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 questions about your pet being on Prednisone? Ask your questions in the comments below! 

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461 Comments

  1. My 10 year old flat coated retriever has been diagnosed with “old dog lungs”; his exercise tolerance is greatly reduced and his breathing is labored. He’s been taking Theophylline ER for a month & Deramaxx for about 2 1/2 weeks and has gotten some relief. The vet had me stop the Deramaxx for several days in order to start low dose prednisone: 10 mg 2x day for 7 days, 10 mg once a day for 14 days, and 10 mg every other day for 7 days. I’m nervous about giving prednisone – my last experience was with a dog with cancer. She got 20 mg 2x day for a few weeks, and it was just dreadful: excessive drinking & hunger, muscle weakness, peeing inside the house. So I’m hesitant to try it now. How likely is the lower dose to cause similar problems? Also, should bloodwork be done before starting, since Deramaxx can cause liver & kidney damage?

  2. We adopted a 6 year old Dachshund male. He is a beautiful boy and sweet. He has a bad back and high anxiety. He has been on Predispose and Prozac for a while. His anxiety is being left alone and he cries when you come back home.He is house broken but still has accidents when I leave. He is there with my other 2 dogs and has a doggie door to get to the yard. How can I help him to not be so anxious. We have had him only 6 months.

  3. I have an 11 yr old female English Springer Spaniel who suffers from chronic skin allergies. She has been on Prednisone therapy for over 2 years on and off (tapering always when she goes off). I’m going to start a raw food diet – “Primal” brand has been recommended to see if this is the cause of her allergies. I had an allergen panel done for environmental causes and she’s high for eucalyptus, mold, certain weeds, etc., and except for mold, she is exposed to many of the flora listed in our area, SF Bay Area. The DVM said food allergy testing is pointless since most dogs don’t have food allergies – is this your opinion as well? In the mean time until I start the raw food diet this week I just started her again on another round of Prednisone today and I might have dosed her incorrectly. I have always given her 20 mg (she weighs 46 lbs) per day for 5 days, then tapering by half next 5 days, and half again next 5 days and that continues as maintenance. I GAVE HER 30 MG ON DAY ONE because I read a vet blog that gave the formula as 1 mg per pound of dog. But now I can’t find any other website that agrees, all i can find is 1 mg per kg of dog, which is much less. Luckily I decided to go in the middle and do 30 mg, not 46. Since she was inflamed with skin sores so badly with broken skin and blood seeping. I know our vet has recommended 20 mg to start but when I checked vet website and saw the larger dosing I thought since she was non-stop itching and breaking skin with her teeth for itch relief I should go for the 30 mg. Is this too much for fist 5 days and Should I give her 20 mg now for next 4 days since that’s more the proper dose for her weight? Thank you!

  4. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJuly 22, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    HI Yvette Dose of prednisone varies with each patient. Some respond to low doses, while some need higher doses to control itching. Lowest effective tapering dose always best, but need to be under care of good vet. Perhaps ask for referral to vet dermatologist in your area. New drug called apoquel has worked wonders in many patients. Also atopica is also an option. Holistic options include finding a vet trained in NAET in your area to work on allergy desensitization. I think the switch to raw is great. Also consider avoiding vaccinations which can worsen allergies in many pets.

  5. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJuly 22, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    You could try the natural supplement L-theonine at dose of 1 to 200 mg twice daily, which may help. Should work with trainer on behavior modification as well to help. I prefer more natural approaches to this including homeopathy. To learn more go to http://www.drpitcairn.com as well as my website http://www.doctordym.com Many homeopathic vets offer phone consultations.

  6. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJuly 22, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Blood work should always be done in geriatric pet this age. As for pred, every dog different with sensitivity. Some are VERY sensitive to even low doses, while others have little side effects at higher doses. Prednisone is usually more effective for COPD lungs than deramaxx, if your vet’s diagnosis is accurate.

  7. 8yr old poodle mix prescribe prednisone 10mg x2 day for 10 days began with a rash on belly area then bleeding out of rectum .. Prescribe anti acid and a liquid for a coating of gi track .. Her platelet level was low aswell help!

  8. Should I take Andy off of the Prozac while trying the t L-theonine?

  9. Hey, I have a 7 yr old boxer. She was diagnosed with Vestibular disease. She has been on two rounds of antibiotics and prednisone for about 2 months. Whenever we start to wean her off the prednisone, her symptoms start back. ie: stumbling, some circling, unsteady. I’m worried that prolonged use of prednisone will do more harm than good. Is there any other type of steroid/anti-inflammatory medication we could use or anything holistic that might help improve her condition?

  10. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJuly 25, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    Simple vestbular disease does not cause chronic replapsing symptoms like this. There must be another disease here i.e some sort of encephalitis or even a tumor that is causing the symptoms, especially in this breed. I would recommend a consultation with a veterinary neurologist who can offer an MRI or other testing for an accurate diagnosis and long term treatment plan.

  11. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJuly 25, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    I would continue the prescription prozac, while trying the L theonine. If there is improvement, see local vet on possibly tapering down on prozac.

  12. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJuly 25, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    Would need to know more details on case like this, as low platelet counts are sometimes treated with prednisone and other immunosuppressive drugs, if condition is immune mediated, but usually much longer than 10 days. Also ask vet about doing complete thyroid profile as well to see if low thyroid involved.

  13. We lost her last week. She had been having blood in her stool for about three weeks and she suddenly stopped eating and and wanting to do anything. She had been drinking copious amounts of water prior. It was all she could do to make it to the vet and he agreed it was time. Her gums were white and vet said that’s because of her internal bleeding and that she was getting anemic. Her liver was the size of a softball. We almost had her ten years but almost three years on the prednisone before it finally got her. Double edged sword really, we knew it would eventually get her but we did give her and extended life and she was happy until about the end. Thanks for the help!

  14. Minnie is a dog who eats her science diet food aswell as table fed she’s always had itchy skin and sometimes licks her paws .. She became sick very rapidly and unexpected small rash on belly and ears then a few hrs after began the bloody stool there was no feces in her stool just blood she was rushed into the doggy clinic were she recieved an xray which showed a lot of gas and a slightly enlarged liver bloody stool continued for 2 full days it has subsisted but now she was put on prednisone for 10 days to see if her WBC count would increase ?! What could’ve caused the spontaneous bleed ? And will this treatment work ? Could the WBC count be low do to the bleed they were also considering hemorrhaging gastroenteritis. Worried dog parent !
    Thanks for any help or clues to what is going on with my Minnie

  15. We have a pug which will be 13 in October. Arthritis in hips. He has been on prednisone every other day for 6 months, 1/2 pill. One Dasuquin With MSM in the AM, plus 1 Tramadol. 1/2 Tramadol at noon and another at bed time. Should he be taking a vitamin too?

  16. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJuly 27, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    I would try glycoflex III from 1800petmeds, as well as proanthozone antioxidant…If these dont help, then consider Dev Cor Mobility from VEtri Science.

  17. I have a 10 year old Shar Pei that has suffered from skin and ear infections her entire life. She would often lose patches of fur, get horrible yeast infections and her ankles would swell with mucin. The skin and ear infections would most always come at the same time. She has been taking Prednisone for 1 year now every other day starting at 10mg and working down to 2.5 mg with great success. The last 6 months she has gained 10 lbs and although her coat and ears are wonderful, her appetite is ravenous. I’ve tried to exercise her more but she tires easily and the weight is not coming off. Her vet has decided that we should wean her off the Prednisone and most likely the symptoms will come back. What alternative could be prescribed other than Prednisone? She has been on Atopica before but it gave her diarrahea and the cost of the drug was substantial. I’d also like to know if once she’s off the Prednisone how long will it take for her appetite to decrease and the weight begin to come off. I’m very concerned with her weight as I see her struggling. She currently weighs 55 lbs.

  18. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJuly 30, 2014 at 11:04 am

    Every pet different with rate of decrease of side effects in terms of decreased appetite and weight on tapering pred. If atopica not an option, you can ask vet about alternative immunosuppessive drugs such as leukeran or chlorambucil. Also ask about new drug apoquel which may help as well with chronic skin/ear allergy itching

  19. Good evening. I have a four year old poodle mix that strained his back in some way over the weekend, we believe on Saturday night. Monday morning we noticed he couldn’t use his back legs at all and were prescribed by the vet to give him prednisone twice a day for 7 days and then ease him off of it for the following three weeks. She believed he has a slipped disk that was pushing on the nerve and said it should get better within a few days but needed rest for a month. He has now been on it for three days and we have seen no improvement with the use of his back legs. I’m worried that the problem is much worse and we have seen no change. He has also started to get diarrhea for the past 24 hours and the last one had a reddish tint to it. Please help, we are panicked!

  20. My dog is 5 years old, she has had 3 steroid shots and Benn placed on 10 mg steroids 2-3 times over the past Can this amount of steroids hurt her? Nervous, she has recently Dr eloped a cough interminitly, took her to vet and they said she had swollen tonsils, tonsillitis was diagnosis. She was not drinking well, but eating fine. It has been 3 days on antibiotic s, but still will not drink properly. She will drink 8-16 oz 2 times a day, could she have damaged kidneys from pres use?

  21. Two days ago our 7 year old boxer-lab was diagnosed with “myasthenia gravis”. He has always had problems with coughing/gagging after he eats/drinks. When visible muscle deterioration started appearing…that’s when the vet suspected this neuro disorder. Our biggest battle now is that he not develop pneumonia or become asphyxiated by his own saliva. We know the prognosis is grim. As long as he’s not suffering, we want to do all we can to protect his quality of life. My question is: what are the long term effects of him being on Predisone?

    Thank you for you time. I am anxious to hear from you.

  22. My 5 year old Bosten Terrier was recently diagnosed with a Glioma in his brain. He has been taking low dose of prednisone and we were told to reduce to one a day. He is now back to wandering and circling again. Is there harm in going back to two a day as he was only given weeks to months to live. He just acts so miserable now that he has been reduced to one a day.

  23. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianAugust 6, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    I would not think there is a problem in going up on the pred dose but check with your local vet.

  24. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianAugust 6, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Side effects of pred include increased thirst/urination and panting, as well as occasional change in behavior. Dogs are more prone to secondary infections and rarely diabetes with long term use. Thinning of bones also may occur as well as pot bellied and weight gain/obesity. Consider consulting with a homeopathic vet. To learn more go to http://www.beyondflatearth.com as well as http://www.drpitcairn.com as well as my website http://www.doctordym.com Many homeopathic vets offer phone consultations.

  25. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianAugust 6, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Damaged kidneys are diagnosed by blood and/or urine testing. I would not assume that just from 3 steroid shots. As for current issue, if no better on the antibiotic, I recommend having recheck at vet.

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