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Prednisone 101: What You Need to Know if Your Dog or Cat Needs Prednisone

Developed in collaboration with Andrea Johnson, DVM | Co-Founder | PetVet365

Last reviewed: 9/22/2023

What is Prednisone?

Prednisone is a synthetic corticosteroid (steroid) typically prescribed to suppress certain immune responses that lead to inflammation in dogs and cats including skin (dermatologic) diseases, autoimmune diseases, endocrine diseases, orthopedic diseases, and a wide range of other conditions. 

In emergency situations, it is prescribed for severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) and to treat shock. Your veterinarian may prescribe Prednisone under the brand names Prednis-Tab®, Deltasone®, Rayos®, Pediapred®. 

Key Facts About Prednisone
  • Commonly prescribed by veterinarians to treat inflammatory and autoimmune diseases and other conditions.
  • Typically used as a short-term treatment because it can cause adverse reactions, especially in dogs.
  • Available in a range of forms and dosage strengths.

What Prednisone is Used For In Dogs and Cats

Veterinarians commonly prescribe prednisone to treat a broad range of diseases and conditions in dogs and cats, including:

  • Itchy skin
  • Hives
  • Allergic reactions
  • Skin diseases with inflammation
  • Addison’s Disease
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Arthritis/Orthopedic diseases
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Asthma
  • Cancer

How Prednisone Works In Dogs and Cats

Prednisone works by binding glucocorticoid receptors – hormones produced by the adrenal gland known for their anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive actions – to reduce inflammation and immunosuppression.

Prednisone is converted to prednisolone in the liver. To avoid placing too much stress on the liver during the conversion process, veterinarians may instead prescribe prednisolone for pets with poor liver function and for cats because they don’t metabolize it effectively.

Prednisone for dogs is typically used as a short-term treatment because long-term use can lead to serious side effects.

Possible Side Effects of Prednisone

Prednisone, like other steroids, can have side effects. Minor side effects are common and typically go away after stopping the medication. Pets taking prednisone for longer periods or in higher doses may have a more severe reaction. Cats are less likely to develop side effects than dogs.

Most Common Side Effects

  • Thirst
  • More frequent urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Panting

Serious Side Effects

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Weight gain
  • Behavior changes
  • Diabetes
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Gastric ulcers
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Increased risk of infection

Other Precautions Veterinarians Recommend

  • Do not use prednisone for pets that are allergic to it or drugs like it, or if they have viral infection, ulcer, tuberculosis, Cushing’s disease, or a fungal infection.
  • Use prednisone with caution for pets with diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, cataracts, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and pregnant or nursing pets.
  • Use prednisone cautiously in puppies as it can inhibit growth.
  • Always follow your veterinarian’s dosing/application instructions.
  • Never abruptly stop prednisone. Contact your veterinarian to learn how to transition your pet from it.
  • Use with diuretics such as Lasix can cause elevated potassium levels which can affect heart function.
  • Do not give CBD oil while your pet is taking prednisone. There are studies that show that CBD may work adversely with prednisone. Speak with your veterinarian before giving your pet CBD oil.

If your pet experiences serious side effects while taking prednisone contact your veterinarian immediately.

Prednisone Alternatives Regularly Recommended by Veterinarians For Dogs and Cats

Fish Oil
Fish oil supplements can help ease joint pain, relieve allergies, and alleviate itchy and flaky skin. They are also good for your pet’s heart health and coat.

Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has natural antibiotic effects which can help with mild infections, has antioxidants that help relieve dry skin, and it contains fatty acids that may help improve arthritis and stiff joints.

Licorice has properties that work like steroids, but without side effects. Medicinal licorice root is often used to treat swelling, itching, and digestive problems (candy licorice will not harm your pet, but the added sugar and other ingredients are not good for them).

Turmeric is a spice that fights inflammation caused by arthritis, cancer, pain relief, and skin allergies.

Green-Lipped Mussel
Green-lipped mussel is a nutritional supplement taken from a type of mussel native to New Zealand. It is not understood how it works, but it contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory and joint-protecting properties.

Glucosamine joint supplements can help alleviate the symptoms of joint damage by boosting the repair of damaged cartilage, specifically articular cartilage – the moist, spongy material that forms a cushion between joints. It is often used as an early intervention and throughout the progression of arthritis, as they are safe for long-term use in most pets.

Speak with your veterinarian before using any of these supplements. They may interact badly with some medications or interfere with their effectiveness.

Prednisone Dosage Forms and Strengths

Veterinarians prescribe a specific dosage based on the pet’s weight and condition. It may be given by injection, orally, or topically. The starting dose for dogs is usually 2.5mg, and the most commonly used dosing strengths are 5mg, 10mg, and 20mg. Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s dosing instructions carefully.

Wedgewood Pharmacy prepares various dosage forms containing prednisone that may make medicating an uncooperative pet easier. Below are the compounded dosage forms most prescribed by veterinarians:

Wedgewood Pharmacy provides medication options that help ensure accurate dosing, especially for hard to medicate pets. Click below for a complete list of Wedgewood’s dosing forms and strengths.


What To Do in the Case of a Prednisone Overdose

An overdose of prednisone may cause severe reactions of the side effects listed above. If you suspect your pet or another animal was accidentally overdosed or has eaten this medication inadvertently, immediately contact your veterinarian or the A.S.P.C.A.’s Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

Remember to take your prescription container with you when you take your pet for treatment. If you or someone else has ingested this medication, call the National Capital Poison Center at 800-222-1222.

Cost of Prednisone

Wedgewood Pharmacy’s prednisone preparations start at $0.19 per dose, however, your veterinarian will prescribe a specific dosage based on the pet’s weight, condition, and other factors.

Compounded medicines are prepared for the exact strength your veterinarian prescribes. The price of the medication will depend on the dosage and the medication form with certain dosage forms and higher strengths generally being more expensive.

In addition, the cost of a medication will depend upon the price of the other active pharmaceutical ingredients and may increase the cost of the finished drug.

Looking for Prednisone

Looking for Prednisone?

We can let your veterinarian know that you are interested in our compounded Prednisone.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions for Prednisone

Is Pet Prednisone the Same as Human Prednisone?

While human and pet prednisone may contain many of the same ingredients, their formulations may be different. Prednisone can cause serious, negative side-effects if the incorrect dosage is administered.

Human prednisone often comes in higher doses than for animals and it is difficult to extract an accurate dose for an animal from the human form. Never give your pet your human prednisone. Doing so could cause serious side effects or death.

What Is the Difference Between Prednisone and Prednisolone?

Prednisone and prednisolone are typically used for the same conditions but are not identical. The difference between them is how they are metabolized in the body. Prednisone must be converted into prednisolone by the liver before it can work.

To avoid placing too much stress on the liver during the conversion process, veterinarians often prescribe prednisolone for pets with poor liver function.

How Quickly Does Prednisone Work?

Prednisone usually takes effect quickly and you should see improvement of your pet’s symptoms in about 1 to 2 hours.

Should Prednisone Be Given with Food?

Veterinarians typically recommend giving oral prednisone with food to reduce the chance of stomach irritation. When given once daily for dogs, it's best given in the morning.

What If I Miss a Dose?

If you miss a dose, veterinarians normally recommend giving the next dose as soon as you remember or, if it is close to the next scheduled dose, return to the schedule your veterinarian provided. Do not double the dose to catch up. If you are not sure what to do, call your vet about the missed dose and follow their directions.

Does Prednisone Interact with Other Drugs?

Drugs that may cause drug interactions with prednisone include salicylate, phenytoin, phenobarbital, rifampin, cyclosporine, erythromycin, mitotane, aspirin and NSAIDs such as carprofen (rimadyl), meloxicam, and anti-cholinesterase drugs such as neostigmine and pyridostigmine.

Be sure to tell your veterinarian about any medications or supplements your pet is taking, or has recently taken, before your pet starts taking prednisone.

Why is Prednisone Used to Treat Addison’s Disease?

Addison’s disease occurs when the adrenal glands fail to produce hormones, the most important being steroids, particularly aldosterone and cortisol. These steroids play a large role in regulating your pet’s internal organs and body systems. Without them, your dog’s body deteriorates, leading to serious complications and even death.

Prednisone is typically prescribed by a veterinarian as hormone replacement therapy and works by binding glucocorticoid receptors – hormones produced by the adrenal gland known for their anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive actions – to reduce inflammation and immunosuppression.

How is Prednisone Used to Treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a syndrome caused by a reaction to chronic irritation of the intestinal tract, where the lining of the intestine is invaded by inflammatory cells causing an allergic-type response.

Immunosuppressive medications like prednisone are often prescribed by veterinarians to control the symptoms (vomiting and diarrhea).

Wedgewood Pharmacy provides medication options that help ensure accurate dosing, especially for hard to medicate pets. Click here for a complete list of Wedgewood’s Prednisone dosing forms and strengths.

This article is meant to provide general and not medical advice. We strongly recommend that a veterinarian be consulted with for the specific medical needs of your animal.



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