when used over a short period time at a very low dosage to lessen the chance of adverse effects.
Prednisolone and Prednisone are not FDA-approved for use in animals, nor are they available from a veterinary pharmaceutical manufacturer. However, they are considered as acceptable treatments, as both drugs are frequently used within the veterinary practice. Similar to humans, research has shown that pets should not be dependent on either drug for an extended period of time, and should be weaned off the medication as soon as their condition allows.
When dogs are required to be on Prednisone for a length of time, administering the medication every other day (or even less frequently if feasible) may reduce the chances of serious side-effects; however, your vet will instruct you on the appropriate time and length of dosage and other pertinent administration instructions.
Knowing The Difference: Prednisolone Vs. Prednisone
Prednisolone and Prednisone for dogs are drugs commonly prescribed by veterinarians to treat the pain and inflammation associated with injury, illness and surgery. These synthetic corticosteroids are designed to simulate the glucocorticoid hormones produced naturally by a dog’s adrenal glands. Both medications help regulate the swelling associated with the immune system and affect water and sodium levels. However, there are distinct differences between these two strong corticosteroids.
Prednisolone is created when Prednisone is metabolized by the liver. Because of this, Prednisolone is generally considered easier to absorb than prednisone. Prednisolone is also preferred over Prednisone for dogs with pre-existing liver conditions. Depending on the size of your dog and his condition, the required dosage and form of Prednisone and Prednisolone may also differ.
How Can Prednisolone Help My Dog?
As mentioned earlier, Prednisolone and Prednisone are often used to manage and treat the following canine medical conditions, including:
- Allergic reactions (such as asthma, hives, and itching)
- Central Nervous System (CSN) disorders
- Dermatologic diseases
- Emergency situations including spinal cord trauma, anaphylactic reactions and other forms of shock
- Endocrine (hormonal) disorders including Addison’s Disease
- High blood calcium levels
- Immune mediated diseases, such as immune-mediated hemolytic anemia or thrombocytopenia
- Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD)
- Inflammatory Orthopedic diseases
- Respiratory disease with an inflammatory component
- Some types of canine cancer
Prednisolone and Prednisone treat a broad array of diseases and disorders in dogs, and may be prescribed for your pet for many different reasons, frequently as a supplemental treatment. Below, an overview of common drug applications listed by category:
- Endocrine (Hormonal) Disorders: Both medications are most commonly prescribed to treat Addison’s Disease, a condition where a dog’s adrenal glands do not produce enough hormones naturally.
- Autoimmune Diseases: These drugs are also used to treat autoimmune diseases in dogs such as autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) and lupus due to their ability to suppress immune system responses.
- Allergic Reactions: Due to their immune-suppressing capabilities, both drugs have shown to be effective in treating allergic reactions, including itchiness/skin irritation, hives, and even asthma.
- Central Nervous System (CNS) Disorders: Inflammatory CNS disease are a group of diseases that affect the brain (or brain and spinal cord) in the absence of an infections cause. These inflammatory CNS diseases affect dogs worldwide; however, both drugs have been found to be useful as a form of therapy.
- Inflammatory Orthopedic Diseases: There are many different forms of inflammation that may occur within your dog’s body, including arthritis and other orthopedic disorders. Glucocorticoids such as Prednisolone and Prednisone have been shown to effectively suppress such inflammatory processes in canines.
If your vet prescribes either drug, be sure to discuss the specific reason/condition your pet is taking the medication, as well as dosage instructions and any other information you need to be aware of during your dog’s treatment.
Is Prednisolone An Appropriate Treatment For Your Dog?
Due to the wide range of medical conditions Prednisolone and Prednisone are used for, it’s important to educate yourself as much as possible as a pet owner – speak with your vet candidly about his health issues during your trip to the vet, and always have your dog’s complete medical history on hand to discuss any preexisting conditions, as well as other medications or supplements he may be taking.
If your vet deems either Prednisolone or Prednisone an appropriate therapy for your pet, be sure to monitor his behavior and overall health once he is on the medication. Learn about the appropriate way to administer his medication if he is prescribed one by asking your vet targeted questions, such as drug interactions, side-effects, and health conditions that may affect his ability to tolerate corticosteroid therapy. As in the case of any prescription or OTC (over-the-counter) medication, it is never recommended to give your dog any type of drug without the express consent of your veterinarian.
What Are The Side-Effects Of Prednisolone For Dogs?
In the event that your vet has prescribed your dog with a corticosteroid, be sure to keep a watchful eye on his behavior to monitor any adverse reactions to the medication. Because these drugs affect nearly every system in the body, they may result in a variety of different side-effects.
The longer the medication is administered and the higher the dosage, the more likelihood the instance of side-effects. It should be noted that short-term usage of Prednisone and Prednisolone is less likely to cause adverse reactions. If you do notice severe or adverse reactions, contact your vet or emergency pet clinic/animal hospital immediately.
Short-Term Side Effects of Prednisone and Prednisolone
The short-term use of Prednisone or Prednisolone infrequently results in serious side-effects in dogs and cats. However, the following reactions may be observed when dogs receive even just a few doses of these medications. These side-effects should fade when a pet is weaned off of prednisone, or if the dose is reduced:
- Increased thirst
- Increased appetite
- Increased urination
Long-Term Side Effects of Prednisone and Prednisolone
When dogs are required to be on Prednisone or Prednisolone at high doses and/or for long periods of time, the risk of significant side-effects such as the following may increase:
- Aggressive behavior
- Behavioral changes
- Development of a pot belly
- Diabetes mellitus
- Dry hair coat
- Elevated liver enzymes
- GI disturbance
- GI ulceration
- Hair loss
- Muscle wasting
- Weight gain
Prednisolone and Prednisone are prescription drugs and must always be used in accordance with your vet’s directions, and only administered to the animal for which it was prescribed. Do not give this medication to a person or other pets within your household.
- Inappropriate or chronic usage of corticosteroids (including Prednisolone and Prednisone) may cause life-threatening hormonal and metabolic changes.
- Because corticosteroids suppress immune response, animals receiving medication may be more susceptible to viral or bacterial infections. Corticosteroids may also mask signs of infection (such as an elevated temperature), so be sure to monitor your dog’s condition closely during therapy.
Important: If your dog has any of the following health conditions, use Prednisolone and Prednisone only after you’ve consulted your veterinarian:
- Experts have suggested that corticosteroids be avoided or used very carefully in young animals due to immune suppression and the risk of GI ulcers; speak with your vet if you have questions in the event that your puppy requires corticosteroids for any reason.
- Research has indicated that Prednisone and Prednisolone are not generally administered to patients with systemic fungal infections (although Addison’s disease may be considered an exception).
- Because Prednisone must be converted to Prednisolone in the liver, animals with liver failure should be prescribed Prednisolone rather than Prednisone.
Potential Drug Reactions: Be sure to review any medications or supplements that your dog may be taking with your veterinarian. Drugs that may cause drug interactions with Prednisolone and Prednisone include the following:
- Amphotericin B
- Anticholinesterase drugs (such as Neostigmine and Pyridostigmine)
- Diuretics (such as Furosemide)
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Etogesic, Metacam, Previcox, Novocox, Vetprofen, and Aspirin
- Other steroid medications
In the event that your dog is receiving a high dosage of Prednisolone or Prednisone, vaccines may be less effective; therefore, vaccination should be delayed if your dog is receiving corticosteroids. Both medications should be administered with caution in pregnant dogs and dogs with diabetes.
In addition, the risk of canine stomach ulcers may be elevated if Prednisone or Prednisolone is used in tandem with other drugs known to cause ulcers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Potassium and digitalis levels should be carefully monitored in animals taking either drug therapy.
Corticosteroid Dosage & Your Dog: Always Ask Your Vet
As outlined earlier, Prednisolone and Prednisone are frequently prescribed by vets to manage the pain and inflammation associated with injury, illness, and surgery. However, it is very important to know the appropriate dosing information – depending on your dog’s weight, size, age, breed, underlying health conditions, or other forms of medication he may be taking. It cannot be stressed enough that Prednisolone and Prednisone should never be administered to your dog without consulting your vet first.
Prednisolone & Prednisone: Signs Of Canine Overdose
To avoid the risk of overdosing your pet, please review the following signs and symptoms of Prednisolone and Prednisone overdose in dogs:
- Increased thirst and urination
- Increased hunger
- Fatigue / general loss of energy
- Development or worsening infections (especially bacterial skin infections)
- Vomiting or nausea (less common)
If you believe your dog or another pet in your household was accidentally overdosed or has eaten this medication by mistake, contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435. Be certain to being the prescription container with you when you take your pet for treatment. If you or someone else has accidentally ingested this medication, call the American Association of Poison Control Centers at 1-800-222-1222.