Prednisone Side Effects And Warnings

Learn Facts and Information About Prednisone, Both Side Effects and Benefits

Prednisone for Dogs and Cats

Prednisone for Dogs and Cats

Prednisone is classified as a lifesaving drug that is prescribed to manage acute infections and diseases that may otherwise lead to death. Certain tumors or infections in dogs and cats can be managed by prednisone therapy, as well as a number of other systemic diseases and infections. Since the mechanism of action is similar in animals when compared to humans, the side effect profile is also more or less the same.

Indications of Prednisone Therapy in Dogs and Cats

Prednisone is indicated for a variety of diseases in dogs and cats to induce remission - the partial or complete resolution of symptoms caused by the disease process. The mode of action of prednisone is to acts as an anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant agent to control bodily responses in acute viral or bacterial illnesses. The most common indications of prednisone therapy in dogs and cats include:

  • Trauma or injury (especially if the injury involves the spinal region) and ulcers.
  • Inflammatory or autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematous, Crohn's disease, Addison's disease, inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Dermatological conditions.
  • Allergic conditions like asthma.
  • Orthopedic conditions (for example, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibrous dysplasia).
  • Systemic issues and organ-related disorders such as renal disease.
  • Canine tumors like mast cell tumors, lymphoma and other cancerous lesions.

What is the Safe or Recommended Dosage in Dogs and Cats?

The recommended dosage varies according to the disease status, age of the animal and other factors like weight and general health status. Ideally, dosage varies between 1- 3mg/lb of the animal. The duration of therapy is determined by the veterinarian and by the animal's response to the therapy.

What Are the Associated Complications?

Although prednisone therapy is mostly effective at recommended doses, some species of dogs and cats may respond differently to different doses, and the most common complications include:

  • Upper gastrointestinal distress marked by diarrhea and vomiting and ulceration of the stomach.
  • Changes in the basal appetite.
  • Increased thirst leading to higher water intake and more frequent urination.
  • Unexplained changes in body weight.
  • Altered mood and behavior.
  • Changes in energy and activity level.
  • Ophthalmological complications like glaucoma, cataract.

Other common side effects that may be reported include loss of hair volume and skin changes, such as thinning and easy bruising.

What to do if Your Dog or Cat Has Recovered Completely?

Abrupt cessation of prednisone therapy is inadvisable, as with humans, due to the risk of withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal effects are largely mediated as a result of adrenal suppression. The most commonly reported withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Non-specific symptoms like malaise, fatigue, weakness and other changes in activity status and behavior.
  • Loss of appetite, inability to digest food and vomiting.
  • Difficulty in breathing.

In all such cases, it is recommended to immediately seek the help of a veterinarian. For best results, it is always suggested to taper the dosage instead of abruptly withdrawing.

What Else Should You Know About the Prescription of Prednisone in Cats and Dogs?

1. Never administer any drug, prednisone or otherwise, unless advised by a veterinarian.

2. If your cat or dog is taking certain drugs for the management of other health conditions, it is essential that you inform your veterinarian. Prednisone therapy is usually contraindicated if your cat or dog is consuming any of these medications:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs such as NSAIDs, salicylate.
  • Antibiotics that include erythromycin, rifampin, mitotane.
  • Anti-epileptics like phenytoin, phenobarbital.
  • Co-administration of diuretics and amphotericin B can lead to fatal electrolyte imbalance in dogs and cats and thus should be avoided.

3. Avoid any vaccinations or other immune-modulating therapies due to the risk of active infection if any vaccination is introduced.

4. Extremely strict dosage measurements are needed, as excessive consumption may lead to adrenal crisis, metabolic issues and Cushing syndrome.

5. Speak to a veterinarian if your pet develops any of the side effects listed above.

6. Since prednisone decreases the immunity of the consumer, the animal is at higher risk of developing viral or bacterial illnesses. Monitor their food and water intake closely, since signs of infections are usually masked by prednisone therapy.


  1. Menguy, R., & Masters, Y. F. (1963). Effect of cortisone on mucoprotein secretion by gastric antrum of dogs: pathogenesis of steroid ulcer. Surgery, 54, 19.
  2. Allenspach, K., Rüfenacht, S., Sauter, S., Gröne, A., Steffan, J., Strehlau, G., & Gaschen, F. (2006). Pharmacokinetics and Clinical Efficacy of Cyclosporine Treatment of Dogs with Steroid-Refractory Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Journal of veterinary internal medicine, 20(2), 239-244.
  3. MacEwen, E. G., & Kurzman, I. D. (1991). Obesity in the dog: role of the adrenal steroid dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). The Journal of nutrition, 121(11 Suppl), S51.