Long term use of Prednisone in pets

An owner holds her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

One of the more commonly prescribed drugs in veterinary medicine is the drug Prednisone. The most common use of this medication is as an anti-inflammatory agent used in a wide variety of  chronic diseases, including:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Skin/ear allergies
  • Respiratory disease
  • Asthma
  • Neurologic disorders

Prednisone has also been used as an immune suppressive agent in immune mediated disorders of the body, as well as part of many chemotherapy protocols.

How long can my dog or cat stay on Prednisone?

When used appropriately, short-term use of Prednisone does not have a lot of side effects in animals; however, when used long- term, there are increased risks of toxicity and side effects.

What are the side-effects of Prednisone in dogs and cats?

Common side effects include increased thirst/urination, appetite and respiratory rate, as well as changes in behavior from lethargy to hyperexcitability. Secondary organ problems of the pancreas (including diabetes and pancreatitis), liver and adrenal glands may occur as well as thinning of the bone and skin. In addition, secondary viral and/or bacterial infections in any organ system may occur, especially of the urinary tract and skin. In some sensitive pets, gastrointestinal erosion and ulceration may occur, leading to bleeding and possibly anemia.

Whenever a pet is on long-term Prednisone, it is always worthwhile asking about other alternative drugs, including other anti-inflammatory agents, including antihistamines, as well as other immune suppressive agents such as cyclosporine. Herbal remedies such as licorice may also be helpful in some cases.

Most pets, however, can be maintained on chronic low-dose alternate day Prednisone therapy for a long time, as long as periodic veterinary exams and labwork are done to detect any possible side effects.

Have pet health questions? For any medical concerns, we always recommend you consult your veterinarian. However, for non-emergency questions, you can contact Dr. Dym directly using our Ask the Vet form.

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  1. About 2 months ago, my 13-year-old male cockapoo, started having these symptoms. His rear was shacking, his stomach was heaving and he would not eat.

    He had blood work, x-ray and MRI, but the cause of his symptoms could not be identified. He was put on Prednisone, 5mg twice a day. The symptoms diapered and over the past 2 months, the dosage was reduced to 2.5mg once a day, without the symptoms returning.

    Twice, two weeks apart, I tried to reduce the dosage to 2.5mg every other day, but his symptoms returned. So now he is back to 2.5mg once a day.

    The neurologist that did the MRI, now suggest transitioning to Gabapentin. But after learning the possible side effects of Gabapentin, I’m very hesitant to switch to this medicine.

    How long can my dog stay on 2.5mg/day Prednisone and what type of periodic testing should he have, to evaluate the long-term effects?

    What do you think of transitioning to Gabapentin?

  2. Hi Beverly. Thank you for the excellent information on your experience with the herbal product and human COPD. Certainly affects alot of animals as well, and I will certainly look into the company and product to see if it may be applicable to animals, as certainly plenty of animals suffer from this.

  3. HI Wendy. I appreciate and am compassionate toward your frustration with chronic immune mediated skin issues, as DIFFICULT to treat both holistically and conventionally. Of course prednisone does help but with long term side effect issues. I am not fan of atopica or other immune suppressive drugs either. MAybe consider NAET therapy for animals which you can look up on line or possibly trying another holistic vet. See http://www.drpitcairn.com for list of homeopathic vets properly trained.

  4. Our 7 year old Scottish Terrier was diagnosed in November 2017 with Epitheliotropic Lymphoma which was a growth on his foot pad that just got bigger and bigger. We were told that even with chemo treatments that it wouldn’t prolong his life over 6 month or so. We decided to not put him through that as he’s feeling fine now and with prednisone the growth has completely went away. He has been on the prednisone since then and I wondered if it would cause more trouble or there was anything else we could use. I’ve been reading about Turmeric treatment for cancers? What is your opinion of using prednisone on him long term.

  5. Hi Terry. Turmeric or curcumen is well worth adding to your regime, although I doubt it can replace the prednisone. I would work with a properly trained homeopathic or holistic veterinarian who is also trained in conventional medicine who can help you sort through the current situation and best individualized long term treatment plan moving forward, whether that involves more prednisone and/or other conventional or holistic therapies. Many vets like myself offer phone consultations nationwide. To locate one in your area and/or state see http://www.drpitcairn.com . or see my site http://www.doctordym.com .

  6. Hi doctor. I have a 5 year old rescue dog who I rescued when she was 3 months old. When she started being i heat, she started having skin problems with lesions and bleeding from constant scratching and biting herself. She underwent several visits to the vet and different treatments to no avail until another vet diagnosed food allergy so we put her on a homemade diet without chicken and eggs and on prednisone. She started on 30 mg and ia now on a 1.25 mg daily dose for 4 years now as I feared the side effects. The problem is continues to be itchy with several bald spots and looks very emaciated . She continues to have a very good appetite and she looka better on a 5 mg daily dose which we have kept her on for 3 years. We have added adrenal harmony, vit e, coconut oil and kefir to her diet. What else can I give her to improve her quality of life? Thanks

  7. My 12 yr old was diagnosed with lymphoma about 5 wks ago. He was prescribed one 20mg prednisone per day. Before the prednisone he wouldn’t eat and was losing weight at a very fast pace. The prednisone along with my own prescription of anti nausea pills once daily has done wonders. He’s eating and gaining weight. But he’s out now and the vet won’t prescribe anymore until I pay my balance. I’m on a payment plan because I’m disabled and have a very limited income. If he doesn’t get anymore prednisone I fear he will go back to being sick and not eating..
    Now I have some of my own steroids. They are 4mg dexamethasone. Should I try giving him those, and if so should I wait a certain amount of time to start them?
    I hate to see him go back to being sick and I don’t have the $235 all at once to be able to get another prescription of the prednisone.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  8. We have a 9 year old beagle and a few months ago he was showing symptoms of severe pain. We are traveling across the country for the next year and we were not able to take him to our veterinarian so we took him to one in the area that we were in at the time. The first vet we took him to took an x-ray and said he has spondilitous on his neck, the vet only prescribed rimadyl which didn’t help at all so we took him to another vet and she put him on pain medication, muscle relaxer and prednisone which worked perfectly. Unfortunately once his dose was decreased to 5 mg every other day his pain came right back. I wondering if his pain could be mediated with 5 mg once a day. The vet we took him to said that wasn’t a long term option and suggested we see a neurologist. We currently have two older cats who are on prednisone daily and we give them blood tests every 6 months to check for toxicity. Do dogs and cats have different tolerance levels or is it possible to use prednisone for my dogs pain as long as we monitor his blood regularly for toxicity? Thank you

  9. Side effects? Compared to the alternative give me the drugs my dog says.

  10. Hi my 10 year old Labrador was bleeding from the nose the vet prescribed prednisone 3 a day which worked fine he now has gone on 2 a day and is bleeding again he has now been on them for 2 months and now has chronic dirrahea and sickness and is not eating what should i do noe

  11. I have a 130lbs mastiff he was put on 75mg of prednisone per day for 14 days for an immune deficiency. Everything I’ve read says the doses are 5mg, I’m worried that my dogs dose was a mistake, he started them 2 days ago, he is lethargic, diarrhea, panting , hungry and increased urination..
    Thank you

  12. Hi Ginger. Do NOT use your own dexamethasone on your dog, which is a much more powerful steroid than prednisone. Best to go to local low cost humane society or shelter, which often offers low cost veterinary services.

  13. To the guardians of the 9 year old BEagle, the most likely diagnosis here is degenerative disc disease of the spine, which is VERY common in this breed. In my opinion you dont need to see a veterinary neurologist, as the diagnosis is most likely this. If signs worsen however or paralysis develops of lower legs, a vet neurology consult, MRI, CSF tap would be needed to confirm diagnosis as disc surgery may be needed in those cases. I have no problem managing these dogs with prednisone as long as lowest effective dose is used, preferably eventually every other day, and pet is under vet monitoring, etc to check for pred side effects along with periodic blood work, urine testing, etc while on it

  14. The pet with bleeding nose needs full workup rather than more pred for bloody nose and diarrhea. Needs to see vet specialist in internal medicine for scoping of nose, ultrasound of abdomen, blood workup, including check for tick born diseases, immune disorders, etc

  15. HI Wendy. Doses of prednisone vary depending on type of condition. If you vet is treating an OVERACTIVE or AUTOIMMUNE disease than a dose of 75 mg prednisone is adequate in dog that size over 100 pounds. The 5 to 10 mg doses is likely for MUCH milder conditions like mild allergies, etc. CHeck with your vet if you are concerned.

  16. My dog is on prednisone for IMHA, he started out with 75mg a day and is know 4 weeks later at 25 mg a day. He’s 65lbs and is also on 300 mg of Atopica per day. We have noticed that if he try’s to run he stumbles and falls down, he seems quite weak in his hind end. He is 4 years old. Is this a normal side effect of these drugs? Thank you for any insight.

  17. Hi Dinah and thank you for your question. For any medical concerns, we always recommend you consult your veterinarian. However, for non-emergency questions, you can contact Dr. Dym directly using our Ask the Vet form. We hope your dog is feeling better soon!
    ~ Abby, PetMeds Pro

  18. My dog has been on prednisone for 2 years started out 5mg and 2.5mg and now her LIPA is 5796,and it’s suppose to be between 200 to 1800 is she dying

  19. Hi Stephanie, and thank you for your question. For any medical concerns, we always recommend you consult your veterinarian. However, for non-emergency questions, you can contact Dr. Dym directly using our Ask the Vet form. We hope your dog is well.
    ~ Abby, PetMeds Pro

  20. Ummmmm People we need a constitution for dogs because this information is information that you paid a vet to give you and they obviously did not give the info. My experience as well. I reduced over time the prednisone if you do not the dog will get other problems. This is true in people as well, 5mg 2 times a day reduced to 5 mg 2 times a day.. After the dose was reduced my dog started pooping and pees normale. I paid for a lot of tests and then sent my dog to an internal vet. No good answer, The say it is an autoimmune problem. Well, I just wish that some of these vets I have seen would just come out and say they do not know or tell people the long-term story. they just do not and it needs to change

  21. Michael Dym I would get your dog’s bloodwork checked immediately. Bloody nose may be a sign of nasal cancer. My dog suffered from this and we had to let her go in 2015. Be sure to do more extensive tests to identify the root cause of the nose bleeds.

    My current dog is 14 yrs old and weighs 20lbs. He was diagnosed with aggressive end stage Lymphoma in his spine and given a few months to live with or without treatment. That was in the Spring. He has been on prednisone since then at a low dose (2.5 mg). He is doing fantastic but I would love to add some additional supplements to his regimen that target his liver and other organs that can be impacted negatively by the prednisone. Can you recommend any? He is already on Milk a thistle and a number of other immune system boosting supplements. I am going to try giving him the prednisone every other day as well to lessen the harsh side effects on his system.

  22. Hi, my dog, a 4 year old english bulldog, last month started limping his front and rear left lets and catering to them. Blood work that day and 2 weeks later are all normal organ functions. I can not afford MRI and not sure what is causing this. My vet put him on prednisone. Been doing great. Had blood work done and vet said looks normal except for high white blood cells and said to ween him off. After a day without a pill he cant walk nor eat so I put him back on the medication. What should I do?


  23. Hi Vet,
    My toy poodle (6kg)is suffering from Addison’s disease and IBH and on 0.75mg/day and hypoallergenic food. She is ok with this treatment with side effects of constant hunger and thirsty. Can licorice root supplement replace prednisolone?

  24. Hi Dee and thanks for your question. For any medical concerns, we always recommend you consult your veterinarian. However, for non-emergency questions, you can contact Dr. Dym directly using our Ask the Vet form. Give your furry friend a hug for us!
    ~ Abby, PetMeds Pro

  25. Hi. Our Springer spaniel is 2 years old. After her lepto vaccination at 15 months she developed a very bad case of non-erosive IMPA. The last year has been awful – out vet diagnosed the condition immediately confirmed with joint taps. She has been on prednisone, cyclosporine (ineffective and dreadfully expensive) and Imuran. After trying very gradual reduction of prednisone (at her worst she had to go on 60mg of prednisone to suppress her immune system- the absolute maximum dose for her size) she had 2 serious flare-ups which was awful to witness. So eventually we’ve had to settle on 20mg daily of prednisone and 25mg of Imuran. She is well, lively and pain free. BUT the side effect of the steroids are skin scabs and thin skin and as she’s a working gundog we have to keep a jacket on her at all times. My question is will her life be significantly shortened by this level of steroids?

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