When Wyatt Ray’s veterinarian said that treating pet pain with Prednisone could improve his mobility, we cringed. Years ago we had a bad Prednisone experience with Tripawds Founder, Jerry. We were opposed to using it again, assuming the experience would be the same with Wyatt. In the last of our article series during Pet Pain Awareness Month, you’ll learn what happened.
Prednisone for Pet Cancer Didn’t Work for One Dog . . .
Many years ago, Tripawds fearless founder Jerry was battling osteosarcoma lung metastasis. The mets caused severe inflammation that made it difficult for him to breathe. His oncologist said prednisone and dog cancer often helps in these situations by decreasing inflammation, so we gave it a try. The result was upsetting and disappointing.
Overnight, Jerry became crazy with thirst and hunger. His personality changed from a loving, mellow pup to a maniac. Lowering the dosage didn’t help. So we withdrew the Prednisone, and focused on end-of-life palliative care. A few weeks later, Jerry earned his wings.
But that Doesn’t Mean that Treating Pet Pain with Prednisone Won’t Work for Another
Fast forward a decade. Our current Tripawds Spokesdog Wyatt Ray has been experiencing severe mobility problems, the worst since losing a leg eight months old. His symptoms included:
- reluctance to exercise
- decreased stamina and endurance
- poor tail tone (droopy tail)
- inability to walk more than a few feet without sitting down
- and saddest of all, fecal incontinence
In August, our favorite vets at Colorado State’s Orthopedic Medicine and Mobility team assessed Wyatt from afar. They concluded he may have Lumbosacral Disease (LS), commonly seen in German Shepherds.
Another Tool in Wyatt’s Pain Management Routine
The CSU team suggested Prednisone as an interim pain management tool. It could possibly provide relief for Wyatt’s current osteoarthritis pain management routine, by:
- Decreasing inflammation in his low back and tarsus (knee) joint on his remaining limb.
- Incontinence could also be resolved.
- If he responded well, they told us, long-acting Prednisone injections could give longer-term pain relief. Injections would also limit his exposure to Prednisone risks in pets (and people!), like weight gain, hair loss and personality changes.
Aside from keeping his weight down, gentle exercise and oral Prednisone, the only other options to decrease Lumbosacral Disease discomfort are invasive spinal surgeries. But we ruled out surgery for eleven year-old Wyatt. And we were also very opposed to Prednisone for Wyatt.
Our Options Were Running Out
The bad Prednisone experience with Jerry, and countless other negative experiences in our 2011 Prednisone and Dog Cancer blog post comments clouded our judgement about this drug. We just assumed the potential side effects of Prednisone for pets would hit Wyatt hard. He is a high strung, high-anxiety dog who eats anything. Prednisone, we assumed, would turn our lives upside down.
As Wyatt’s mobility decreased we had more hard conversations about his quality of life. We had to do something that we could manage, so we consulted with Wyatt’s local veterinarian at Bush Animal Hospital in Eugene, Oregon.
Dr. Beyerinck has been treating Wyatt with acupuncture, and he knows what we are up against with Wyatt’s personality. He agreed with the CSU vets, and encouraged us to give Prednisone a try. “Prednisone in this situation is a Hail Mary,” he told us. The long term risks are there, and it’s not something he automatically reaches for. But when a dog is nearing the end of his life expectancy and options are limited, it could be helpful. “When you’re out of options, it’s worth a try,” he gently suggested.
We are so glad we listened!
Prednisone Reluctance Gives Pain Relief and Better Mobility for Wyatt
Three weeks after starting treatment, we are hoppy to report that Wyatt is mostly the same dog. He’s hungrier, and a bit thirstier than usual, but the Prednisone side effects have been minimal. His mobility is slightly better and fecal incontinence is less frequent too. And we are no longer having quality of life discussions, at least for now.
We don’t know how long Wyatt will continue enjoying the benefits of Prednisone for pet pain. It could be weeks, or many months, maybe even longer. For now, we’ll take what we can get in the Here and Now.
We are sharing this experience with you as a reminder: just because a medication or therapy didn’t work for one animal, doesn’t mean it won’t work for another.
It’s an important lesson learned: just like people, all animals have different reactions to treatments, some good, some bad. No two animals are the same. So please don’t let Internet chatter or previous negative experiences from other pet parents cloud your judgement when you need to make a veterinary treatment choice.
Remember, you don’t know if something will work for your current pet until you partner with your veterinary team to explore your options and make the best pet healthcare decision for your unique pet.