What is Prednisone?
This steroid drug, usually prescribed in pill form, is used to reduce inflammation, redness and swelling in the body caused by auto-immune disorders, cancers and other diseases affecting the immune system. Prednisone is not a chemotherapy drug, but is used in conjunction with chemotherapy protocols to treat dog cancers such as mast cell cancer, lymphosarcoma and lymphoma. The dosage will vary depending on the disease being treated.
Prednisone works fast by decreasing the immune system’s response to inflammation and pain. It affects nearly every system in the body and should be used with extreme care, only when necessary and rarely for long-term use.
When to Take Prednisone
Recently Dr. Demian Dressler, author of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide, stated in this blog post that veterinary overuse of prednisone has given this class of cortisone drugs a bad rap. Many diseases can be better managed with less serious drugs, but some vets are too quick to reach for this fast-fix. Consequently, a significant number of dogs experience prednisone’s serious side effects when they really don’t need to.
While prednisone can cause serious side effects such as poor wound healing, thinning fur and skin and even diabetes or Cushing’s Disease, prednisone does provide many benefits, such as managing cancer’s side effects in dogs. However, prednisone should always be used with caution and only under direct veterinary supervision.
To reduce your dog’s risk of experiencing the downside of prednisone, always get a firm diagnosis of the condition you are trying to treat and ask your vet to give you a definite time-frame for starting and stopping treatment. You’ll also want to use the least potent form possible to alleviate symptoms.
What to Expect
Many dogs will experience insatiable thirst and frequent urination while taking prednisone. Since your dog will want to drink more water than usual, and in turn, urinate more often, give your dog the prednisone in the morning. Allow as much water as your dog wants, but adjust your schedule so that your dog can eliminate outside. To avoid nighttime indoor accidents, don’t hesitate to remove water a few hours before bedtime.
Your dog may be hungrier than usual. Keep your dog’s weight in check by only feeding healthy, low-cal treats such as green beans and celery inbetween meal times. Baby-proof your house; your dog may eat weird things that he normally wouldn’t.
A rarer but more serious side effect can include stomach ulcers and personality changes. Do not give your dog predinisone if she is also on an anti-inflammatory medication such as Rimadyl or aspirin. Watch for black tarry stools or vomiting, which can be signs of stomach ulceration. If you notice a severe personality change in your dog, call your vet.
The sooner your dog can complete treatment with prednisone the better, but never, ever change or stop the prednisone dose without consulting your vet first. Doing so may put your dog’s immune system into shock. For dogs battling cancer, your vet may want to keep your dog on a long-term, low dose regimen which usually requires regular monitoring.
Jerry’s Prednisone Story: Share Yours Too
Back when I was being treated for later stages of my osteosarcoma lung metastasis, my oncologist prescribed prednisone and albuterol, a bronchodilator, to help alleviate lung inflammation. I was coughing so much that my lungs hurt, and the predinsone was supposed to help make me feel better. Well, it did and it didn’t. It made me hungry again and I also stopped coughing so much, but at the same time my pawsonality changed so much that I just didn’t feel like the same dog. I didn’t continue on this therapy once my pawrents and I decided that we wanted to live out the last bit of my time on earth without experiencing side effects from drugs.
If you have experience using prednisone as part of your dog’s cancer regimen, please share it in the comments section below or in this Discussion Forums post. Thanks for sharing your story so that it may help others.
Dr. Demian Dressler: Prednisone for Dog Cancer
Veterinary Partner.com: Prednisone / Prednisolone
The Bichon Frise Club of America: Prednisone, the Good and the Bad
Tripawds News Blog: Stop the Presses, I’m Feeling Good Today!
Tripawds News Blog: Saying Goodbye: How We Knew (Part 1)
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