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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 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)

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

77 Responses to “Prednisone and Dog Cancer Tips”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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}}}}

  5. 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?

  6. 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!

  7. 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.
      -Kat

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

  9. 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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