Understanding Correct Dosage & Prednisone Side Effects in Dogs

The list of adverse side effects of prednisone in dogs is long and it includes vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing, and weight gain. Despite this, the corticosteroid is one of the most-prescribed dog medicines of all time. Prednisone is a synthetic steroid. It has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Prednisone is extremely efficient at suppressing inflammation in dogs, especially the kind caused by immune system disorders. That’s why veterinarians prescribe it to treat a wide variety of health conditions in dogs, including

  • Autoimmune diseases such as autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), lupus, etc.
  • Allergic reactions
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Nervous-system disorders
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Arthritis and other orthopedic ailments
  • Skin diseases associated with inflammation
  • Hives
  • Itching

If your pup has recently suffered from any of these ailments, then there’s a high chance that your vet will prescribe Prednisone. Are you concerned about that? You should be. This synthetic and anti-inflammatory steroid can be extremely unhealthy for your dog when used in high doses. Knowing the right way to use prednisone for dogs is your responsibility as a dog parent.

In this article, I will discuss everything dog parents need to know about using prednisone for dogs. From benefits to side effects to the long-term effects of prednisone in dogs, not a single detail will be spared. So, keep reading!

Do you have a specific question about side effects and the correct dosage of prednisone in dogs? Then use the table of contents below to jump to the most relevant section. And you can always go back by clicking on the black arrow in the right bottom corner of the page. Also, please note that some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. For more details, check the Disclosure section at the bottom of the page. 

Can Dogs Take Steroids: What Are the Side Effects of Steroids in Dogs?

Yes, dogs can steroids. In fact, corticosteroids are the most common type of medicine administered to dogs. Corticosteroids is a broad term that refers to all steroid hormones produced by the adrenal glands. There are seven classes of corticosteroid drugs that are given to dogs. Each has different effects and side effects on dogs’ bodies. Here is a chart detailing the different classes of steroid drugs, their use, and their potential side effects:

Steroid Drug ClassUseExamples of Steroids for DogsIntended UsePotential Side-Effects
I. Gluco-corticoidsReduce inflammation   Suppress immune system disordersPrednisonePrednisoloneTriamcinoloneBetamethasoneDexamethasoneFludrocortisoneHydrocortisoneEffective in treating a variety of inflammatory health conditions, including: Autoimmune diseasesAllergic reactionsHormonal and nerve disordersInflammatory bowel diseaseArthritisWeight gain, increased thirst, increased urination, muscle weakness, and frequent behavioral changesOne of the long-term effects of prednisone in dogs is that it can cause Cushing’s diseaseGluco-corticoids can also be addictive
II. Mineral-o-corticoidsMaintain the balance of water and electrolytesDes-oxy-corticosteroneFludrocortisonePredominantly used to treat increased thirst and urinationMore serious side effects are generally seen only when dogs are overdosed or abruptly stop receiving their mineral-o-corticoid medications.
III. Adrenal Cortical SteroidsDiagnose Cushing’s disease and Addison’s diseaseAdrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)CosyntropinSide effects are unlikely since they’re mainly used to diagnose, not treat conditions
IV. Anabolic SteroidsStimulate appetitePromote weight gainIncrease strengthTreat anemiaStanozololBoldenoneNandroloneMost commonly used to treat anemic dogsHas disastrous side-effects on the reproductive system; should NOT be given to pregnant dogsOveruse can lead to liver damageBehavioral changes
V. EstrogensEncourage heat-cycles in female dogsTreat benign prostatic hypertrophy in male dogsTreat urinary incontinence in female dogsEstradiolDiethylstilbestrol (DES)Effective in treating urinary incontinence and reproductive issues in female dogsCan be used to treat hypertrophy in male dogsOveruse can lead to bone marrow suppressionUnchecked use can feminize male dogsUnsupervised use can increase the risk of some forms of cancer
VI. ProgestinsPostpone heat cycles in femalesAlleviate false pregnancies in female dogsTreat benign prostatic hypertrophy in male dogsSuppress aggressive behavior in male and female dogsMegestrol acetate   MedroxyprogesteroneEffective in treating reproductive issuesSkin problems in female dogsAggressive behavior in male and female dogsIncreased thirstIncreased appetiteBehavioral changesMammary gland enlargement   Increased likelihood of developing:   DiabetesAcromegalyCushing’s diseaseUterine infectionsReproductive disordersSome forms of cancer
VII. AndrogensTreat hormone-responsive urinary incontinence in male dogsSuppress heat cycles in m/f dogsTreat immune-system-related blood disordersDanazolMiboleroneTestosteroneMost effective steroids for male dogs suffering from hormone-responsive urinary incontinenceIncorrect use can lead to masculinization of female dogsOveruse can cause liver toxicity in males  

Are Steroids Bad for Dogs?

As you can see in the chart above, all classes of steroid drugs can have both good and bad effects on a dog’s health. When administered by a licensed veterinarian, steroids can be life-saving drugs. When used improperly, without expert supervision, these drugs can have a variety of negative side-effects. The most common side effect of corticosteroids is behavioral.

Some estimates suggest that up to 30% of dogs display some kind of negative behavioral change when they’re given these medications. With continual use, these behavioral side effects only grow stronger and are often accompanied by serious physical side effects. That’s why vets typically prescribe short courses and low doses of steroids to sick dogs.

Here’s a cool explanation of how to properly use steroids for dogs:

What Are the Side Effects of Prednisone in Dogs?

Serious side effects of prednisone for dogs only manifest when the drug is over-used. In most cases, dogs are prescribed short courses. Hence, for most pet parents dog prednisone side effects are nothing to worry about. But, if your dog is acting weird on prednisone, I suggest you watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Nervousness and restlessness
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased aggression (steroid psychosis)

These prednisolone side effects in dogs typically don’t manifest after short courses. But, if they do, consult your vet. The side effects are probably being caused by some other internal/external factors that need to be assessed. If a dog has been on prednisolone for a long time, the side effects will be much worse.

One of the main prednisone long term side effects in dogs is Cushing’s disease. In this condition, the dog’s adrenal gland becomes hyper active because of steroid use. This hyper-activity leads to huge surges in cortisol production. What follows is severe inflammation. Here’s a simple breakdown of this disease and how it can be cured:

Does Prednisone Make Dogs Sleepy?

When it comes to prednisone, a synthetic corticosteroid, the answer is, well, it might. Prednisone side effects in dogs can vary, but some dogs on prednisone have been known to feel a tad more lethargic than usual. It’s like when we have that one tablet of medicine that makes us want to curl up on the couch and limp into dreamland. If you notice your active life-loving canine suddenly wanting more nap times after taking prednisone, it’s good to know this could be a side effect of the drug. Always monitor the well-being of your dog and consult with your veterinary if you have concerns.

Can Prednisone Cause Diarrhea in Dogs?

Let’s talk about the not-so-pleasant side of things. Yes, prednisone can cause some tummy troubles, including diarrhea. It’s similar to how some foods might not sit well in a dog or human’s stomach. If your dog on prednisone starts having frequent trips outside or shows signs of discomfort when doing their business, it might be linked to the use of prednisone. It’s essential to ensure your pet’s overall health and well-being, so if these symptoms persist, a trip to the vet is in order.

Ravenous Hunger, Thirst and Excessive Urination

Imagine having an insatiable appetite, like you could eat twice a day and still raid the fridge by midnight. Prednisone can cause this ravenous hunger in our canine companions. Along with this increase in appetite, you might also notice your dog drinking water as if they’ve just returned from a desert expedition and, consequently, needing more bathroom breaks. It’s one of the many side effects of long-term prednisone use, so always ensure you’re giving the correct dosage of prednisone and consult your vet if these symptoms become concerning.

Heavy Panting at Rest

We’ve all seen our dogs pant after a good play session, but heavy panting at rest can be a cause for concern. Prednisone might be the culprit behind this. If your usually calm dog starts panting heavily while just lounging around, it could be a side effect of the drug. It’s always best to monitor and, if it continues, have a chat with your veterinary expert.

Psychiatric Disturbances

Just like humans, dogs can have their mood swings. And, believe it or not, prednisone can sometimes play a role in this. Your gentle, loving pup might become a tad more irritable or show signs of anxiety. Remember, it’s not them; it’s the medication. Always ensure the safety and quality of life for your dog, and if these mood changes become pronounced, it might be time to discuss alternatives to prednisone with your vet.

Depression and Withdrawal

The long-term use of prednisone in dogs can sometimes lead to symptoms akin to depression. Your once bubbly and tail-wagging fur-baby might seem a bit down in the dumps. Additionally, if you’re trying to wean your dog off prednisone, they might show signs of withdrawal. It’s crucial to taper the doses of prednisone gradually and under the guidance of a veterinarian to ensure the health and well-being of your dog.

Pot Belly and Fat Rolls

Ever noticed how some dogs, post medication, start resembling those adorable, chubby teddy bears with a pot belly and some extra fat rolls? Well, if your dog is on prednisone, this could be a side effect. Prednisone is a synthetic corticosteroid, and when prednisone is given, it can lead to an increase in appetite. And just like us humans after a holiday feast, dogs can pack on a few extra pounds. But don’t mistake this for your dog living the active life of their dreams; it’s essential to monitor their weight and consult your vet if the pot belly becomes too pronounced.

Adrenal Glands

Let’s dive a bit into the science-y stuff, shall we? The adrenal glands produce natural corticosteroids in a dog’s body. When prednisone, a synthetic corticosteroid, is introduced, it can sometimes mess with the adrenal glands’ regular function. Think of it as a guest singer trying to match the tune of the main vocalist. Sometimes they harmonize, and other times, not so much. If you notice any unusual symptoms in your dog or human family members, it’s always a good idea to consult with your vet.

Muscle Weakness and Muscle Wastage due to Prednisone

Imagine feeling like your muscles have turned to jelly after a gym session. Some dogs on prednisone might feel this way without the gym part. Prednisone can cause muscle weakness and even muscle wastage in some cases. It’s like they’ve run a marathon without actually moving an inch. Always ensure your dog’s well-being and check in with your vet if you notice your once energetic pup now prefers the couch more than playtime.

Periodontal Disease

Oral health is just as crucial for our furry friends as it is for us. Prednisone, in some cases, can lead to periodontal disease. It’s like skipping the dentist visit for a couple of years and then wondering why your teeth feel funny. Regular dental check-ups for your dog, especially if they’re on prednisone, can help manage this side effect and ensure those pearly whites stay healthy.

Prednisone for Dogs Side Effects: Infections

Our pups, just like us, can be prone to infections. And sometimes, prednisone can increase this risk. Ear infections, kidney disease, and even long-term health issues can arise. It’s essential to be vigilant and keep an eye out for any symptoms of infections. If your dog starts scratching their ears more than usual or shows signs of discomfort, it’s time for a vet visit.

Long-Term Side Effects of Prednisone on Dogs

Prednisone is like that double-edged sword in the world of canine medicine. On one paw, it can be a lifesaver for many conditions. But on the other, if your dog’s been on it for a while, there might be some long-term side effects to watch out for. Prednisone for your dog can lead to symptoms of Cushing’s disease, especially when given in higher doses. This might manifest as your pup having a pot belly or losing hair. And while we all love a chubby puppy, it’s essential to know when it’s natural puppy chub and when it’s a side effect. Other long-term effects can include increased thirst and urination, making your doggo’s bathroom breaks more frequent than your coffee runs. And for our healthy dogs, long-term use might lead to kidney issues or even ulcers. It’s always a balancing act, weighing the benefits of the steroid dose against the potential side effects. But remember, every dog is unique, and what affects one might not affect another.

How to Manage Side Effects of Prednisone?

Managing the side effects of prednisone is a bit like handling a mischievous puppy: it requires patience, love, and a bit of know-how. If your fur baby is on prednisone, it’s essential to monitor them for any changes. This includes increased thirst, appetite, or any signs of discomfort. A remedy for some of the side effects might be as simple as adjusting the dosage or giving the medication with food to prevent potential ulcers. For those on higher doses, breaking it up to twice daily can sometimes ease the side effects. And always, always ensure they have access to fresh water. If you notice any severe reactions or if the side effects outweigh the benefits, it’s time for a chat with your vet. They might suggest alternatives or adjust the dosage to ensure your pup’s well-being.

Prednisone Dosage for Dogs

When it comes to prednisone dosage for dogs, it’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario. The dosage may vary based on the condition being treated, the dog’s weight, and their overall health. Typically, dosages can range from 0.5 to 10 mg. For some conditions, a higher dose might be needed initially, followed by a gradual reduction. It’s like when we start a new exercise routine; we don’t jump straight into running a marathon. We build up to it. Similarly, starting with a higher dose and tapering it allows the body to adjust. It’s also crucial to follow the vet’s instructions. If they prescribe a dose to be given twice daily, stick to that schedule. And remember, while prednisone is safe for dogs when given under veterinary guidance, it’s essential to be aware of potential drug interactions, especially if your pup is on other medications.

In the end, while prednisone can be an incredibly effective treatment, it’s all about ensuring the quality of life for our four-legged friends. Always keep an open line of communication with your vet, monitor your dog for any changes, and shower them with all the love and belly rubs they deserve. After all, they’re not just pets; they’re family.

When Your Veterinarian Prescribes Prednisone?

While prednisone can be a lifesaver for many conditions, it’s essential to be aware of its potential side effects. Always prioritize the health and happiness of your dog, keep an open line of communication with your vet, and remember: every dog reacts differently. Your pup’s well-being is always worth the extra attention and care!

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