What are Prednisone and Prednisolone?
Prednisone and Prednisolone are glucocorticoid medications that are prescribed for many uses including reducing inflammation, suppressing the immune system, treating some types of cancer, and as a replacement when the body is not making enough glucocorticoid on its own. They can be beneficial in treating many diseases and disorders but should be given at the lowest effective dose for the shortest time period possible to reduce the chances of adverse effects.
How They Work
Prednisone and prednisolone are medications that mimic the activity of a naturally occurring hormone produced in the adrenal cortex called cortisol. Glucocorticoids act on almost every part of the body and have a wide range of effects including reducing inflammation, suppressing the immune system, inhibiting healing, altering mood, stimulating appetite, increasing the secretion of gastric acid, weakening muscles, thinning the skin, and more.
In your pet’s liver, prednisone is converted to prednisolone. Pets with severe liver problems are not able to make this conversion effectively, and many veterinarians believe that these pets should only be given prednisolone. Cats also have a limited ability to convert prednisone into prednisolone, so prednisolone is the preferred medication in this species.
Store in a tightly sealed container at room temperature.
Prednisone and Prednisolone Dosage in Dogs and Cats
The correct dosage of prednisone and prednisolone depends on the condition being treated and how the patient responds to the medication. A rule of thumb for dosing prednisone and prednisolone is to use as much as is required but as little as possible to achieve the desired effect. Pets should also be weaned off of prednisone as soon as their condition allows. When dogs and cats have to be on prednisone for an extended period of time, giving the medication every other day or even less frequently if possible can reduce the chances of serious side effects. Common dosages for prednisone and prednisolone in dogs in cats are
- 0.5 mg/lb for anti-inflammatory effects
- 1 mg/lb to suppress the immune system (cats may require even higher doses)
What to Do If You Miss a Dose
It is important that you do not miss any doses of this drug and you should give it at about the same time at even intervals. If you do miss a dose, give the dose as soon as possible. If it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose, and continue with the regular schedule. Do not give the pet two doses at once.
Short-Term Side Effects of Prednisone and Prednisolone
The short-term use of prednisone or prednisolone does not often result in serious side effects in dogs and cats. However, the following signs can be seen when dogs (less so cats) receive even just a few doses of these medications:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Increased appetite
These side effects should fade when a pet is weaned off of prednisone or if the dose is reduced.
Long-Term Side Effects of Prednisone and Prednisolone
When pets have to be on prednisone or prednisolone at high doses and/or for long periods of time the risk of significant side effects like the following rises.
- An increased risk of infection
- Altered behavior, including aggression
- Inhibited growth in young pets
- Development or worsening of diabetes
- Cushing’s disease
- Ulceration of the digestive tract
- Delayed healing
Potential Drug Reactions with Prednisone and Prednisolone
Prednisone/Prednisolone may react with many different drugs, including:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Etogesic, Metacam, Previcox, Novocox, Vetprofen, and aspirin
- Other steroid medications
Vaccines may be less effective or result in infections when pets are on high doses of prednisone or prednisolone. In general, vaccination should be delayed whenever possible. Prednisone and prednisolone should be used with caution in pregnant pets and pets with diabetes.