Safe Dosages and Uses – Forbes Advisor

Safe Dosages and Uses – Forbes Advisor

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All pet owners hope their dog lives a healthy, happy and long life.

But just like humans, many dogs will experience illness and disease at some point in their lifetime, leading to a host of painful or uncomfortable symptoms.

Fortunately, there are a variety of medications that can help alleviate your dog’s suffering, including prednisone, a powerful and commonly prescribed steroid.

Prednisone can safely and effectively treat many different health issues in dogs. And for most pet owners, the medication is covered by pet insurance.

Here is a look at prednisone and whether it’s safe to give to your dog.

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What Is Prednisone Used for in Dogs?

Prednisone is a powerful anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressant and anti-itch medication.

Dr. Kelly Dunham, D.V.M., and area medical director for IndeVets, a nationwide veterinary staffing service, notes prednisone is used primarily as an:

  1. Anti-inflammatory: Used for pets with allergic or inflammatory reactions, asthma, and inflammation-based pain like arthritic pain and to suppress inflammation secondary to neoplasia or cancer.
  2. Immunosuppressive: Used for pets with immune mediated diseases, including pemphigus (an autoimmune disease that causes blisters), inflammatory bowel disease, or eosinophilic granuloma complex (a skin overreaction that causes bumps or nodules on the body).

“Low doses of steroids may also be used in pets with endocrine or hormonal disorders such as Addison’s disease, which causes an underproduction of cortisol in the body,” Dunham wrote in an email to Forbes Advisor.

Is Prednisone Safe to Give to Dogs?

When given under the direction of your veterinarian, prednisone is safe to give to dogs.

“If a dog is healthy, doesn’t have any underlying conditions, and is not on any medications that can be contraindicated, it can be safe to give to a dog as long as it is given at a safe dosage and frequency,” says Dr. Dwight Alleyne, D.V.M., veterinary advisor at Better Pet, an educational website for pet parents.

Owners should keep in mind that prednisone is a powerful steroid, and can cause side effects, including vomiting and diarrhea.

“While it is often very useful and necessary in treating a dog’s illness, it is only safe to give to dogs under the close supervision of a veterinarian who knows the animal’s history well,” says Dr. Jennifer Sperry, D.V.M., veterinary advisor for Pets Plus Us, a pet insurance company in Canada.

When Owners Can Give Prednisone to Dogs

Given the dangers of side effects and interactions of prednisone with other drugs, it’s important to use it only as directed by your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian will not only take a full medical history before prescribing prednisone for your dog, but they will also monitor your pet closely while they are taking the medication.

This will include regular physical exams and bloodwork to ensure it is safe to continue with the medication, Dunham says.

When Owners Shouldn’t Give Prednisone to Dogs

Prednisone should not be used in dogs with:

  • Concurrent viral, fungal or non-responsive bacterial infections
  • Non-healing wounds
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Gastrointestinal ulcers

Dog owners should always discuss any and all medications and supplements that they are giving their dog to ensure no negative effects from prednisone.

What Is a Safe Prednisone Dosage for Dogs?

A safe dosage of prednisone will depend on several factors, including the dog’s size, weight, health condition and the reason for the medication

“The dosage of prednisone varies based on the specific condition it is being used for,” says Dr. Beth Waisburd, D.V.M., managing veterinarian at Small Door Veterinary, a chain of veterinary facilities in the Northeast. “The anti-inflammatory dosage is typically much lower than the dosage that is used for immunosuppressive diseases.”

Waisburd adds that the dosage for hormonal replacement is often very small. The most effective and safe dosage will be determined by your veterinarian.

Can Dogs Overdose on Prednisone?

Dogs can absolutely overdose on prednisone. Owners should always follow their veterinarian’s recommendation when administering the medication to their dog.

“Overdosing can occur and in severe cases may lead to death,” Dunham says.

If you are worried your pet may have received an overdose of prednisone, it’s best to contact your veterinarian immediately and/or seek emergency veterinary care.

Can I Give My Dog Prednisone Every Day?

While some dogs require a daily dose because of their specific illness, daily use can lead to a greater risk of adverse effects and illness, Sperry notes. Your veterinarian will work with you to find the lowest effective dose of prednisone.

“Sometimes this means a lower daily dose, and sometimes it means giving this medication less frequently, every 48, 72 or 96 hours,” Dunham says.

Alleyne adds that the “ideal treatment with prednisone involves tapering the dose to as low as possible.”

Prednisone Side Effects for Dogs

As is the case with most medications, prednisone does carry the risk of side effects for your dog.

The most common side effects of prednisone include:

  • Increased drinking and urination (sometimes leading to accidents in the house)
  • Increased panting
  • Increase appetite and hunger
  • Weight gain
  • Decreased energy
  • Agitation
  • Increased risk of vomiting and diarrhea
  • Being more susceptible to infections
  • Increased risk of ulcers
  • Long-term use can lead to Cushing’s disease or diabetes

Dunham notes that your veterinarian will also guide you on how to discontinue using prednisone by tapering or slowly reducing the dosage.

“Stopping suddenly can cause other risks and [prednisone] should always be started and stopped under the direct supervision of your veterinarian,” Dunham says.

How Long Does It Take for Prednisone To Start Working?

When given orally, prednisone can start working as quickly as 30 minutes.

“In emergency situations, your veterinarian may choose to give an intramuscular or intravenous steroid injection for a much quicker onset of action,” Dunham says.

How Long Does Prednisone Stay in a Dog’s System?

How long prednisone stays in a dog’s system can vary depending on the dog’s overall health and metabolism, as well as the dose given.

The clinical effects of prednisone can last for up to 48 hours, Sperry says.

“For safety, a 7-day washout period is often recommended between discontinuing prednisone and starting a drug that interacts with prednisone, such as an NSAID,” or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, notes Sperry.

Bottom Line

With the care and guidance of your veterinarian, prednisone is a safe and effective anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressant and anti-itch medication.

Since it’s only available through prescription and there is a risk of side effects with improper or long-term use, it’s important you visit your veterinarian who will consider your dog’s full medical history and determine whether prednisone is an appropriate treatment for your dog.

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