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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)

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153 Responses to “Prednisone and Dog Cancer Tips”

  1. My 8 y/o Mastiff stopped eating last Wednesday. We took him to the vet right away on Thursday. We just got his diagnosed last Friday. Max has Lymphoma. We believe stage 4 or 5. My vet wasn’t exactly clear. However, the ultra sound shows evidence that it has spread to his liver and spleen. To date, Max isn’t eating and he is jaundice. He started prednisone on Saturday (one day after his diagnosis). We
    Haven’t seen an increase in appetite which we are desperately hoping for. Does anyone know how long it takes for prednisone to kick in? Or did we just discover his illness too late?

    • That question is best asked of your vet. We noticed a pretty quick response with Jerry, but of course every dog, and every stage of illness is different.

  2. Hi, my dog was just diagnosed with multi-centric lymphoma yesterday Rapid onset, as 2 weeks ago his lymph nodes showed no marked swelling, as of today they are about the size of walnuts. I am choosing not to do chemo, due to cost and distance to travel for treatments. My Vet put him on 20mg of Prednisolone and said at best 1 – 1 1/2 years extended life, worst cast 6 months. What I’ve been reading is to do a low dose rather than a high dose, so I am a bit confused. Also she stated he’ll need to stay on Pred for the rest of his life.. Any thoughts on all of this would be appreciated. She also did tell me of the side effects I would probably see and would lower the dose if he couldn’t handle it.

  3. My 14 year old Maltese was diagnosed with lymphoma a couple of weeks ago. He had good vitals, and he was started on Oral Chemo, scheduled for every three weeks. His first dose of Chemo was fine. No side effects and he was handling it well. They added (among herbal supplements like Turkey Tail) Prednisone and Dena something for liver. About 24 hours after taking the prednisone, he started drinking like crazy and urinating. His appetite stayed strong, but he experienced extreme lethargy, wobbliness, and dark diarrhea. His gums paled by the third dosage. I took him to hospital and his blood work was not terrible, but they were concerned about his stool. He stayed in hospital for 2 1/2 days getting a stomach drug to help stem possible ulcers. They noticed his lymph nodes were inflamed (they had been going down right after the first chemo) and his spleen is enlarged. I am crushed. I stopped prednisone (vet said a 6 day usage and two days on IV without it – should negate any possible withdrawal effects. I am seeing the oncologist tomorrow…I am not too optimistic.

  4. My 13 yr old boxer has been put on Prednisone for inflammation due to cancer, how long can she continue this? No side effects but thirst & frequent urination.

    • Best wishes for your pup Debi. When best administered, Prednisone is not intended for long term use. Every dog is different, breed, size, weight, cause for prescription (type of cancer), and stage of disease all need to be considered. Please consult with your vet regarding dosage and duration for your specific dog and search or post in the discussion forums for more feedback from Tripawds members.

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