Steroids are naturally produced in a dog’s body. The adrenal glands produce corticosteroids that help the animal’s body perform several functions such as reducing inflammation, and facilitating carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism. Sometimes veterinarians prescribe steroids to treat inflammation or allergic reactions. In high doses they can be used to suppress the immune system.
Understanding Prednisone Side Effects in Dogs
Usually the steroids that are medically administered are synthetic. As these steroids are very potent, it is important to monitor for side effects. Prednisone is one such steroid. Despite potential side effects, veterinarians will prescribe it when they believe that the benefits it offers the sick dog outweigh these potential risks.
Short Term Side Effects
Dogs may experience short term or long term effects of prednisone depending on the dose and duration of their treatment. Some short term side effects may include increased hunger, thirst and urination. Panting, lethargy, or vomiting may also be observed. Dogs taking prednisone may also develop or have worsening skin infections. If a dog displays these side effects, the veterinarian may change the dose or frequency of the prescribed steroid, which usually allows for these unwanted side effects to go away.
Long Term Side Effects
When the prednisone is given for a period of three months or more, long term side effects may be seen. For example, urinary tract infections may affect 3 out of 10 dogs who are being treated with prednisone.
With long term use of prednisone, dogs may also experience poor wound healing and muscle weakness. They may develop hard plaques or spots on their skin called calcinosis cutis. Due to increased hunger, dogs may develop a tendency for obesity. The dog may also be vulnerable to demodectic mange and fungal infections.
In rare cases the long term use of prednisone can cause iatrogenic Cushing’s disease. Some telltale signs of this condition include increased appetite, increased water consumption and urination, weight gain, pot-belly appearance, symmetrical hair loss, development of thinning and/or pigmented skin, and recurrent urinary, skin, and ear infections.
Veterinarians will advocate administering a minimum effective steroid dose to reduce these risks to your dog.
How to Deal with the Side Effects of Prednisone
It is imperative that you pay attention to the treatment and medication prescribed by the veterinarian. Usually corticosteroids are prescribed daily only during the initial phase of the treatment, and then steadily the dose and frequency are reduced. This is why if the doctor advises follow up visits, it is imperative that these appointments are made in a timely manner. If long term prednisone use is deemed necessary, blood and urine tests will be recommended every 6 months to monitor for potential side effects. If you observe any side effects of steroid use in your dog, do not abruptly stop administering this medication without consulting your veterinarian.
Prednisone is prescribed in cases where it would improve the animal’s quality of life and health. Even though this steroid can cause side effects, the benefits it offers are substantial.