Prednisone Side Effects in Dogs

Prednisone is a corticosteroid that can be used to treat conditions and diseases such as asthma, allergies and arthritis. However, when prescribing this medication, the prednisone side effects should also be considered, as these may cause a lot of damage if administered as a long term treatment.

Uses of Prednisone

Among the synthetic corticosteroids, prednisone is one of the most widely used and most effective drugs. Prednisone is an immunity suppressor that also has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.

The most common uses of prednisone include:

  • Endocrine diseases
  • Asthma and other respiratory disorders
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • Discoid lupus
  • Leukemia
  • Allergies
  • Anemia
  • Arthritis
  • Skin irritations such as hives
  • Anaphylactic shock

Prednisone may be replaced by prednisolone or hydrocortisone.

Prednisone Side Effects

Dogs that get prednisone as a short term treatment (i.e. 1 to 4 weeks) may not experience any side effects. However, if the treatment is lengthy, prednisone may cause a number of side effects, including:

  • Immunity suppression, which makes the dog more susceptible to infections; the immune system cannot protect the dog, so his health must be carefully monitored and secondary diseases must be treated as soon as they occur
  • Increased appetite, that leads to weight gain
  • Increased thirst and more frequent urination
  • Water retention, caused by the sodium in the salt, in case the dog has a diet rich in salts
  • Fluid in the stomach
  • Myocardial arrest
  • Oily skin, which may be due to hormonal imbalance
  • Coarse hair, unhealthy looking coat
  • Sudden aggressiveness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Kidney problems
  • Ulcers, stomach problems
  • Colitis
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Hypertension


Prednisone should not be prescribed for canines with stomach problems such as ulcers or for dogs with systemic fungal infections.

Puppies under the age of 6 months, pregnant or lactating mothers must stay away from prednisone or other corticosteroids, as prednisone slows down the immune system and its function is essential in these times.

Prednisone Dosage

Prednisone can be given orally, intravenously, cutaneously or intra-articularly.

Prednisone should be administered according to each disease in part; when it is used as an analgesic or anti-inflammatory, a low daily dose is sufficient.

If prednisone is used as an immunity suppressor (i.e. for systemic lupus erythematosus) the drug should be given in higher doses and for a long period of time.

When the treatment has made its effect, the prednisone administration shouldn’t be discontinued abruptly. This may lead to hormonal imbalance; the treatment should be prescribed in alternative days and steadily decreased until the dosage is low enough and can be discontinued.

Prednisone is an efficient synthetic corticosteroid, but when administered in high doses and over a long period of time, the treatment may have numerous side effects, the most serious being the suppression of immunity and susceptibility to diseases. For this reason, you need to consider alternative treatment options that have anti-inflammatory or analgesic effects. Unfortunately, certain diseases (lupus or SLE) don’t have alternative treatment options, so you need to minimize the side effects and make sure you keep secondary diseases under control.