Over the course of a dog’s life, there may be need for medication or other treatment to preserve his health. This may include steroid treatment – also referred to as corticosteroids. Prednisone is a brand of steroids often used to treat dogs who suffer from allergies, autoimmune disease, Cushing’s disease, or Addison’s disease. It should not be used for your pet without a written prescription from your veterinarian because your dog could have adverse side effects to the steroid.
Side effects of prednisone in dogs may include increased thirst and hunger, panting, a loss of energy, vomiting, and/or skin infections. If your dog has been prescribed prednisone, keep close watch for any of these reactions, especially within the first few days. The steroid will affect each dog differently so you can’t fully predict how your dog will react.
If your pet responds unfavorably to the steroid, contact your veterinary office immediately for further instruction. It may be a matter of changing your dog’s dosage or he might be prescribed a different treatment altogether. Make sure you notate the type of symptoms your dog experiences and how often they occur. The more information you can provide when your pet experiences side effects, the better it is for those who are treating him.
Long-Term Side Effects of Prednisone for Dogs
Vomiting or change of appetite are short-term side effects that may occur if your dog is taking prednisone. But there are also long-term side effects that can occur as well. For example, your pet may suffer from a canine urinary tract infection. Although your dog may seem to be in discomfort or pain when urinating, the only way to test for this is through a urinary sample. O
ther possible long-term effects of taking prednisone may include obesity due to increased hunger, an inability to heal fully from infection, and development of hard calcium deposits on the skin.
Also, be on the lookout for signs of muscle weakness in addition to overall lethargy in your dog after taking prednisone. Hair loss, a distended stomach, and canine diabetes are also long-term side effects to be aware of. Of course, there are side effects that come with any medication, which is why it’s important to have your pet’s medical history on file. Although helpful for your pet, prednisone could cause side effects that may require you to consider alternative methods of treatment.
How to Avoid Side Effects of Prednisone
Talk with your veterinarian about what to expect when administering prednisone to your dog. Typically speaking, your pet should only have to take the corticosteroid for a few months. If there is a more long-term treatment plan in place, your veterinarian should share with you the potential risks and alternatives.
Follow the prescription plan by giving your dog the recommended dose at the specific time as prescribed. Following the instructions closely will help your dog heal from his condition or disease, while also keeping the side effects to a minimum. If you have more than one pet, avoid transferring medication from one pet to another. And always schedule follow-up appointments to see how your dog is responding to treatment.
Dogs absorb and react to medications differently so even if you’ve seen corticosteroids work for one pet, it may not be the case for the other. The veterinarian will determine how long your pet should need prednisone or if there needs to be any changes to frequency of dosages.
Discontinuing Use of Prednisone in Dogs
There are side effects that can occur while your dog is taking prednisone, but there are others that may happen if you suddenly discontinue use of it. Even if you think it’s not working or you have trouble remembering to give it to your dog regularly, stopping use abruptly can cause major side effects for your pet. These may include joint pain, body aches, nausea, and fatigue. In fact, you want to wean your dog off prednisone slowly to avoid these from happening.
When prescribed prednisone as part of a short-term treatment, your veterinarian will set up your pet with a treatment plan that includes the final dosages and how to make it easier for your dog to discontinue use. This might include receiving less of the steroid over time or alternating how much you give your pet on specific days.
That’s why it’s extremely important that you have your dog’s medication schedule written down. It’s easy to forget dosages and schedules, especially as they are changing. Also, if you have others looking after your dog, you want to make sure they understand what is needed of them and when.
Prednisone for Lupus in Dogs
Dogs can suffer from autoimmune diseases and one of the major ones that affects them is lupus. Lupus in dogs is essentially when your dog’s body begins attacking itself. There is discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE), which affects the dog’s face and can occasionally extend down to the feet as well. Dogs who suffer from this type of lupus may deal with hair loss and/or scaly skin but otherwise may feel fine.
DLE symptoms are heightened during summer months, which provides yet another reason to leave your dog in the shade or in the cool outdoors when the temperatures get too hot. Think about this: if you are miserable in the heat, it’s likely your dog is too.
The other kind of lupus that occurs in dogs is systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) which is the more serious of the two. This type of lupus can attack anywhere on the body because it is attacking it from the inside out. This can lead to swollen and painful joints, thickened foot pads, and an overall feeling of lethargy for your dog. Pets with SLE may increasingly become weak and even temporarily lame. The sunlight also adds to the symptoms of this strain of lupus, although it’s typically thought to be a genetic disease.
Prednisone can help with symptoms of DLE such as skin redness, scaly skin, lesions, itchiness, and secondary bacterial infections. SLE has more serious symptoms associated with the disease, which may require other plans for care as recommended by the veterinarian. Dogs who are more predisposed to this disease include Collie, Shetland Sheepdogs, Afghan Hounds, Beagles, Poodles, and Irish Setters.
Prednisone for Pemphigus in Dogs
Pemphigus in dogs is another type of autoimmune disease that may require prescribed prednisone. There are different categories of the disease, but pemphigus foliaceus affects the skin of dogs, usually occurring when a dog hits middle age. The skin becomes crusted or covered in pustules, which can cause pain to pet. The disease often spreads to the paws, face, and ears but remains on the surface with the skin.
Prednisone is most commonly prescribed to help treat pemphigus and treatment is usually necessary for life. It’s the kind of disease that will need constant monitoring. There may be periods of time that are better than others but rarely does the disease disappear altogether. Because of this, you may want to increase the dosage of prednisone to keep symptoms under control. However, your pet’s veterinarian will recommend the specific course of treatment that will work best for the long-term, considering the side effects that may happen as well.
Prednisone for Addison’s Disease
Addison’s Disease in dogs occurs when there is an adrenal insufficiency or malfunction. The disease is more common among female dogs, although it can happen to any sex, breed, or age of dog. Great Danes, German Shepherds, Basset Hound, and Poodles are among the breeds that are predisposed to the disease.
Prednisone is often prescribed by veterinarians for dogs who suffer from Addison’s to help alleviate the symptoms of the disease. These may include vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, joint pain, and possible loss of appetite to name a few. If your dog suffers from this disease, without treatment, he most likely will be in severe pain and discomfort.
Alternative Types of Treatment for Dogs
Depending on what your dog may need prednisone for, there are possible alternative treatments you could try first. Ask your veterinarian about your full list of options. This may include a change to your dog’s diet and exercise routine. Nutrition is a big part of your dog’s health and certain changes can possibly help for the better, particularly if your pet suffers from canine allergies.
An elimination diet, for example, can help pinpoint if your pet is allergic to a specific food. This would mean that rather than requiring steroid therapy like prednisone, you would just need to avoid that ingredient when shopping for or making your dog’s food. If you are wanting to stick to a more organic line of treatment, research homeopathic or herbal options available. The veterinarian can assess the severity of your dog’s condition and determine the best route of care. He can also decide if alternative treatment like vitamin therapy or hemp products is a possibility for treatment.
With any change to your dog’s routine, especially when introducing new medication, there will be a testing period to see how your dog reacts. There are side effects and risks that come with nearly every kind of medication. But it’s up to you to weigh those risks against what can be done to help your pet. Regular checkups for your pet are still important as well – even if he is not showing any side effects as there may be internal changes you’re not seeing.
FAQs about Prednisone for Dogs
Do I have to have a prescription to give prednisone to my dog?
Yes. Prednisone is not readily available to pet owners without the written prescription from a veterinarian.
How long does my dog have to be on steroid therapy?
It all depends on your dog’s condition and how severe it is. Typically, your dog shouldn’t be taking steroids for longer than a few consecutive months. If he requires more therapy, your veterinarian will re-evaluate his medical condition every few months and adjust medications and other treatment.
My dog has been eating more and eating faster since he started taking prednisone. Is there anything I can do about his appetite?
If you’ve noticed that your dog eats his meals and snacks within minutes of giving them to him, this most likely is a side effect of prednisone. An increased appetite is common among dogs who take prednisone, but you still need to stick with his regular diet to prevent unhealthy weight gain.
How else can I help my dog when he’s taking steroid treatment?
Dogs who have been prescribed prednisone are likely suffering some type of joint pain or severe inflammatory reaction on their skin. Both can be painful, which is why it’s best to keep your pet as comfortable as possible and keep watch for any harsh reactions to the steroid.
Your Dog’s Treatment Plan
Once you’ve secured a treatment plan for your dog that has been prescribed by your veterinarian, make sure to share it with everyone who may care for your pet. This includes the staff at doggy daycare, the place you board your pet, and/or any friends or family members that may care for your dog at any given time. It’s important that they keep with the regular routine and don’t go outside of what’s been prescribed.
It’s also good to let them know of your dog’s health history of medications and treatments in case there is ever an emergency. Have your veterinarian’s number on file as well as a list of conditions your pet suffers from and the medication he’s on. It will matter if he is given any other type of medication or substance that may interact negatively with the prednisone.
It’s always good to be as informed as possible about your pet’s options when it comes to treatment. Even if there is a common plan that is often recommended, it’s usually not the only one. Keep open communication with the veterinary office and explore what is best for your dog.
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- Eirevet. “Side Effects of Steroids in Pets.” PetHelpful, 14 Jan. 2017, Accessed 27 Oct. 2017. www.pethelpful.com/dogs/Side-Effects-of-Steroids-in-Pets.
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