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Prednisolone Dosage and Precautions: Safely Administering to Dogs

what is prednisolone used for dogs

Prednisolone, a synthetic glucocorticoid, is known in veterinary medicine for its potent anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties. Prednisolone works by mimicking the effects of cortisol, a naturally occurring steroid hormone, thereby reducing inflammation and suppressing the immune system’s overactive responses. It differs from another glucocorticoid with a similar name, prednisone, which can be prescribed to treat similar conditions. However, dogs with unhealthy livers have trouble converting prednisone into its active form, which is prednisolone. Given the benefits of prednisolone, it has made the list as one of our most popularly dispensed medications in recent years, including in 2023 and 2022.

What is Prednisolone Used for in Dogs?

You may prescribe prednisolone to treat numerous conditions in dogs, including:

  • Allergic Reactions: Effective in managing atopic dermatitis, food allergies, and flea allergies by reducing inflammation and suppressing the immune response.
  • Autoimmune Diseases: Helps control autoimmune hemolytic anemia, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis by inhibiting the overactive immune system.
  • Inflammatory Conditions: Reduces inflammation in conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and arthritis.
  • Respiratory Issues: Decreases airway inflammation for conditions such as asthma and bronchitis.
  • Neurological Disorders: Treats conditions like intervertebral disc disease and spinal cord inflammation by reducing swelling and pressure on nerves.

Prednisolone is generally not recommended for use in treating viral or fungal infections in dogs. In fact, its immunosuppressive properties can make these infections worse. By suppressing the immune system, prednisolone can hinder the body's ability to fight off infections, allowing them to spread more rapidly and become more severe.

What is the Dosage for Prednisolone in Dogs?

The dosage of prednisolone varies based on the condition being treated, the dog’s weight, and its overall health. For example, allergies or general anti-inflammatory issues typically only require a low dosage of 0.5 mg/kg to 1 mg/kg of the dog’s weight once per day. Treating an autoimmune disease may require a higher dose of 2-4 mg/kg of the dog’s weight once per day. It may be appropriate for some dogs to take a dose twice daily 12 hours apart, depending on the severity of their condition. It is advised to start with the lowest dose possible

What are the Side Effects of Prednisolone in Dogs?

When prescribing prednisolone for dogs, it’s essential to do regular blood work to monitor liver function and glucose levels. The drug can cause liver failure if combined with NSAIDs. Additionally, high doses can greatly increase a dog’s blood sugar levels. You should also evaluate potential interactions with certain antibiotics before prescribing prednisolone.

It is also important for veterinarians to monitor dogs on prednisolone for infections. As mentioned before, its immunosuppressive effects makes dogs more susceptible to developing infections. It can also cause the dog’s current infections to get worse, so you should generally avoid its use in dogs with active infections or diseases.

While a dog is taking prednisolone, keep an eye out for these side effects:

  • Increased Thirst and Urination: Instruct owners to monitor their dog’s water intake and provide frequent bathroom breaks. Low-sodium diets can help manage water retention.
  • Increased Appetite and Weight Gain: Educate owners on how to implement a balanced diet to help manage their dog’s weight.
  • Behavioral Changes: Observe the dog for signs of restlessness or aggression.
  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Watch for vomiting or diarrhea and suggest supportive care as needed. Prednisolone can irritate a dog’s GI tract.
  • Urinary Tract Infections: This can happen in up to 30% of dogs on this medication. Consider taking occasional urine cultures to test for this over time.

Other side effects from long-term use of prednisolone include thinning of skin, muscle weakness, hard spots on the skin, and a predisposition to diabetes. In some cases, dogs can develop a medication-induced Cushing’s Disease from prednisolone. 

If a dog’s condition improves or they do not tolerate prednisolone, it is critical to taper the medication to avoid an abrupt withdrawal. When a dog is on prednisolone for an extended period, the adrenal glands reduce their natural cortisol production due to the external supply. Abruptly stopping prednisolone can leave the dog's body without enough cortisol, leading to symptoms such as weakness, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and even collapse. 

How to Administer Prednisolone to Dogs

Veterinarians can utilize a compounding pharmacy, such as Mixlab, to provide prednisolone in whichever form will be best tolerated by a specific canine patient. This includes adding flavors to ensure successful administration—including popular ones like bacon and chicken.

For dogs that are difficult to medicate, you can also share these strategies with their owners:

  • Try a New Form: Order prednisolone from a compounding pharmacy in capsules, tablets, liquids, chews, or in transdermal form, depending on the dog’s preference.
  • Pill Pockets: Hide tablets in tasty treats.
  • Mix with Food: Crush tablets or mix liquid in with a small amount of food.
  • Direct Administration: For cooperative dogs, administer directly by placing the liquid or tablet at the back of their tongue.

It is important to note that prednisolone should be used with caution in pregnant or lactating dogs. It can cross the placenta and be excreted in milk, affecting fetuses and nursing puppies. Its use in pregnant or lactating dogs should be limited to cases where the benefits outweigh the risks. If used, you should monitor the dog closely and consider alternative treatments if possible.

Prescribing Prednisolone for Dogs? Try the Convenience of Mixlab

Mixlab can tailor medications, including prednisolone, to specific flavors and forms that are easier for dogs to take. You can submit a prescription online through eMix or contact us directly via phone call, text, email, or fax. After that, we’ll make sure your client completes their order through our mobile-friendly checkout link and gets their medication quickly. We’re here to help prescribers save time while providing an exceptional experience for patients.