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Prednisone for Dogs: Uses, Dosage, & Side Effects You Need To Know 

Prednisone for Dogs     by Sam Shaw     |Published 11-22-2021

Your veterinarian may have prescribed prednisone for your dog, and you’re wondering about the possible side effects. Prednisone is an FDA approved medication for dogs that is used to treat numerous conditions like canine lymphoma, asthma, allergies, skin irritations, lupus, arthritis, and more! So why are pet parents concerned about prednisone?

Cavalier King Charles SpanielWondering about the possible side effects of prednisone for dogs?

As a synthetic steroid, prednisone may result in side effects that may be serious, so it’s good to first consider if it’s really necessary to use prednisone on your dog. Let’s take a look at why this medication is not good for long-term use.


Corticosteroids like prednisone help to reduce inflammation and pain in dogs. Side effects may include increased appetite and thirst, and also a weakened immune system.

NSAID’s cannot be used together with corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are one of the most popular anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed for pets. They’re effective in suppressing or preventing inflammation.

That said, by doing that, they also suppress the immune system, which may cause an increased risk for infections.

Corticosteroids are broken down into 2 groups. These include:

  • Mineralocorticoids
  • Glucocorticoids

Mineralocorticoids are important in maintaining electrolyte (salt) balance in the body, while glucocorticoids play important roles in the following:

Allergy treatment

Inflammation treatment which includes itching skin conditions, allergic lung, and gastrointestinal diseases.

When used for a short period of time, glucocorticoids work well for flea allergy dermatitis, since they help relieve intense itching, inflammation and pain.

They also limit self-trauma from intense scratching. This will give your veterinarian time to find out the main cause of the allergic reaction. They can also be found in chronic allergic bronchitis.

Prednisolone for Dogs

Prednisone for DogsUnderstanding the Chemistry behind Prednisone for Dogs

Your veterinarian may have prescribed prednisone or prednisolone for arthritis, inflammation, or an endocrine problem like Addison’s disease.

Prednisolone is created after prednisone has been metabolized by the liver. It’s absorbed faster than prednisone, and is also preferred over prednisone for dogs that suffer from liver conditions. 

Synthetic Steroid

It’s a synthetic steroid that has been formulated to act in a similar fashion to a glucocorticoid hormone that’s produced naturally by a dog’s adrenal glands.

Both prednisone and prednisolone are synthetic steroids that help treat diseases related to inflammation and inflammatory responses. They also affect water and sodium levels.

Prednisolone also inhibits the duplication of lymphocytes. The main tumor types treated will include the following:

  • Lymphomas
  • Mast cell tumors
  • Palliative treatment of brain tumors

Cortisol & The Adrenal Glands

The adrenal glands produce cortisol which affects the body; is involved in the response to stress; is active in carbohydrate and protein metabolism; helps to maintain the sugar level, blood pressure and muscle strength in dogs.

Addison’s Disease

Also known as hypoadrenocorticism, Addison’s disease is caused by a deficiency of adrenal gland hormones. Dogs that are middle aged or younger are most prone. Although the cause is not known, it’s believed to be caused by an autoimmune condition where the body destroys some of its own tissue. 


Cancer may also destroy the adrenal glands in other parts of the body. When there is a reduction in aldosterone secretion, which is the main mineralocorticoid hormone, then the levels of potassium, chloride, and sodium are affected.

Prednisone is FDA approved in the U.S.

Prednisone is FDA approved in the U.S, and is also sold under the drug name Meticorten. Prednisolone is sponsored by ZOETIS Inc., and Intervet, as well as Merial Inc. Both prednisone and prednisolone are approved by the FDA for use in pets.

Other Uses for Prednisolone and Prednisone for Dogs

Prednisone May Be Used to Treat the Following Conditions:

  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Endocrine diseases
  • Skin diseases
  • Orthopedic diseases with inflammation
  • Anaphylactic shock
  • Lupus
  • Addison’s disease
  • Prednisolone for liver conditions. (Not prednisone).
  • Cancers like lymphomas

Should I Give My Dog Prednisone?

Your veterinarian will often prescribe medications after a diagnosis. It’s best to read up about the medications, and to be aware of any side effects. In general, it’s best to follow your veterinarian’s directions, and what he or she has prescribed for your dog. 

All medications must be given exactly as prescribed; if not, they make not have optimal efficacy, or may make a condition worse by complicating them.

You should consider discussing your dog’s medications with your veterinarian beforehand, and asking questions about them. Relieving pain and inflammation is an important part of veterinary treatment in dogs, and helps your dog feel better, and live a happier, pain-free life!

Prednisone is a steroid drug that is important in treating a myriad of health conditions in dogs. That said, it’s good to be aware of the side effects, so that you can look out for them, and also discuss them with your veterinarian. If you notice your dog is acting oddly after taking prednisone, consult with your veterinarian right away.

By not taking this drug for a long period of time, you may be lessening the side effects. It’s important to consult with your veterinarian. Keep in mind that prednisone is prescribed to help your dog recover.

Some dogs have had bad side effects, so it’s worth reading up about this medication. If used for less than a month, you’re less likely to have side effects.

Side Effects of Prednisone for Dogs

Prednisone has side effects that every pet parent need to be aware of. This include the following:

  • Fluid retention
  • Increased thirst and hunger
  • Liver damage
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Hormonal issues
  • Dry flaky and itchy skin
  • Secondary infections (due to suppressed immune system after prednisone’s initial use)
  • Kidney damage
  • Lethargy (short -term side effects)
  • High-blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Vomiting (short-term side effects)

Which Dogs Should Not Take Prednisone?

As with all medications, you’ll need to consult with your veterinarian for the best advice. That said, dogs that have the following conditions should not be taking prednisone.

  • Pregnant
  • Nursing
  • Liver or kidney problems
  • Dogs that are under 6 months of age
  • Dogs that are used for breeding

Discuss with your veterinarian first if your dogs have cancer, heart problems, mites, diabetes

Dogs that are on NSAID’s should also not go on prednisone. The same applies to dogs that are on diuretics, and salicylates.

Prednisone for Dogs Dosage Guide

Estimated dosage of Prednisone for dogs is 2.5 mg per 10 lbs.

Weight class Dose 

5 to 20 lbs. 1.25 to 5 mg

20 to 40 lbs. 5 to 10 mg

40 to 80 lbs. 10 to 20 mg

80 to 160 lbs. 20 to 40 mg

Prednisone dosage is based on your dog’s weight, age, health, and health condition. Always consult with your veterinarian for the best advice when it comes to dosing and medications like prednisone.

Prednisone for Dogs is Available in Liquid, Pill or Injectable

Understanding that Prednisone comes in different forms, and can be administered to your dog in the way that’s easiest for both of you is important. If your dog shies- away from pills, or is super difficult with a liquid med, ask your veterinarian for help.

If your dog is suffering from pain, then the dosage will be lower than if he’s being treated for an endocrine problem, lupus, or anemia.

Long Term Use of Prednisone for Dogs

Chihuahua on Prednisone for dogsPrednisone For Dogs Has some Long Term Effects

When dogs are prescribed prednisone for long term use, there are possible adverse conditions that may occur.

  • Hair loss
  • Obesity
  • Muscle weakness
  • Distended stomach
  • Increased risk for demodectic mange
  • Increased risk of fungal and bacterial infections
  • Urinary tract infections (UTI)

Why Should You Wean Your Dog Off of Prednisone Slowly?

It’s important to wean off prednisone gradually. This is a strong steroid hormone that can interfere with the regular synthesis of hormones from the adrenal glands. Consult with your veterinarian for the best advice. If prednisone is withdrawn too suddenly, you could cause adrenal insufficiency.

Prednisone Can Help Your Dog

Prednisone can help improve your dog’s quality of life. Although we’ve so many conflicting opinions about this steroidal drug, you’ve got to keep in mind that it treats very serious conditions like lymphomas, inflammation, and allergies.

That said, while your dog’s on prednisone, it’s best to keep an eye on him. His immune system will be suppressed, and he may contract another disease. Once again, you’ll need to consult with your veterinarian if your dog is out –of- sorts.

Alternatives for Pain & Inflammation Relief

CBD Oil May Be Beneficial for Inflammation & Pain.

With full-spectrum, non-GMO, hemp-based supplements for dogs, cats and horses fast becoming more popular than pharmaceuticals, numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of hemp oil for treating chronic pain and inflammation in dogs. 

What is CBD?

CBD as an alternative to prednisone for dogsCBD as an Alternative to Prednisone for Dogs

CBD is a non-psychotropic phytocannabinoid, and offers both therapeutic and medicinal purposes for humans and pets. CBD is natural, safe, and is derived from the hemp plant.

Most CBD dog treats will use CBD from hemp, and will not have THC. That said, there is no “high” and your dog will not consume THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, resulting in psychoactive effects with your dog getting “high”.

The legal amount of THC is 0.3%, which will not affect your pet in any way. It’s important to ask for the certificate of analysis (COA) EACH AND EVERY TIME YOU PURCHASE A CBD PET PRODUCT. It must have no contaminants like heavy metals and pesticides.

Reliable, high-quality cannabidiol pet brands have an array of health benefits. This is because CBD MAY help dogs with these conditions and more!

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Side effects of chemotherapy and radiation
  • Chronic pain
  • Anxiety
  • Seizures and tremors
  • Cardiac health
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Cancer
  • General aches and pain
  • Arthritis
  • Fear
  • Skin irritations
  • Skin tumors
  • Digestive issues
  • Inflammation
  • General pain reliever
  • May help with canine depression 
  • May provide relief from cancer side effects like chemotherapy and radiation
  • Promotes skin health by preventing sebaceous gland cells from secreting too much sebum
  • May provide benefits dogs with neurological disorders
  • Helps decrease inflammation in pets
  • May help prevent cognitive decline
  • May be beneficial for cardiac health
  • CBD may be beneficial in preventing tumor growth 
  • CBD helps with diabetes prevention by reducing diabetes up to 56% and reducing associated inflammation in diabetic pets.
  • Fights off free radicals and may prevent the development of cancer

CBD Without the High

CBD (cannabidiol) is a component of the cannabis plant, but without the tetrahydrocannabinol, (THC), the component of the cannabis plant that gives you the “high”. NO THC, NO “HIGH!”

CBD comes from the hemp plant, but can also be extracted from the cannabis plant. CBD oil is the liquid that comes from the cannabis plant, with the best form of extraction being the CO2 method. 

CBD oil for pets may be beneficial for numerous canine health issues including cancer, to stimulate appetite, and may also help treat tumors and many other health conditions in pets.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, most often referred to as THC, is the psychoactive compound that is derived from the cannabis plant. It causes the “high effect”, and is federally regulated in the U.S, yet is legal in Canada for recreational and medicinal use, and also in some US states.

Hemp has higher levels of CBD, and low levels of THC. For hemp to be classified as such, it has to contain only 0.3% of THC. Hemp was made federally legal in the US through the Farm Bill in 2018.

Does CBD Have Side Effects?

Cannabidiol has minimal side effects when it’s a high-quality, and purchased from a reputable CBD pet brand.  If there are any side effects, CBD may make your furry best friend drowsy.

That said, it is usually well-tolerated in most pets. With new CBD pet product lines geared toward healing and nurturing, the use of CBD oil-based products for dogs has become more extensive with product lines adding CBG, CBD, CBN and CBA.

These all work together to reduce anxiety, reduce bacteria, help with skin problems and hot spots, reduce pain, and provide numerous other positive benefits for dogs. 

Today, pet CBD brands have extended CBD lines to include transdermal patches, CBD shampoos and conditioners, capsules, tinctures, edibles like gummies, treats, and more.

There are also CBD waters, lotions, sprays, and balms to help improve your dog’s everyday life and to also help achieve optimal health and wellness without the use of traditional pharmaceuticals that may have side effects.

That said, you’re going to need to speak to your veterinarian to discuss the best veterinary care options for your dog. This may include using both CBD and prednisone since CBD as of yet, does not seem to interact with other medications.

There is still plenty of ongoing research today. Keep in mind that with pain comes anxiety, because your furry best friend is not feeling well. He may also not sleep well because of his pain, or he may have a lack of appetite.

Cannabidiol for pets helps to promote appetite, and also helps with digestive issues.

CBD for Inflammation

Recent studies have demonstrated how this natural supplement helps reduce pain and inflammation. CBD oils for dogs are made for pain-relief, as well as to maintain optimal pet health. Look for USDA certified hemp that is organically grown in Colorado. 

U.S CBD oil is more concentrated, and specifically targets dogs that may benefit from a higher CBD dose. It’s necessary to read the potency and dosage instructions carefully because all CBD products are different.

What Does Research Tell Us About CBD

A recent 2019 study adds that CBD and other cannabinoids will interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, and carry messages throughout the body.

The study from the American Society of Microbiology explains that "Given cannabidiol's documented anti-inflammatory effects, existing safety data in humans, and potential for varied delivery routes, it is a promising new antibiotic worth further investigation.

The combination of inherent antimicrobial activity and potential to reduce damage caused by the inflammatory response to infections is particularly attractive," via Science Daily.

Also, the study adds that “Importantly, the drug retained its activity against bacteria that have become highly resistant to other common antibiotics. Under extended exposure conditions that lead to resistance against vancomycin or daptomycin, Cannabidiol did not lose effectiveness. Cannabidiol was also effective at disrupting biofilms, a physical form of bacteria growth that leads to difficult-to-treat infections.”

Cannabidiol may help to ease pain, anxiety, seizures, as well as a host of other health conditions in dogs, cats, horses, and people. It has also been shown to be beneficial in reducing cancer treatment side effects in pets, stimulate appetite, and reduce the growth of blood vessels to tumors.

Right now, we now that CBD reduces seizure activity after the FDA approval of Epidiolex for two rare seizure disorders. 

Additionally, cannabidiol that is hemp- derived is extremely rich in natural compounds like terpenes and flavonoids. A common terpene, Limonene, has been shown to be cancer fighting.

Flavonoids like luteolin and kaempferol that are also found in hemp disrupt cancer cells, so it’s good to look out for these when purchasing CBD products

A key to maintaining optimal pet health is regular veterinary care, a high-quality diet, and daily exercise. Moving forward, consult with your holistic veterinarian as to whether a combination of CBD and traditional meds may be an option for your dog.

We know that CBD oils acts as a pain reliever for dogs, yet more testing still needs to be done as to long term effects. That said, the most important thing that you can do when purchasing a CBD oil for your dog is to check the ingredients and dosage.

Ask for the certificate of analysis (COA), and learn more about the product by visiting the brand’s website. Quality is always paramount when it comes to choosing a CBD oil for your dog. 

Prednisone for Dogs Author Bio

"Sam Shaw is a health and wellness guest contributor and entrepreneur from Los Angeles. He loves to write about all things sustainability, holistic health, and pet wellness. Learn more here.

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About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with Poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Beagles, English Bulldogs, Carin Terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

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