What to Know About Prednisone for Dogs

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on December 09, 2021
2 min read

Veterinarians prescribe prednisone for dogs to treat health conditions resulting from inflammation, such as pain and itching. 

Prednisone is a corticosteroid, which manages inflammation in diseases linked with a weakened immune system. 

Prednisone, a synthetic steroid, has anti-inflammatory properties. You can administer this medication orally, topically or via an injection.

Prednisone is used for treating a broad range of medical conditions in dogs. Vets prescribe it as an immunosuppressant and/or anti-inflammatory medicine to treat a wide range of conditions, including:

Prednisone has many uses. It can be used as replacement therapy for endocrine (hormonal) disorders, including Addison's disease. Replacement therapy is a kind of therapy in which a substance that is deficient in the body, such as hormones or nutrients, is given. 

Prednisone also treats neoplasia (abnormal cells or cancer). The medicine is used to treat anaphylactic shock (a life-threatening allergic reaction) and spinal cord trauma.

The use of prednisone can cause adverse side effects. These include: 

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • Panting
  • Weight gain
  • Lethargy

These side effects usually go away when the drug is stopped. But long-term use of high doses of prednisone may lead to serious health conditions, including:

  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Lipidemia
  • Pancreatitis 
  • Polyphagia (increased appetite)
  • Elevated liver enzymes 
  • Obesity
  • Muscle weakness
  • Hair Loss 

Prednisone dosage depends on the dog's weight, so be sure to check with your vet. If the vet prescribes the medicine more than once daily, keep to the schedule. Never give two doses at a time, because prednisone overdosing is linked with several severe side effects. 

Clinical symptoms of prednisone overdose are:

  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate

If you suspect that your pet has overdosed accidentally, take them to the vet right away. 

Most vets will only prescribe prednisone for a limited time. This is because short-term use of prednisone has fewer side effects than long-term use. The longer your dog is given prednisone, the higher the chances of developing adverse side effects.

Long-term prescriptions last about three to four months. In critical conditions, the treatment period may increase. Various factors play an essential role in deciding how long your dog stays on prednisone. Some long-term uses of prednisone will be prescribed for life.

For example, if your dog has a serious health condition, long-term prednisone usage is unavoidable. However, your vet will weigh the benefits against the risks before prescribing the medication for a longer period. 

Always consult a veterinarian before giving any medications to your pet. The vet will prescribe medication after a complete diagnosis.