15 Remarkable Prednisone Side Effects in Dogs

Prednisone side effects in dogs vary.  They depend on the dosage given and the length of time the dog is expected to continue on them.  Some of the short-term side-effects in dogs include increased thirst, hunger, panting, and loss of energy.

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Prednisone is a steroid used to decrease inflammation in mast cell tumors.  In fact, it’s used to treat a wide variety of conditions as you’ll see further on in this post.  Dog owners have strong opinions on whether prednisone helps or hinders their dog’s health.

Increased appetite is one of the potential prednisone side effects in dogs. However, this could be a good thing for sick dogs experiencing weight loss and lack of appetite.

There is one big Prednisone side effect in dogs that people fear, and that is immune-suppression. In this post, you’ll discover why these drugs are created to suppress the immune system.  You’ll also get a chance to review the side-effects in more detail.

Short-Term Prednisone Side Effects in Dogs.

Prednisone is a synthetic steroid (corticosteroid) used to treat inflammatory conditions in low dosages and act to suppress the immune response in high dosages.

Prednisone side effects in dogs vary from the most common to the most severe and rare.  Most dogs will only experience the mild and more common side effects listed below.

1. Increased Hunger

I’ve read countless articles from scientific journals and haven’t been able to tease out exactly how prednisone (or other drugs) cause the feeling of hunger. 

Prednisone is just one drug of many that cause an increase in hunger signals. 

My educated (layman’s) guess would be that there is a correlation between the increase in blood sugar and hormones that signal hunger.

2. Increased Blood Sugar

Increased blood sugar is one of the prednisone side effects in dogs.  This is dangerous in dogs with diabetes. 

If your dog was on the cusp of getting diabetes (whether there were symptoms or not), he/she may develop the disease while on prednisone.  If your dog has already been diagnosed with diabetes, the veterinarian will likely look for alternative options.

3. Increased Thirst

Water should be readily available to dogs on prednisone.  The increase in blood sugar stimulates sugar secretion by the liver. High blood sugar strains the kidneys and forces frequent urination.

Frequent drinking and urination crease a vicious cycle.  Make sure your dog has access to fresh water at all times.

If you’re interested in alternatives to prednisone, make sure to watch this video!

4. Terrible Panting

One of the more common prednisone side effects in dogs is abnormal panting.  Again, it was hard to find any hard science on why this happens.

I’m not a veterinarian.  If you’re very interested in more scientifically detailed information on this topic, I suggest asking your veterinarian for some resources. 

I suspect (again, I have no medical background) that most prednisone side effects in dogs relate to the suppression of the immune system and the increase in blood sugar.

5. Increased Urination

Dogs on prednisone need to take bathroom breaks more often. The increase in thirst leads to more water intake which, of course, leads to increased urination.

6. Decreased Energy

Sleepiness or decreased energy is a side effect of prednisone.  In some cases, a reduction in dosage might help. 

Ask your veterinarian if these symptoms clear up over time or get worse.

7. Prednisone Side Effects in Dogs Can Cause More Infections

Prednisone suppresses the adrenal glands.  The adrenal glands are responsible for secreting hormones (from the red and white blood cells) that help the body fight infection.

8. Vomiting & Nausea 

Unfortunately, prednisone can cause your dog to feel sick.  Some prednisone side effects in dogs will get better over time.  Ideally, the veterinarian won’t keep your dog on prednisone for the long-term.

REMEMBER:  It’s important to maintain follow-up appointments so the veterinarian can monitor for side effects and adjust dosage if necessary.

Dogs are prescribed prednisone for various reasons, including:

Anaphylactic shock (allergic reactions)

Anemia 

Thrombocytopenia 

Central Nervous System Disorders 

Neoplasia

Skin Diseases

Endocrine Disorders (Cushings, for example)

Respiratory and Bowel Diseases (Inflammatory)

Special thanks to Loved at Last Dog Rescue, British Columbia, for the following photo.  

Prednisone side effects in dogs
Prednisone side effects in dogs include sleepiness.

Potentially Dangerous Long-Term Prednisone Side Effects in Dogs

9. Urinary Tract Infections

30% of dogs on long-term prednisone get more urinary tract infections.  

READ THIS POST BY THE AVMA:  Your Dog’s Medications

10. Bad Skin

Prednisone (long-term) can cause thinning of the skin along with other dermatological issues.

11. Non-Healing Wounds

The immune-suppressing function of prednisone can create problems where wounds are unable to heal.  When this happens, a serious secondary infection can occur.

12. Mange, Fungal Infections, & Plaque

The adrenal glands play a big role in secreting the hormones that activate the immune system. Without it, a dog’s body can’t find things like mange. He/she may develop fungal infections.  Your dog can also develop hard plaques or spots on the skin.

13.  Obesity

Increased hunger is one of the short-term prednisone side effects in dogs.  The increase in calories over time can cause weight gain.

14. Cushing’s Disease (Medically Induced)

Signs of Cushing’s Disease include a sagging belly (pot belly), increased urination, increased thirst, skin and ear infections.

15. Muscle Weakness/Breakdown

When a dog is on prednisone for a long time, the muscles weaken.  This can happen as a result of a secondary (medically induced) condition such as Cushing’s. 

Muscle weakness can also occur directly as a result of prednisone. 

How to Wean Your Dog off of Prednisone

Medications like prednisone can cause serious withdrawal if stopped suddenly. This is especially true if your dog has been on them for a long time.

Weaning your dog off of prednisone should only be done with the veterinarian’s guidance. 

Pet owners should always bring pets for follow up appointments and following weaning instructions carefully. 

Reducing prednisone too quickly can cause:

Joint pain

Body aches

Nausea and extreme fatigue.

Supplement Alternatives to Prednisone in Dogs

Again, I’m not a veterinarian.  There are plenty of sites dedicated to alternative supplements for dogs.  I don’t feel confident enough to promote any of them; however, that doesn’t mean they don’t work. 

If you are considering weaning your dog off of prednisone, you might want to talk to a holistic veterinarian.  He/she will be much more educated on alternative therapies and the safety factor.

THAT’S IT!

I’m not a veterinarian and I always suggest discussing medications and/or your dog’s health condition with your own licensed veterinarian.

The most common side-effects in dogs taking prednisone seem to be panting, extra thirst, and increased hunger.   It’s up to you to discuss the pros and cons of prednisone with the veterinarian.

I think it’s fair to say that most veterinarians would prefer to see a short course of prednisone.  There are lots of reasons why a longer-term approach is necessary.   In that case, talk about the expected outcomes and what to look for in terms of more serious side effects.

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About Lisa Theriault

Lisa Theriault wants you to know right up front that she is not a veterinarian. None of the articles/posts on this website are meant to take the place of veterinarian care. That said, Lisa has had a lifetime of experience dealing with dogs and plans on further education on dog anatomy and canine massage. In the meantime, Lisa's posts are all professionally researched and carefully crafted. The last thing she wants is to do or say anything that would hurt your dog. Stay tuned for more updates to Lisa's bio.