Steroids For Dogs – Prednisone Usage & Its Effects

dog being treated at the vet office

Prednisone (and Prednisolone, we’ll talk about the difference in just a bit) are FDA approved steroids that are used to reduce inflammation in the body and treat a handful of diseases and illnesses, both for pets and humans alike.

Prednisone should only be given by the right people who know what they are doing (which is, most of the times, your veterinarian) and for just the right amount of time, or else serious prednisone side effects in dogs will take place.

Before you even think about giving your dog prednisone for any reason, you have to read this article to know how to do it the right way, if you care for your dog’s life that is!



Why Would A Vet Prescribe Prednisolone Over Prednisone For Dogs?

If your dog happens to have liver problems [1], chances are your veterinarian will prescribe Prednisolone for your dog rather than Prednisone.

Why so?

When dogs take prednisone, it will be converted by their liver into prednisolone.

But, dogs who have liver problems cannot convert prednisone into prednisolone properly, which is why they’re given prednisolone in the first place to skip the need for conversion.

Prednisolone also offers an advantage over prednisone, as it can be taken by an injection or can be applied to your dog’s skin, while prednisone can only be taken orally.

What Is Prednisone Used For In Dogs?

Here are some of the illnesses and diseases Prednisone helps cure your dog from:

  • Addison’s disease [2], where they provide the necessary glucocorticoids for treatment that their bodies can’t manufacture on their own.
  • Autoimmune diseases (such as Lupus and AIHA) where the body stops manufacturing antibodies, which leaves the immune system very weak and unable to fight infections
  • Shock
  • Nervous system disorders (most importantly of which is the central nervous system disorder)
  • Crohn’s disease, (an inflammatory bowel disease)pill bottle
  • Allergic reactions
  • Asthma
  • Excessive and unhealthy calcium levels in the blood
  • Kidney disease
  • Skin disease and itchy skin
  • Arthritis (Most importantly of which is Rheumatoid Arthritis)
  • Shock, thanks to the improved circulation they give to your dog’s body
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Swelling
  • Eye problems, such as redness of the eye, itching, and possible allergic reactions

How Can You Give Your Dog Prednisone?

So, how exactly can dogs take Prednisone?

The answer is, and obviously enough, exactly the way your veterinarian tells you.

Prednisone is often taken by mouth, so you should try to feed your dog something while they take the medicine to avoid having your dog get stomach aches.

Before you even attempt to give Prednisone for your dog, get in contact with your veterinarian about it, and ask them any questions you might have in mind.

What Is The Proper Prednisone Dosage For Dogs?

First off, the exact dosage that your dog should take should be determined by a professional and nothing short of one, or else you risk having your dog develop very serious (and even potentially deadly) side effects.

This is why your veterinarian is your best go-to person in this case.

The exact prednisone dosage dogs should take is determined by many factors, most importantly of which are your dog’s age, size, weight and at what stage the disease in your dog’s body is currently at.

Your veterinarian will also tell you that prednisone should not be given to dogs for more than 7 days straight, because it can lead to dependency in their system. This can cause them to experience withdrawal symptoms and have a harder time weaning off the steroid.

Most of the time, the course of treatment requires you to kick it off at a high dose and slowly decrease it with time.

However, and I’ll say this again due to how important it is, the only person that can give you exact, reliable measures when it comes to Prednisone for dogs dosages and treatment plan is a professional (such as your veterinarian).

dog getting treated by vet

Here are some dosage guidelines that should give you a general overview of the big picture:

  • Dogs being newly treated from adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s disease) require a dosage of 0.05 – 0.18 mg/lb, once a day, until improvements start to happen. As soon as the issue is under control and improvements start to happen, your veterinarian will require that you slowly start to decrease the dosage, all the way to reach a maintenance level dosage, which can be as small as 0.009 mg/lb.
  • Dogs being newly treated from allergies require a starting dose of 0.25 mg/lb once a day, all the way up to 1 mg/lb a day (evenly divided throughout the day) in case improvement is not noticed. Once your canine’s condition improves, you’ll be able to slowly decrease the daily dosage of Prednisone you give them.

Here are some important notes you must always keep in mind when giving your dog Prednisone:

  • You must strive to never miss any doses of Prednisone. Set a certain schedule that will make it as easy as possible for you to follow through will the treatment course.
  • In case you realized that missed one dose (and please try not to), try to give your dog the dose as soon as possible. The sooner, the better.
  • If you realize that you missed a dose too late and it’s almost time for the second dose, skip the dose you missed, don’t try to make up for it and continue with your regular schedule. The last thing you want to do is to give your dog two doses of Prednisone at the same time.
  • You should give your dog the Prednisone the same time every day.

After you see significant improvement in your dog’s condition (and your veterinarian confirms the improvement is there), it’s extremely important that you gradually decrease the dosage you give your dog, all the way to a stop, instead of just stopping the treatment all of a sudden and cutting the dosage out of the blue, which will cause Addison’s disease in your dog and put them at a great risk of getting a heart attack.

Signs Of Prednisone Overdose In Dogs

If your dog overdoses on prednisone, you should immediately get them to the closest emergency care center possible.

Dogs are unlikely to overdose on one, big dose of prednisone they take all at once. They are likely to overdose on prednisone if they take big doses over a certain period of time.

Here are some symptoms of prednisone overdose in dogs:

  • Weight gain
  • Heavy pantingsick dog laying down
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Excessive urination
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Cushing’s syndrome [3].
  • Itching
  • Seizures
  • Decreased hearing
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Increased blood pressure.

When Should Prednisone For Dogs Not Be Given?

Not all dogs are safe to be treated with prednisone.

Here are some of the cases where your’re best off avoiding giving your dog prednisone:

  • Prednisone can lead to abortion if given to pregnant dogs
  • If your dog is breeding
  • If a dog which is less than 6 months of age is given Prednisone, this medicine could be damaging to their body.
  • If your dog has an infections, because Prednisone will weaken your dog’s immune system and diminish their ability of fighting the infection
  • If your dog has diopathic thrombocytopenic purpura [4]
  • If your dog has diabetes
  • If your dog has heart problems
  • If your dog is being treated from a certain illness with vaccines
  • If your dog has mites

Safety Notes

Here are some of the best practices you can do if you want to start a course of treatment for your dog with prednisone:

  • Inform your veterinarian of any medication or supplements your dog currently takes
  • Inform your veterinarian of any medical conditions your dog currently suffers from (such as kidney disease liver disease, heart problems, stomach ulcers, hypothyroidism or diabetes)
  • Keep the prednisone stored in a firmly closed container at room temperature

If you don’t talk to your veterinarian about current medications

vet hugging dog

you’re giving your dog, and start a course of treatment with Prednisone without making sure that the two won’t conflict, you risk having your dog contemplate:

  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomache pain
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue and lethargy.

What Are The Side Effects Of Prednisone In Dogs?

During the course of treatment with prednisone, and if there’s something wrong that needs to be revised, your canine might experience some of the following symptoms (call your veterinarian immediately if you notice any of these prednisone side effects in dogs):

  • Greatly increased thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Weakness and lethargy
  • Increased sleeping and decreased physical activity
  • Wounds they get require more time to heal
  • Increase in apetite
  • Infections
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in some behaviors, such as aggression (these will be very obvious if you know your dog well)
  • Short breath
  • Blood in stool
  • Coughing out blood
  • Irregular heartbeat (this is very important for you to notice, because if left untreated it could lead to a heart attack)
  • Stomach pain
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Allergic reactions
  • Tongue swelling
  • Lips swelling
  • Face swelling
  • Weight gain

Learn more about the effects of Prednisone on your pup by watching this video!


1. Disorders of the Liver and Gallbladder in Dogs By Sharon A. Center , BS, DVM, DACVIM, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University

2. Addison’s Disease’s-disease

3. An ethicist’s commentary on the dog with Cushing’s syndrome

4. Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia (ITP) in Dogs


  1. My small dog (miniature dachshund) was diagnosed with a large tumour in her belly. I did not want to put her through surgery, so she was put on prednisone. She’s been on it for over a year. Awhile ago, she started limping (a front leg) and once again, the vet wanted to do an x-ray to see if it had to do with the kidneys. I refused it. My dog is almost 14 and she seems to be very happy, doesn’t seem to be in pain, but I have a friend who thinks she shouldn’t be on prednisone. My understanding is that the prednisone is to keep the tumour from getting larger. What is your opinion from what I’ve told you?

    • Actually, prednisone slows down (weakens) the immune system, so cancer is *more* likely to grow without the addition of surgery (removal) or chemo (to shrink). In your dog’s case, the tumor is growing, but the surrounding areas are prevented from becoming too inflamed, which would hasten symptoms and shorten survival rate. If you aren’t treating the cancer, than the steroid is to help minimize her related inflammation and help retard any pain/discomfort that may eventually come. Hope for the best – like a very slow-growing cancer.

      My heart goes out to you and your little girl. Mine is a toy poodle and 16 years old with a tumor/mass or infection in her brain now, after being diagnosed with kidney disease two years ago (yay for stable kidneys!). Darla is my little miracle that I, my husband, and her miniature poodle ‘brother’ appreciate every day…until the very dark day she asks me to go…or goes without ado. I will always carry her in my heart, as the saying goes.

  2. I am experiencing the same situation with my 14 year old she as well began limping on front leg. My vet recommends lowering dose to see if it helps.

    • My dog (who is 13 now) used to limp on one front leg for a couple years. I started giving her Canna Pet (CBD) and she completely stopped limping. That was over a year ago. Just found out she has lymphoma. The symptoms (vomiting and diarrhea) came on about 1 -2 weeks after I stopped giving her Canna Pet because we ran out, and the site to order Canna Pet was temporarily closed. I absolutely believe this stuff helped her joints, and may have even helped keep cancer at bay. We have more Canna pet now and also Canna Companion that i found while looking for more Canna Pet. Am using it while she is being treated for cancer with steroids and chemo which we started two days ago after learning about the cancer, but I have since decided we probably won’t do chemo, even though I do believe it is not necessarily a bad choice. The steroids have given her an appetite back for now. I know it is temporary. I know the vets don’t condone the CBD, how can it be any worse than any of the other drugs she would get.

    • My dalmatian, Molly, was on prednisone almost all her life due to huge allergy problems. We tried everything else first, even a specialist with desensitizing shots. Prednisone was the final resort. I’ve got it online to save $$. It was my friend, who suggested I try to find Prednisone for dog online. He said just search in Google for this keyword “MYPRE4DOG” to find a reliable source.

  3. My 14 yr old girl is on Prednisone since sudden IVDD 5 months ago. She has developed some of but not all of the symptoms of Cushing’s disease. The possibly enlarged liver has me worried. I cannot afford the blood work required to diagnose it, but I’m wondering if it is the ianogenic Cushing’s that tapering off the Prednisone might be all she needs.

  4. i moved and had to take my 16 yr. old lhasa apso to a new vet for an ear infection issue. i explained that it was chronic and that antibiotics/steriods had been given previously and could no longer be used as a treatment for her. i was given prednisone and drops that smelled like it was kerosene to put in her ears. immediately following the first treatment, she began to itch uncontrollably. it has been over a week now and it has not stopped. she has numerous hot spots now and is going nuts with the non stop itching. what can i do?

    • My dog had ear infections for awhile, it was on and off. Now he’s all recovered and no more episodes. What I did was cleaning his ears everyday until his ears are all clean. I mixed some vinegar with water and rubbing alcohol.. and use a q-tip to clean it. Then sometimes I also use this natural ear cleaner containing tea tree oil and chamomile oil and using q-tip to dap some and wipe around his outer ear. They’re very effective.

  5. So I have a 6 1/2 month old Chihuahua who so far has been diagnosed with chronic rhinitis. I think there’s more going on but unfortunately I cannot afford the $2000 needed for a rhinoscopy. He looks miserable and has turned from my sweet loving boy into a very painful little meanie. I was told by a specialist that prednisone could help with the inflamation. We are going to start sometime this week and see what happens unless someone can give me a better reason not too….

    • Nat. My dog has been weaned off prednisone for 2 weeks and has now got swollen hot joints on all 4 legs. Blood and urine tests show nothing, I think it’s prednisone but the vet doesn’t think so. He is now on a course of water tabs, but no improvement yet

    • I was talked into a rhinscopy by this idiot vet I went to and the poor dog went through all of that plus the drops he prescribed (which in the end killed her). The whole problem with her as my old vet told me was an abscessed tooth which had previously been removed. I jut had gotten the poor little girl from a lady going into assisted living. The poor little thing must have suffered for ever with that tooth.

  6. Don’t put your dog through chemo you might want the extra year to two years but chemo is supper painful for dogs just let him/her Rest In Peace when you start to feel like he’s in pain. You just have to think about how many dogs go through chemo and it just makes it worse. Rarely will it kill the cancer… my dog only 8 years old just got diagnosed with lythomia and they say that is the cancer that is most curable but I’m not gonna risk putting my buddy through pain. Good luck I’m still trying to let this sit in very sad..

    • Hey man got a 12 yr old sharpei boxer mix with mast cell tumor on the side of his head below his ear. Supposed to have surgery a month ago but the vet decided she was unqualified to do the surgery after the fact they had him shaved and knocked out on the surgery table with me waiting anxiously to hear from them. $2400 dollars for a haircut is a little extreme as it now grows larger by the day. I gave my buddy 20mg of Prednisone last night and again just a lil while ago. This morning it had significantly reduced the swelling and inflammation and size of the cursed thing. Seeing as the vet left me high and dry I have little other choice at this point than to try this. I’m having a hard time trying to rationalize the situation and am praying for a miracle. God bless all you others out there looking for solutions to and your own best friends. My heart weeps for my dog in a way I have never felt and I have owned all my life. Godspeed all.

      • If the vet did nothing she needs to refund your money. I would for sure go after her. Secondly my dog had two mast cell tumors which were removed two different times and he is doing very well. They were on his stomach and chest. The first vet I went to did not remove all of it and when I said something his reply was well we can do another surgery. Well up his. I immediately went in line and left numerous bad reviews. What an ahole. Anyway u really should go to another good vet and let them take a look before u self medicate.

  7. I have 8 yr old bulldog on 20mg of prednisone for inflammation of the brain. She stays awake all night and pants heavy and heartbeat is way fast. Is this a side effect should I be worried

  8. My 13 year old Bichon had ACL surgery. She was in horrific pain for 3 weeks and under close supervision of several specialists. It wasn’t until they gave her steroids (prednisone) that she immediately felt better. Hard to understand why they waited so long.


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