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Prednisone Side Effects in Dogs

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Prednisone for Dogs

If your dog was recently prescribed prednisone, you may be wondering about prednisone side effects in dogs. Among the variety of medications prescribed to dogs, prednisone is one that is commonly known to cause side effects. Prednisone is a powerful and effective medication, known to treat several conditions in dogs. If your vet prescribed your dog prednisone, most likely he has weighed in the pros and cons of using of this drug and has determined that your dog ultimately benefits from its use.

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About Prednisone for Dogs 

Prednisone is a corticosteroid drug used to treat many conditions in dogs. It is mainly intended to control and suppress inflammation and decrease the body's response against itself as it occurs in autoimmune disorders.

Prednisone, therefore is commonly prescribed to treat allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, acute uveitis, some forms of cancer, shock, interverterbral disc disease, Addison's disease and several autoimmune disorders.

Autoimmune disorders are medical conditions where the immune system attacks healthy cells in the dog's body by mistake, ultimately leading to conditions such as lupus, immune-mediated hemolytic anemia and thrombocytopenia.

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A Variety of Doses

One main problem when prescribing corticosteroids as prednisone, is the fact that there are no exact black and white dosages to follow. Veterinarians must prescribe dosages on a case by case basis, and therefore, dosages vary with each condition and each animal.

According to Pet Education, this means that two dogs weighing exactly the same and suffering from the same, exact health condition may require very different dosages in order to control the condition and prevent the occurrence of side effects.

If your dog was therefore prescribed prednisone, it is very important to monitor for potential side effects and communicate any concerns to your vet immediately.

Prednisone Side Effects in Dogs

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Panting is a common prednisone side effect in dogs

Prednisone side effects in dogs may develop immediately or may take some time to appear. In some cases, side effects may develop even long after the prednisone drug has been discontinued. Following is a list of some of the most common and less common side effects deriving from the use of prednisone in dogs.

Polydipsia and Polyuria

Polydipsia is the medical term for increased drinking and polyuria is the medical term of increased urination. Both these prednisone side effects in dogs are quite common when dogs are taking the medicine prednisone. Corticosteroids stimulate the activity of the glomeruli, which are the filtration units of the kidneys, causing an increase in the urine output which consequently, makes the dog thirsty so to replace the lost fluids.

 Dog Behavioral Changes

Some dogs may exhibit behavioral changes. Some dogs may appear to be less alert and more lethargic, whereas others may become restless and exhibit panting. An increase in appetite can also be witnessed in dogs receiving prednisone. In some cases, prednisone side effects in dogs may cause the exhibition of aggressive behaviors.

Suppressed Immune System

As previously mentioned, corticosteroids inhibit the immune system and this can have a two-fold effect. While on one side suppressing the immune system helps when the immune system attacks the body, on the other side suppressing the immune system may translate into higher chances of the development of viral, bacterial, or fungal diseases. For this reason, often antibiotics are prescribed simultaneously to corticosteroids.

Abortion in Pregnant Dogs

The use of prednisone in pregnant dams is discouraged due to the risk of abortion. Indeed, corticosteroids are capable of inducing labor and have been used in the past to terminate pregnancy in dogs, explains veterinarian Barbara Forney in an article for Wedgewood Pharmacy.

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Dog Digestive Problems

Dogs may also develop several other side effects. A dog's upset stomach after taking prednisone consisting of diarrhea, vomiting, stomach or intestinal ulcers and pancreatitis are not unusual side effects affecting the dog's gastro-intestinal tract. Long-term use may also cause some dogs to develop loss of hair coat, weakening of muscles and liver impairment, adds veterinarian Dawn Ruben.

Dog Panting from Prednisone

Panting is not an unusual side effect in dogs taking prednisone because this drug kicks up the metabolism in the body. Panting in dogs can be also due to the dog feeling hot, feeling tired from exertion, stressed or in pain. When panting from prednisone occurs, it's important not to confuse it with respiratory distress deriving from problems with oxygen uptake (lung issues or blood loss).

Here are a few ways to tell them apart. You can check your dog's gums. If the gums appear pale, bluish, or discolored, it can be indicative of poor oxygen delivery to tissues. See your vet immediately if that's the case. Also, other worrisome signs include a dog who is unable to rest or lie down, points out veterinarian Dr. Drew.

Finally, another way to rule out respiratory distress, is to close the dog' mouth, and hold it closed. If you are able to keep the mouth closed, it's likely just panting. If the dog instead struggles when you close his mouth, this can be a sign of trouble breathing, explains veterinarian Dr. Wally.

Other Prednisone Side Effects in Dogs

In some cases, dogs may also develop Cushing's disease or symptoms similar to those in Cushing's disease, diabetes, weakening of bones due to changes in calcium utilization, increased red blood cells (polycythemia in dogs) and shutdown of the adrenal glands.

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How to Prevent Side Effects of Prednisone in Dogs

Side effects derived from the use of prednisone in dogs are generally mostly associated with long term usage and high dosages. Short-term use indeed, is unlikely to cause adverse side effects, further explains veterinarian Barbara Forney.

It is therefore important to follow dosing instructions carefully and never increase them if they are not working without consulting with the veterinarian first. Alternate day therapies (every other day) using short action preparations are a preferred method of administration.

Another important consideration to keep in mind is that prednisone should never be stopped abruptly. Dogs who have been on prednisone for some time, need to be tapered off the medication gradually to prevent internal problems. Usually, these instructions are on the bottle.

And of course, notifying the vet promptly about side effects is key to ensuring your dog is kept on the ideal dosage so to minimize the risks of complications.

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