Prednisone is an artificial corticosteroid which suppresses the immune system and is used to treat inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The drug is often used for the same conditions in dogs and it should be administered to pets only as per the dosage prescribed by the vet, as it can cause adverse effects at higher concentrations.
When consumed, a dog's liver converts prednisone to prednisolone. This drug is also available as prednisolone as well, for pets with severe liver problems. The medication can also be injected into the pet or applied topically if certain pet owners have difficulty administering the drug in the tablet form.
In most cases, only small doses of the drug are prescribed for short periods of time. Apart from high doses, prolonged use is also known to cause adverse reactions. Hence, it is imperative that pet owners read up the instructions and consult a vet before they start their dog on prednisone.
In addition to the health problems listed above, the drug is also used to treat Addison's disease, certain types of cancer, nervous disorders, and shocks as well. When converted to prednisolone by the liver, the drug mimics cortisol and inhibits substances that cause inflammatory and immune responses. Cortisol is a naturally occurring hormone produced in the adrenal cortex. When a dog has Addison's disease, its glands do not produce enough cortisol on their own.
Prednisone is used as adjunctive therapy for canine lymphomas (cancer). Care has to be taken especially in this case since dogs might develop multidrug resistance (MDR).
Prednisone should not be administered to dogs with the following conditions:
- Pregnant dogs, as the drug can cause an abortion.
- Diabetic dogs.
- Dogs under 6 months of age, as prednisone suppresses the immune system and this is unsafe for pups.
The drug can cause several side effects. Common ones include excessive thirst and urination, diarrhea, vomiting, increased appetite, and infections. Infections are mainly due to the suppression of the dog's immune system. Very rare side effects include lethargy, aggressive behavior, slower healing, panting.
Dogs are known to develop a dependency on prednisone. Suddenly stopping the medication will have adverse effects on the pet due to withdrawal.
Due to these side effects and dangerous reactions, prednisone has received a bit bad name. However, despite the possible side effects, it is still considered one of the best drugs to treat the conditions that were discussed earlier.
Nowadays, some combinations of drugs are also used. For example, prednisone and trimeprazine are used to treat a cough and itch in dogs. If you're about to get your dog started on a course of prednisone, ensure that your pet is not on any anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, antibiotics, vaccines or any other supplements.