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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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170 Responses to “Prednisone and Dog Cancer Tips”

  1. I’m not sure if this site is still active. My beloved golden doodle was just diagnosed with lymphoma which was discovered when she had to have emergency surgery (that thought she had a blockage). We were told that the chemo would only had a few months to her life so we opted not to proceed with chemo. We are starting her on prednisone but am questioning the dosage. Our holistic vet said to start with 20 mg and increase only if needed and our regular vet said to start with 20 mg twice a day for 7 days and then to decrease to 20 mg once a day. I am so confused and am not sure which protocol to follow. Our Fable will be 13 in October and up until a few weeks ago was super healthy, vibrant and active. Upon meeting Fable everyone thought she was a puppy. She is the sweetest dog and we are also doing holistic therapies such as acupuncture, reiki, and herbal supplements. Any help would be greatly appreciated since we are grief stricken.

    • So sorry to hear about your pup Debbie. Rest assured, the Tripawds community is still very active! Please consider searching the discussion forums or starting a new topic where you will receive much more feedback and support that you will via comments on this old blog post. For help finding the many Tripawds resources and assistane programs, please start here.

  2. My 10 year old Westie cross daschund had all of the sudden gone blind and had been diagnose with brain tumor in Feb this year. Vet says she has to be on prednisone for the rest of her life and no other operations can be done (as the tumor is right between her brain and eyes). Within a week, the side effects took place, such as increased in appetite and frequent urination. But her sight regained. About 1.5 months into prednisone, she started to have pot bellied so I reduced her dosage by half. And now, 3 months into prednisone, she is having muscle loss on all limbs, unable to walk properly and blind again. I am in such dillema as I don’t know if I should continue giving her prednisone or drop completely. Because prednisone is really having very bad side effects on her. But if she stop taking it, her tumor will grow, and we should expect seizures soon. Any idea…?

    • Best wishes for your pup! Please consult with your veterinarian regarding your best options at this point or consider seeking another professional opinion.

  3. Our 10 year old Border Collie/Lab mix was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (cancer) after months of thinking she had developed bad arthritis. The vet put her on chemo (Melphalan) and Prednisone and said she would take these meds the rest of her life. She immediately began urinating in the house which she had NEVER done before. After a month of this the vet switched to Mythlprednisilone and she stopped peeing. She is now doing great; is enjoying walks, playing, trips to the dog park, etc. We feel fortunate that we can afford the drugs (found through Diamond Back at 10% of pharmacy cost). Eventually the vet said the chemo will stop working. We are hoping for a couple of good years before then…. I see lots of posts about using prednisone short term which I agree with but for the myeloma there isn’t another choice.

    • Bonnie, thank you so much for sharing your dog’s story. We had no idea that dogs could even get MM (we know two people who have it). This is very good to know. We hope you get many, many more happy times with your pup! Thanks for being a great advocate for her.

  4. Nancy A Campbell March 13, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    My dog is 16 years old with severe arthritis in her legs. We tried carprofen without success. She is now on Prednisone and she is able to walk. She has been on 5mg every other day for 6 months. I have her bladder support supplements for leakage. The medicine has prolonged her life. She licks her legs frequently, and has developed sores on her lip and her left hip that have grown. She also gets blood blisters on her tongue. Has anyone else experienced these side effects with their dogs on long term use of Prednisone? I have made an appointment with the vet. I fear I’m facing a hard decision soon, but it’s about the quality of life. She’s still bright eyed and likes to go for short walks.

  5. Started my 11 year old German Shepherd/Collie mix on Prednisone 3 days ago after being diagnosed with Lymphoma. Although this is highly stigmatized, I will say that two doses (AM/PM) of CBD oil has helped with the side effect tremendously. He is not panting and bloated like he was on day 1 without the CBD. Remarkable. I’m a firm believer in natural cures and waiting for my package of supplements to arrive: fish oil, milk thistle and turmeric treats. Going to do my best to keep his immune system supported while on Prednisone. I’m journaling every day to document our journey as it seems there is a lack of information on CBD benefits. We are 3 days in and I’m actually very hopeful. The absolute worst part of this is, unlike people, they can’t tell you what they’re feeling so you become a helicopter Pawrent who is obsessing about watching their every move. Wish us luck and I hope this helps those who are dealing with the unpleasant side effects. ✌

    • Hi Michelle. Firstly, I hope and pray your dog is doing well. It’s so hard going through these things. I just lost my 15 year old dog, and as if two days ago, my 7 year old is being treated with prednisone for potential brain tumor. I don’t want to do brain surgery ( after speaking with several vets who didn’t do it in their own dogs) so we are in this protocol. It came on so suddenly. He is doing better already but licking a lot. Etc. my question is about CBD oil. Where do you recommend buying it? I’m in Tennessee. I don’t want to go online and buy an inferior product. Thank you in advance. Bless your baby.

      • Debra, we are sorry about your senior dog and the ruff time your 7 year old is going through. We hope he continues to do better. Regarding CBD oil: please, please please work with a veterinarian to find a quality product that is right for your dog. There is a LOT of false information and inferior products out there being sold and you can waste a lot of money on them. A good vet who is open to the idea of CBD to treat pain can help you find a good product. Meanwhile please see our article “Realities and Myths About Cannabis Oil for Pet Cancer.

  6. Our almost 8 year old boxer went to the vet for coughing. We came out with a cancer diagnosis in the lungs but it has metastasized from somewhere else and didn’t originate there. They gave her an antibiotic and cough suppressant but said if we weren’t going to do any other treatment to come get prednisone. I called the cancer specialists but don’t have an apt for another two weeks. I’m so sad. I’m not sure if I should go back to our vet and get the prednisone or not?

    • Michelle, get the oncologist to review his case before starting something like Prednisone, which might not work with what the oncologist recommends. I know two weeks seems like an eternity but that second opinion from a cancer expert often makes a huge difference in the outcome of a cancer diagnosis. Try to call the practice back and let them know your dog is showing signs of lung metastasis (this sounds like osteosarcoma?), and you want him to get help asap with his symptoms. See if they can squeeze you in, it’s worth it. And do join our Discussion Forums where you will find lots of support from others who have been there.

  7. Last week I found a lump on my 12 yr old Pekingese by her nipple (size of a raisen). Today she saw her vet and they did a “poke” and looked under the slide..cancer. I was of course crying at this point and did not get the type of cancer/stage or even think to ask, but her vet says at her age/health (she has hip dysplasia and arthritis in her back legs) that it would be better to just let nature take its course. Well she put my dog on 10mg of daily prednisone (my dog weighs 10lbs) to help slow the progression of the cancer as well as help her hip etc. I hope this helps her without all the bad side effects..although I am worried. Hoping for the best

  8. 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.

    • … try giving you pet Curcumin mixed with coconut oil and also Selenium …. Dr D suggests these and others to control the growth and spread of cancer.

      • Do you have a certain brand that has Selenium? We use Zilis Ultracell cbd hemp oil and curcumin right now. My dog was on Prednisone but I’ve noticed muscle loss and his face sinking in!! I’m weening him off of it as I feel it’s hurting him more then helping him!! He has grape like cluster tumor and they can’t see if it’s attached to his spleen or liver so they were using the prednisone to hopefully shrink it. Last ultrasound it had shrunk but not enough to tell where it’s attached.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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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