Prednisolone and Prednisone for Dogs and Cats
General Drug Information and Indications
How to Give this Medication
More Information About This Medication
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Prednisone and prednisolone belong to a group of drugs known as corticosteroids. They are used to manage inflammation in diseases or conditions where the immune system has a significant role. The body manufactures a natural corticosteroid called cortisol in the adrenal gland. The anti-inflammatory effects of prednisone and prednisolone are about four times stronger than those of the naturally occurring cortisol.
Common uses for prednisone and prednisolone include the management and treatment of immune system diseases such as lupus, hemolytic anemia or thrombocytopenia; many central nervous system disorders; some types of cancer; skin diseases; allergic reactions such as hives and itching; orthopedic diseases; hormonal disorders including Addison’s disease; respiratory disease such as asthma; inflammatory bowel diseases; and many other conditions. Check with your veterinarian about the specific reason your pet is taking this medication.
Cats may require higher doses than dogs in order to achieve clinical response, but they are less likely to develop adverse side effects.
Like many other drugs in veterinary medicine, this drug is not FDA approved for use in animals and is not available from a veterinary pharmaceutical manufacturer. Instead, it is compounded by a specialty pharmacy.
Prednisone and prednisolone are commonly used within veterinary medicine, and are considered accepted practice.
Give this medication to your pet exactly as your veterinarian prescribes. If you miss giving your pet a dose of prednisone or prednisolone, give the next dose as soon as you remember or, if it is close to the next scheduled dose, return to the regular schedule. Do not double dose to catch up.
Give oral prednisone or prednisolone with food to reduce the chance of stomach irritation. When given once daily for dogs, it’s best given in the morning. When given once daily to cats, it’s best given in the evening, as this is closest to the animals’ natural hormone cycle.
The doses of prednisone or prednisolone that are used in an emergency and in the treatment of autoimmune diseases are higher than the doses used under other circumstances.
Wash your hands after giving your pet this medication.
Be sure to discuss any side effects with your veterinarian immediately. Short-term administration of prednisone or prednisolone is unlikely to cause serious side effects.
Because these drugs affect almost all the systems in the body, they may cause a number of different side effects. The higher the dose and the longer the medication is given, the greater the chance of side effects. Short-term use of prednisone or prednisolone is unlikely to cause adverse effects.
The most common side effects in dogs include increased thirst, urination, and appetite. Because drugs like prednisone and prednisolone suppress the immune system, your pet may be more susceptible to infections. Contact your veterinarian if your pet shows signs of fever or infection.
Other side effects that may occur, especially with long-term dosing may include Cushing’s disease, which may appear as dry hair coat, hair loss, or development of a pot belly. Some animals may become aggressive while on prednisone or prednisolone.
Although cats are less likely to develop side effects than dogs, increased thirst, increased urination, increased appetite, weight gain, GI problems, and behavioral changes occur occasionally. If your cat is diabetic and on insulin, it’s insulin dose may require a change.
Keep this and all drugs out of reach of children. Prednisone and prednisolone are prescription drugs and should be used according to your veterinarian’s directions, and only given to the animal for which it was prescribed. Do not give this medication to a person.
Do not stop giving your pet prednisone or prednisolone abruptly; particularly if it has been receiving high doses or has been on the drug for a long period of time. This can cause serious, even life-threatening consequences. The dose must be tapered. Your veterinarian will advise you on how to slowly stop the medication.
Prednisone and prednisolone suppress immune response. Animals receiving prednisone or prednisolone may be more susceptible to bacterial or viral infections. Prednisone and prednisolone can also mask signs of infection, such as an elevated temperature.
The immune response to vaccination may be reduced in animals that are receiving prednisone or prednisolone.
Prednisone and prednisolone is not generally used in patients with systemic fungal infections. The treatment of Addison’s disease may be considered an exception.
Prednisone must be converted to prednisolone in the liver. Animals in liver failure should receive prednisolone rather than prednisone.
Prednisone and prednisolone should be avoided or used very carefully in young animals both because of immune suppression and the risk of GI ulcers. It should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation unless the benefits outweigh the risks.
Be sure to review with your veterinarian any medications or supplements your pet may be receiving.
Drugs that may cause drug interactions with prednisone and prednisolone include aspirin and other salicylates, phenytoin, phenobarbital, rifampin, cyclosporine, erythromycin, mitotane, anticholinesterase drugs such as neostigmine and pyridostigmine, amphotericin B, or diuretics, such as furosemide.
The risk of stomach ulcers may be increased if prednisone or prednisolone is used at the same time with other drugs prone to causing ulcers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Digitalis and potassium levels should be closely monitored in animals taking prednisone and prednisolone.
Prednisone and prednisolone may increase insulin requirements in diabetic animals.
If you suspect your pet or another animal was overdosed accidentally or has eaten this medication inadvertently, contact your veterinarian or the A.S.P.C.A.’s Animal Poison Control Center at 888.426.4435. Always bring the prescription container with you when you take your pet for treatment.
If you or someone else has accidentally ingested this medication call the National Capital Poison Center at 800.222.1222.
Different strengths or dosage forms of prednisolone and prednisone may have different storage requirements. Read the labeling or ask your pharmacist for the storage requirements of the prescription you receive.
Corticosteroids are hormones produced by the adrenal gland. Cortisol is the naturally occurring corticosteroid hormone. Corticosteroids are essential for life and affect the animal’s metabolism and the function of all cells and organ systems. Their anti-inflammatory effects are due to multiple actions at the cellular levels.
There are two major types of hormones produced by the adrenal gland, the mineralocorticoids and the glucocorticoids. This monograph discusses prednisone which is a synthetic glucocorticoid or corticosteroid. There are many different corticosteroid drugs available and different medical conditions are treated with different corticosteroid drugs based on the individual drug’s pharmacology (potency, speed of onset, duration of action). The other types of hormones produced by the adrenal gland are called mineralocorticoids. They primarily control salt and water balance in the body.
Chronic or inappropriate use of corticosteroids can cause life threatening hormonal and metabolic changes.
Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism) is caused by excess corticosteroid. Addison’s disease (hypoadrenocorticism) is caused by insufficient mineralocorticoids and sometimes glucocorticoids.
Both Cushing’s disease and Addison’s disease are potentially fatal and can accidentally occur due to overuse or abrupt withdrawal after a prolonged treatment with corticosteroids.
About the Author
Dr. Barbara Forney is a veterinary practitioner in Chester County, Pennsylvania. She has a master's degree in animal science from the University of Delaware and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1982.
She began to develop her interest in client education and medical writing in 1997. Recent publications include portions of The Pill Book Guide to Medication for Your Dog and Cat, and most recently Understanding Equine Medications published by the Bloodhorse.
Dr. Forney is an FEI veterinarian and an active member of the AAEP, AVMA, and AMWA.The information contained on this site is general in nature and is intended for use as an informational aid. It does not cover all possible uses, actions, precautions, side effects, or interactions of the products shown, nor is the information intended as medical advice or diagnosis for individual health problems or for making an evaluation as to the risks and benefits of using a particular product. You should consult your doctor about diagnosis and treatment of any health problems. Information and statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration ("FDA"), nor has the FDA approved the products to diagnose, cure or prevent disease.
Wedgewood Pharmacy compounded veterinary preparations are not intended for use in food and food-producing animals.
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