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Prednisone and Dog Cancer Tips

Prednisone is the topic of many conversations here at Tripawds, since lots of our members with cancer, like Ajax, are including it in their cancer regimen.

Ajax in the Atlantic 10 Months Post AmputationBecause, prednisone is a serious drug that can have mild to serious side effects, let’s take a minute to discuss how you can make the most of this therapy without putting your Tripawd at risk.

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

Jerry poses at Gros Ventre CampgroundBack 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.

Recommended Reading

Dr. Demian Dressler: Prednisone for Dog Cancer
Veterinary 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)

NOTE: Please remember to buy from a Vet-Vipps Accredited Pharmacy when buying online!

103 Responses to “Prednisone and Dog Cancer Tips”

  1. My Chiweenie, Shadow was diagnosed with Lymphoma December 9th and does not have the more aggressive type T form. He was started on Prednisone 1.5 ml every 12 hours and his lymph nodes shrank but only for about a week. He was also started on antibiotics at the same time. The only symptoms he has are swollen lymph nodes, intermittent fever and a slow progression of muscle loss and therefore weakness. When the Vet ran out of liquid Prednisone,a he had to have pills desolved and they made him vomit. When back on liquid the vomiting stopped. He no longer can jump on or off the bed. He recently could no longer jump on the couch so I put a dog bed mattress in front of it and he uses it as as boost. He no longer hikes his leg when urinating because weakness is causing loss of balance. He initiates play every day. Takes daily walks and pretty much lives his normal routine and life. Until this week, the Prednisone made him randy and he was often trying to mate with my spayed Heeler. Lol I know the time is getting near when I will have my Vet help him reach eternal rest and. I am grateful for the two good months the meds bought us and any more additional time we might have. My wonderful Vet says I will know when it is time. Shadow will refuse one day to eat permanently no matter what I prepare for him. He may become reclusive and move around less, even for water. He may or may not suffer seizures or breathing difficulties and if he does, it will immediately be time. I will not have him suffer or just exist. Then it will be time and because he has been my loyal and gentle, funny friend, I will not hesitate. I will miss him horribly but have been trying to prepare myself. Blessings to all who take this difficult journey and to their beloved canine companions.

    • Carol, our hearts go out to you, we are sorry to hear about Shadow’s diagnosis. He is so lucky to have such a loving parent like you. This is the hardest part of the journey but when we put their needs ahead of ours it’s all they ever want. You’re doing a great job helping him transition. Hugs to you both.

  2. Is prednisone an acceptable treatment for a return of osteosarcoma where treatment options are limited? Our pet already had one front leg removed due to osteosarcoma two years ago and we just learned the cancer is back in her other front leg?

    • Peter, I’m sorry to hear about the recurrence. Pred is usually given when lung metastasis happens and breathing becomes difficult, but all cases are different and it’s not always the best solution. Your vet will be able to tell you the best course of action but if you are not happy, get another opinion to put your mind at ease. Please let us know how we can help, join us in the Forums OK?

  3. Joanne.

    What type of antibiotic is your dog on with the prednisone ?

  4. How long does it take to get Prednisone out of your dogs system

    • Great question Stacey. Please consult with your vet, as every dog is different. It depends on so many factors—size of dog, breed, length of time on the medication, and more.

  5. My 10yr old lab cross was diagnosed with lymphoma,cancer in liver, spleen and finally in his blood . He is on antibiotics as he was septic before they diagnosed the cancer . He was completely off his legs and I thought we were going to have to put him to sleep then they did tests and found he had infection caused by the cancer . He is still on antibiotics and also prednidale steroid and he’s like his old self again …running, swimming , chasing rabbits you name it . All I can say is he’s got a dogs life again , how long it will last I don’t know but I’m cherrishing every moment I have with him .

  6. I have a 9 year old pit he had acl surgery on his leg after that he got sick wouldn’t eat so took him back to vet his glucose was dangerously low they waited a week an a half to make sure it wasn’t the meds he was on from his surgery well it didn’t get better so they done blood work and his insulin is suppose to b 5 and it was 125 so they tell me he has a tumor on his pancreas and started him on prednisone 3 days ado 20 MG um waiting to get him in for ct scan to make sure that’s what it is he does drink a lot and urinate a lot his appetite has went up some but won’t eat dog food but he lays around all the time

  7. I was babysitting my friends 8 lb yorke. Mikee was 14 years old. He came to my house last week with eye infection. The VET gave him steriod shot and 2 preninsone 5 mg 2 xs a day and eye drops. 4 days ago mikee threw up in the middle of the night. I called my friend Wednesday morning and told her Mikee was sick. I offered to take Mikee to the vet. Her son was back from Florida so decided to wait to see how he feels and her son take Mikee to vet thursday morning. When I woke up to check on Mikee thursday at 5 am, Mikee passed away. There was blood around mike that he coughed up. My heart breaks now. The Vet said to my friend Prenidsone never kills a dog. He said Mikee was old.
    My friend feels bad that i was in this situation. I feel so bad this dog was in pain. I am trying to wrap my head around this. I am very sad.

    • Erin, our deepest condolences go out to you and your friend, we are so sorry about Mikee. May you find peace knowing that he is no longer in pain and guiding you and your friend with his spirit, every day. I’m so sorry.

      • Thank You Jerry. My heart breaks for her family and for mikee loss. Glad he is not in pain anymore. I am sad for this situation. I do not understand how he can be healthy coming to my house to dying.

  8. my 10 year old boxer has hemangiosarcoma. It started in the spleen > we had spleen removed 5/20/15 > she did great for a month > spread to her liver & omentum > put on prednisone 7/25/15 20mg per day. She is so weak now that she can not get up most of the time. When she can get out to bathroom she falls over & I have to pick her up and carry her inside (which I will happily do any time she needs). She is now very skinny everywhere except her belly. Her belly is so gigantic it looks like she is carrying a litter of 20 puppies- I’m not even kidding. Could just 20mg per day do this to a 60 pound dog? I don’t know if taking her off the pred so she can at least walk, but will have symptoms of the hemangiosarcoma, is the best thing for the rest of her short time left. This is so hard to know what’s best to do for her. Any experience with this?

    • Best wishes for your pup RC! As we are not veterinary experts and have never dealt directly with hemangio, we suggest you consult your vet with such concerns. Perhaps others may offer better feedback. Please consider posting in the forums to reach more members.

  9. My 9 year old husky had a tumor removed from his lip about 6 months ago which ended up cancerous. Took him to the hey today bc he’s losing weight, not eating much, some blood in drinking water and has a hard time breathing. His blood work came back problems with blood cells and he had Xrays and while doing them he almost stopped breathing so they had to stop. The rays showed a huge mass in his throat and about 10 more in his chest. He would never make it through another surgery. He was put on prednisone and pain meds. We are pretty much making him comfortable and it’s the saddest thing we are going through right now. He’s my baby and I’m extremely heartbroken.

  10. Oh sorry and she is p n predizone for 4 months

    • Tyna, hopefully it’s nothing serious but that is definitely something to see your vet about asap. Please make an appointment and let us know what they say.

      • Hi Jerry we had been seeing a vet all along…but they knew nothing and couldn’t figure it out Aug 28th 7am she was having a hard time breathing legs were huge exspecially back and at 8 am had a sezier…I’ve never exsperienced any of this at all….and I KILLED me….10am waiting at the vets in my jeep she couldn’t walk so we just stayed in my jeep vet came out checked her out and told me she was suffering now…..12 noon she went to sleep on my lap in my jeep her head went heavy and I hung on to her hugging her screaming at the top of my lungs
        She was all I had my friends my family my EVERYTHING she was five yrs old.
        I can’t get out of bed I can’t stop crying….
        I’m alone and I miss her so much I can’t get that last picture outta my head of her panting so hard then just dropped her head on my lap with silence….my heart is broken.

  11. I need help to get my dogs leg swelling down her back legs…..

    • Tyna my heart goes out to you I am really, really sorry. Please know that you did right by your girl, you helped end her suffering and now she is free and young and a puppy again, loving you with her spirit that will never, ever fade. I know it’s a hard thing to cope with. Please come introduce yourself in our Discussion Forums < href="">Coping with Loss topic so we can help OK? Lean on this community and you can get through this. My heart goes out to you.

  12. My 11 yr old german shepherd has just been diagnosed with lymphoma. .25th May I took her for a walk and she kept sitting down and was limping on the back end so when we got back from hols I took her to the vet as I thought she may have hurt her paw or leg when jumping out the back of our landrover! I had her x rated on Friday to see if any damage showed up and that’s when they found the glands enlarged..Sent away and found out yesterday 9th that it’s cancer! Took her back to vets this morning to get a biopsy done on one of the glands but he said she was too weak to have op and may not come round so he started her on treatment..A steroid injection. .not sure if same as this topic as didn’t ask what it was called…im sat by the boot of my car now hoping she will perk up enough to get out. How long does steroids take to show effect?? She has perked up but still won’t get out of boot!

    • Lisa, we’re sorry to hear about your GSD and hope that the treatment will make her feel better quickly. This is a great question for your vet. Most times steroids should kick in within a day or two as far as I know but again I’m not a vet so please ask them what you can expect. If you’re not happy with recovery, seek a second opinion asap from a baord-certified oncologist. Best wishes to you both.

  13. Our black lab Jackson is 14 years old. Has always been healthy. But last week became very ill. Took him to the vet, they did blood work, which showed a problem with the white blood cells, otherwise ok, xrays showed a huge tumor attached to the spleen, then an ultrasound showed another tumor behind the spleen but they were unable to determine what it was attached too. Doctor put him on two a-day prednisone. He seemed to get better. Yet he is drinking huge amounts of water and his ability to hold his bladder has failed two times this week. His appetite is fine. He is panting some, his behavior has changed some, but he still points for his bones and wags his tail. The doctor took him off his pain meds for arthritis since she said it would enlarge the spleen. Please advise.

  14. We are experiencing the same thing! She was diagnosed 6 days ago and is taking predinosone for cancer side effects. Unfortunately, she has been having many incontinence issues in the house and has been keeping me up most nights. Its so hard to keep her on the medicine but I know we are buying her time with us! Prayers and thoughts to everyone experiencing this, it is so sad.

  15. We had one more week with our Tess. She got a lump half way down her neck, the left side of her stomach was twice the size of the right, and she started bleeding from her mouth, refusing food. She’s resting between the lilacs in our yard and will never be forgotten as long as I live.

    • Ruth, our hearts and condolences go out to you, we are so sorry. May Tess’ spirit stay strong and guide you in your earthly journey. Some day you will meet again. {{{hugs}}}}

  16. My husky cross German Shepard is on prednisone and pain pills. He was diagnosed with lymphoma last week. He has been sick for awhile now though, and the first vet did not know what it was. The 2nd vet confirmed Lymphnoma. I’m trying to decide when is it time to let him go. He is eating like a champ and drinking heaps also. Today was the 1st day I saw him have diareah. Not sure what to do now. He is happy, still barks his head off at things that annoy him. When do u know it’s time?

    • Mya, I’m sorry to hear about your pup. We have really good information about quality of life you might want to check out here. Please call your vet about the diarrhea, that is not normal. We send all our best and hope you’ll consider joining our Tripawds Discussion Forums if you’d like support from the community.

    • Best wishes for you and your pup, Mya! Review our two part blog post about How We Knew When To Say Goodbye, and all the comments for lots of helpful feedback.

    • Mya, how is your husky doing? Is he still eating etc. I’m curious how long before his appetite and energy went down after prednisone treatment. I have a lab who just started treatment and he seems fine now.

  17. My female maltese is on steroid therapy for possible intestinal cancer. The vet says its most likely cancer, the ultrasound was not clear do to all the swelling and inflammation. She started responding the next day and a week later she is doing great! All of the ascites is gone and her bowel movements are normal. Her prognosis is unclear at the moment but so far she is back to better than normal. No personality changes in my sweet girl have been noticed!

  18. I went to give my 8 year old Snorkie a Benedryl 2 weeks ago and found tumors in her mouth. Vet gave us Prednisone to see if it would shrink them. So far I can’t see any changes other than the weight gain and non stop urination. She is still as sweet as ever. He didn’t give us much hope, so I think the medicine was to give us time to come to terms with losing her. I still can’t believe it. I was counting on another 10 years with my baby.

    • Ruth,
      Please take your Snorkie for a second opinion…Maybe you did not include a lot of detail in your letter here – and I don’t know the whole story, but, just in case, I would take her somewhere else just to be sure. Best of luck.

  19. Jerie I hope your pup has many good days ahead. Treasure each moment and love him up. Give him a smooch from Tripawds.

  20. Yes our 14 year old min pincher has been diagnosed with lymphoma 1 week ago. He has been very sick. Not himself at all. The vet put him on pregnasone and is doing better. Drinks a lot and urinate non stop. The vet explained to us that there is no cure, but might extend his life a bit longer to give us time to prepare for the good byes. It has been the most difficult decision to let him go. We lost another dog 3 months ago. After reading the comments I reliazed now it is just a matter of time before we loose him. It is so sad!
    My heart goes to anyone else going thru the same. Stay strong!

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