Prednisone is a synthetic corticosteroid that is used for treating certain medical conditions in humans as well as animals. Veterinarians usually consider the administration of prednisone for dogs if the diagnostic tests are indicative of inflammatory conditions or autoimmune disorders. It is commonly used for treating canine infections caused by pathogens or allergens.

Diseases or disorders for which prednisone may be prescribed include inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, asthma, spinal cord injuries, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, Addison's disease, ulcers, and tumors.

Though prednisone is a potent corticosteroid, its excessive use can cause some adverse effects in canines. Prednisone side effects in dogs can range from mild to severe, and improper use of this drug can pose serious health risks.

Side Effects of Prednisone in Dogs

Excessive Thirst and Hunger
Administration of prednisone can make your dog feel excessively thirsty. Besides this, it may also increase his/her appetite. This results in frequent urination and abnormal weight gain in dogs.

Gastrointestinal Disorders
Though the use of prednisone in canines helps in alleviating the symptoms of serious ailments, it is known to cause gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea, vomiting, stomach ulcers, and general gastrointestinal discomfort.

Canine Diabetes
Long-term use of prednisone can also make dogs susceptible to metabolic changes, along with an increased risk of turning diabetic. Canine diabetes occurs when the body is unable to produce enough insulin, or when the body is not able to absorb the insulin that is being produced. This causes accumulation of glucose in the blood, which in turn leads to diabetes.

Eye Diseases
Prednisone use in dogs can cause eye problems such as poor eyesight, glaucoma and cataracts. Ensure that you get your pet's eyesight checked on a regular basis.

Muscle Wasting and Fatigue
The use of prednisone in dogs can cause unusual weakness and fatigue. If your pet seems to be exhibiting lethargy following the use of this drug, do consult a veterinarian.

Prolonged use of prednisone can cause pain and inflammation in the joints, thereby making it difficult for the dog to walk. Since prednisone is an immunosuppressant, there's an increased risk of the dog developing recurring infections.

Behavioral Changes
Unexpected changes could occur in the dog's behavior due to long-term use of this drug. Excessive restlessness, anxiety, or aggression could be attributed to the prolonged use of prednisone. Hence, it is important to monitor any abnormal behavior in the dog.

Skin and Coat Problems
Loss of hair and thinning of the dog's skin are also among the side effects of prednisone. Your dog's coat may also lose its luster. Dogs who are on prednisone may even become prone to skin infections, that are difficult to heal.

Canine Cushing's Disease
Also known as hyperadrenocorticism, Cushing's disease is one of the most serious side effects of prednisone. It is caused by a hormonal imbalance which results in the overproduction of the hormone cortisone. Symptoms of canine Cushing's disease include excessive hunger, thirst, urination, weight gain/weight loss and a weakened immune system.

Prednisone Withdrawal Symptoms

Prolonged use of prednisone can affect the body's ability to produce natural corticosteroids, thereby increasing the likelihood of drug dependence. If the treatment is paused abruptly, the dog may suffer from withdrawal symptoms, leading to serious repercussions on his/her health. Since prednisone intake decreases the production of cortisol, which is a natural steroid produced by the adrenal gland, sudden withdrawal can result in a deficiency of cortisol in the dog's body. Malaise, weakness, fatigue, vomiting, behavioral changes, loss of appetite or difficulty in breathing are some of the prednisone withdrawal symptoms that owners must watch out for. Such abnormal symptoms should be immediately reported to the veterinarian. The doses should be gradually reduced under the supervision of a veterinarian to prevent these symptoms from arising.

Precautions to be Taken

Although prednisone is an effective drug, it needs to be administered carefully. If one does not comply with the guidelines regarding its dosage, it can cause serious side effects in dogs. Prednisone should be administered only if a certified veterinarian recommends its use. When you take your pet to the veterinarian, make it a point to inform the veterinarian about any other drug/s which are currently being administered. This will help in preventing any adverse drug reactions. While short-term usage of this drug is unlikely to cause any serious side effects, the same cannot be said about the long-term use of prednisone.
So, administer it only up to the duration of time recommended by the veterinarian. An overdose of prednisone can be fatal, so precautions must be taken while administering this drug.

Though the numerous health benefits of prednisone make it a very useful drug, one cannot ignore its side effects. If you have been administering this drug to your pet, it is your responsibility to keep a watchful eye and pay heed to your pet's behavior. Canines exhibiting the aforementioned symptoms should be taken to a vet immediately. Taking your dog for regular checkups to the veterinarian will ensure that he/she remains healthy and happy.

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by a veterinarian.