Prednisone For Dogs: What Is It Used For, Side Effects and Dosage


Prednisone for dogs is a synthetic drug that gets broken down by the liver to release Prednisolone.

Vets use it for a range of issues in dogs. These include: skin allergies, canine asthma, arthritis and more.

However, prednisone side effects in dogs can include immune suppression, diabetes, liver failure, weight gain, and more.

So let’s look in more detail at what prednisone for dogs actually is, the difference between prednisone and prednisolone, and how safe it is.

What is Prednisone for dogs

Prednisone and it’s close relative prednisolone, are among the most commonly prescribed drugs for dogs.

Because they are so frequently used, it is easy to take for granted that they are perfectly safe.

Sadly, that is not always the case.

Let’s start off by looking at the difference between prednisone for dogs, and prednisolone. What are they?

prednisone for dogs

What is Prednisone for Dogs?

Prednisone is a synthetic drug that is broken down by the liver to release prednisolone.

The two drugs are used to treat the same conditions.

It is commonly thought that prednisolone has slightly fewer side effects as it does not need to be “activated” by the liver. However there is little actual evidence available to support this claim.

What is Prednisolone?

Prednisolone is a steroid. A corticosteroid to be precise. It mimics the effects of the body’s own hormones, but to a much greater effect.

Prednisolone works by stopping the release of natural hormones in the body that cause inflammation.

This means it can be used to treat a huge variety of conditions, both in humans, and also in animals.

Prednisolone is often confused with prednisone, even though they are not technically the same thing.

So What’s The Difference?

To some extent these two drugs are interchangeable. However, when a dog is given prednisone, the dog’s body needs to convert the drug to prednisolone.

This conversion takes place in the dog’s liver.

Some dogs with liver problems may not be able to make that conversion. In which case your vet may prescribe prednisolone instead of prednisone.

Prednisone for Dogs: Quick Links

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What is Prednisone used for in dogs

Corticosteroids are prescribed worldwide to treat a huge range of conditions in dogs. From simple skin allergies, to canine asthma (allergic bronchitis).

From arthritis to congenital syringomyelia.

Because prednisone has an effect on the entire body and acts within hours of being given it is often one of the first lines of treatment a vet will use.

But, it has a lot of side-effects. So, prednisone for dogs shouldn’t be given without full knowledge of how it may affect your pup.

We will look at these side effects later. But first, let’s look at some specific issues it can treat or help.

Prednisone for Chronic Bronchitis in Dogs

Chronic bronchitis is a respiratory disease that is often seen in dogs. It’s a chronic cough and excessive mucus buildup that occurs for over two consecutive months.

If left untreated, chronic bronchitis goes through a cycle of inflammation, chronic cough, copious mucoid airway secretions, and then decreased mucociliary clearance. It can affect every breed of dog.

It’s important to seek veterinary advice if your dog is coughing, as it can also be a sign of other issues.

Although there is no cure for chronic bronchitis, treatment is important to prevent further harm, slow histologic changes, and control clinical signs.

How Does Prednisone for Dogs Work?

Oral corticosteroids like Prednisone have been seen to resolve clinical signs for the majority of dogs with chronic bronchitis.

A 2006 study showed that Prednisone alone reduced the symptoms of coughing in a Labrador Retriever with no side effects, and resolved coughing and gagging with no side effects in a crossbreed.

Prednisone helps to reduce inflammation from infections that chronic bronchitis can cause.

But it is also often used alongside antibiotics and other medications. Let’s take a look at recommended doses.

Prednisone Dosage for Dogs with Chronic Bronchitis

The initial aim with most initial doses of prednisone is for anti-inflammatory purposes, at around 1-2 mg a day.

Inflamed airways cause the chronic cough in chronic bronchitis. So reducing this can help resolve coughing and gagging symptoms.

From then on the prednisone dosage for dogs is tapered to the lowest effective dose possible to prevent dependency.

Another study states doses should be reduced every 1-2 weeks until physiologic doses at 0.25-0.5 mg a day. This can be carried on for 2 to 4 weeks.

However, it is really important to discuss with your vet to find out exactly what your dog requires and how slowly you need to taper it down.

How Often Should I Give my Dog Prednisone For Dogs?

For Dogs with chronic bronchitis, recommended doses range from once or twice daily, to every other day. This will depend on whether Prednisone is being used alongside other drugs, and the dosage amount.

It is important to come to a decision with your vet in order to avoid dependency.

Prednisone for Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs

Atopic Dermatitis can be acute or chronic. It is often used as a synonymous term for environmental allergic skin disease.

It often develops in younger dogs. In many cases, it starts off seasonally, but usually ends up occurring all-year round.

Atopic Dermatitis is an inflammatory allergic skin disease that is genetically predisposed. As it is caused by allergies, we cannot cure it. But we can manage the symptoms to help our dogs stay comfortable.

Clinical signs include itching, and recurring skin infections.

How Does Prednisone for Dogs Work

Atopic dermatitis is caused by an overactive immune system response to environmental allergens.

Treatment is not specific to allergens, but is designed to reduce the inflammation that occurs.

Prednisone Dosage for Dogs with Atopic Dermatitis

One study recommends 1 mg for 4 days, reduced to 0.5 mg for another 10 days for dogs with more extensive atopic dermatitis. It is given every other day within these periods.

Once the disease appears in remission, the dose is further reduced by 25% every 14 days.

The most important thing is to avoid reducing doses too quickly. We will look at this in more detail later, but dogs can become dependent on Prednisone.

Other Preparations of Prednisone for dogs

We’ve only looked briefly at two conditions. But prednisone can be used for such a wide variety of problems. So, it is available in a number of different forms.

Some of these are:

  • Tablets and liquids for oral use.
  • Intramuscular and intravenous injection
  • Creams and ointments for use on the skin
  • Eye and nose drops.

Other Ways To Apply

There are lots of ways to give or apply Prednisone for dogs.

Your vet will inject your dog if necessary. For skin conditions, you may need to rub the ointment into the affected area. Some dogs will need to wear an elizabethan collar to prevent them worrying the area while the prednisone gets to work

Your vet will show you how to apply eye drops or nose drops if your dog needs these

Some dogs will take any medicine you choose to give them, but some are a bit more picky. Because prednisone is both cheap, and available in such a wide variety of forms it isn’t worth fighting them over.

If you are struggling to get your dog to take tablets, ask for a liquid form instead and mix it in with their normal food.

Most liquid forms of prednisone are quite sweet and naturally attractive to dogs.

Getting Prednisone for Dogs

Prednisone is so effective at treating a number of conditions that dogs suffer from, such as chronic allergies or Syringomyelia. So, it is very tempting to buy it online from one of the many pharmacies that bypass the prescription system.

But due to the potentially major side effects and the risk of serious illness or even death prednisone should only ever be taken under the supervision of a fully trained Veterinary Surgeon.

Even if your dog has previously used it with no ill effects. Let’s take a look at these side effects next.

Side Effects of Dog Prednisone

One of most concerning prednisone side effects in dogs is immune suppression.

The suppression of the body’s natural inflammatory processes also reduces the immune system’s ability to deal with infections.

This is extremely useful in diseases like rheumatoid arthritis where an overactive immune system is exactly what is causing the problem. But it can cause worrying issues with infections and wound healing.

Muscle Wastage

Prednisone is not an anabolic steroid such as those drugs used by athletes looking to cheat the system. It is a catabolic steroid. This means it does not cause increased muscle growth, but in fact the very opposite.

Muscle wastage is likely to occur as well as thinning of the skin and thinning of the coat. Leading to a dog that actually looks less healthy than before the treatment.


High doses of Prednisone for dogs can also cause high levels of blood sugar.

So, it can also contribute to the development of diabetes. For this reason, if your dog already has diabetes, your vet may avoid using Prednisone if possible.

Other Side Effects to be Aware Of

There are other prednisone side effects in dogs to know.

It can also cause fluid retention, liver failure, and weight gain. Plus, in long-term use it can cause a loss of density in bones leading to an increased risk of fractures.

If you are giving your dog prednisone and you are in any way concerned that they might be suffering from any of the side effects of the drug then you should contact your vet as soon as possible.

But the one thing you should not do is to simply stop the treatment. Let’s take a look at why.

Is Prednisone Safe for Dogs

We’ve seen that Prednisone is a very common medicine for dogs. But that it can also have some quite serious side effects.

What other safety issues should we be aware of?


One of the most worrying aspects of using prednisone is that it causes a physiological dependency.

It isn’t addictive in the usual sense of the word. But it mimics the body’s natural corticosteroids. So, if it is taken daily for longer than a week the body can stop producing its own corticosteroids.

These are vital to enable digestion of food, regulation of the immune system, and many other things.

Stopping prednisone abruptly can cause what is known as an Addisonian Crisis, which can be fatal in extreme cases.

For this reason, always gradually reduce prednisone. Never simply stop it. If you’re worried about reducing dosage too quickly, make sure you consult your vet.

Prednisone for Dogs Dosage

The right dosage of prednisone for dogs depends on a few factors. Body weight and the dog’s ilness or condition are two examples.

It is usually up to a quarter of a mg per pound bodyweight of the dog. It is important to keep the dose small in order to minimize the risk of side effects.

The idea is to find the lowest dose that will enable your dog to fully recover. Or in some cases, to successfully manage his condition.

The only person who can make this decision safely is a qualified vet.

Is prednisone safe for dogs - we look at the uses and side effects of this commonly prescribed drug

Can Dogs Overdose on Prednisone?

Adrenal suppression means that even short-term large doses are unlikely to cause serious negative issues.

However, as we have seen, dogs can easily become dependent on Prednisone. So it’s really important to wean them off it slowly, and under veterinary supervision.

Is Prednisone Bad for Dogs?

The anti-inflammatory ability of prednisolone is around four times more potent than hydrocortisone. So inappropriate use can cause life-threatening hormonal and metabolic changes.

We’ve seen it can also have some bad side effects. Because it suppresses the immune system, dogs can be more prone to developing other issues, like ulcers, bacterial infections, and more.

Therefore it’s really important to check with your vet before administering anything. And make sure you’re carefully monitoring any changes in your dog’s symptoms or behaviors.

How Long Can Dogs take Prednisone for?

Long term use of Prednisone for dogs has also been associated with a higher risk of latent bladder infection.

Although bladder infections are usually controlled quite easily. But we’ve seen that Prednisone reduces the immune system’s ability to ward off infections. So, more serious ones can become life threatening.

Wondering how long can a dog stay on prednisone?

Make sure you speak to your vet about exactly how long your dog will need to use Prednisone for dogs. And remember, reduce the dose gradually, never stop it immediately.

If you miss a dose, do not double up on the next dose either. If this happens, speak to your vet for further advice.

Contraindications for dog Prednisone

If your dog is already using NSAID class medications, such as aspirin, they should not use Prednisone at the same time.

This combination can cause internal bleeding in the stomach and intestine. It can also cause ulceration.

Your dog should also not use Prednisone when pregnant, as these hormones can cause abortions and interfere with certain tests, such as thyroid tests. Plus, corticosteroids can cross over into maternal milk.

You should also not give prednisone to very young dogs, because of the immune suppression, and the risk of developing gastric ulcers.

If you’re not sure whether your dog should be taking Prednisone, speak to your vet.

Can you use Human Prednisone on dogs

Prednisone was first used medicinally in the early 1950s after Arthur Nobile of Schering AG demonstrated its use.

Schering put it on the market in the 1960s.

It is on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medications. Plus, it is no longer protected. So, a number of different companies manufacture it. This means it is often cheas.

Schering originally used prednisone to help human illnesses. But veterinary medicine has also used it for a long time.

It is available to both humans and animals. But still check with a vet before using it.

Why you Should Always Check with the Vet

It’s really important to make sure you always discuss with your vet before using Prednisone.

Human and animal doses may differ massively. Your vet will be able to advise you on the correct dosage for your specific dog.

Plus, due to the huge number of forms Prednisone comes in, it’s important to make sure the one you give your pup one designed for dogs.

Human medications often have other additional ingredients and compounds which can be harmful to dogs. So, always check with your vet first.

When Prednisone for Dogs Doesn’t Work

We’ve seen that Prednisone can work at reducing or resolving inflammation and the symptoms caused by it.

But, sometimes it might not work for your dog. If symptoms worsen, or simply don’t improve, you should consult your vet once more.

They may change your dog’s prescription, or use it in combination with something else.

Always make sure you consult your vet if something doesn’t seem right.

Prednisone for dogs

So, we’ve seen what Prednisone for dogs does, some of the health problems it helps, and its side effects.

If your vet has prescribed Prednisone for your dog, make sure to monitor them carefully. Prednisone is common, but it is not 100% safe.

And, most importantly, make sure you never take your dog off Prednisone too quickly, as this can cause extremely serious issues.

Prednisone and Your Dog

Has your dog used Prednisone? Did they find it helpful? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

References and Further Reading


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