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15 Remarkable Prednisone Side Effects in Dogs

Medically reviewed by Dr. Sara Ohoa, DVM

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.

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

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

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.

4. Panting

Some dogs may begin to pant more than normal.

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.

Prednisone is used to treat inflammation

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)

9. Urinary Tract Infections

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

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.

Talk to Someone About Prednisone Side-Effects Right Now

 It’s one thing to read a post about Prednisone side-effects and another to actually ask a veterinarian. If you’re like me, you probably worry about how much the visit is going to cost and whether it’s worth making an appointment.

We all want our dogs to be happy and healthy, but we also don’t want to spend money that isn’t necessary, take a drive that isn’t warranted, or take up someone else’s spot at the veterinarian (possibly someone who needs it more).

Get an Instant Medical Opinion

Naturally, if your dog is showing obvious signs of distress/illness, get him/her to the veterinarian asap.

If your dog seem fine but you have a few questions to ask, why not use the Vetster app?

I was scared to hit the “book an appointment” button!

At first, I was afraid to press the “schedule an appointment” button because I didn’t know if I would be charged money.

I wasn’t charged a thing! In fact, when you click the button to book an appointment, it provides you with a list of veterinarians to choose from!

Here’s a quick tip:

Go in to Vetster and set up a free account right away. There’s no subscription fee. Setting up an account is just a good way to be ahead of the game in case you need to talk to a veterinarian ASAP.

Licensed Veterinarians

I make no secret about not being a veterinarian. That’s why I wanted to share this service with you. You’ve got nothing to lose.

The service will pull veterinarians from your area to choose from.

Appointments are done online. It gives you a chance to ask a simple question without the need to get in the car, fill up the gas tank, find a parking spot, and then wait in a room until you can get in.

The Fees/Cost

When you scroll through the list of veterinarians, you will see what they charge. Some are less expensive than others. Most are well under the price you’d pay to walk into an urban veterinarian clinic!!

Get a Medical Opinion Right Now

Just go in and set up your free account. Click the Book Appointment button and scroll through all of the veterinarian options that pop up.

Each veterinarian lists their particular services and what they can offer.


Summing It Up

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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