Prednisone, a synthetic corticosteroid, is a drug for controlling inflammation. It is used for humans as well as with dogs, cats and horses. The drug is especially helpful in emergency situations and to treat trauma and shock, allergic reactions, immune-mediated disease, arthritis and dermatologic diseases. But as with all drugs, when it comes to side effects, it has its drawbacks. If used incorrectly the side effects can be severe, especially for dogs.
Polydipsia, Polyuria and Gastrointestinal Disturbances
Polydipsia means increased thirst, and polyuria is defined as excessive urination. Make sure your dog has plenty to drink and is walked frequently. Gastrointestinal disturbances and diarrhea are frequently related to prednisone treatments -- another reason to make sure your dog is walked frequently. Pay attention to your dog's signals, and if an accident happens, understand it was the medication and not a behavioral problem. Your dog is already ill; don't add guilt and punishment to the stress the dog is already feeling. Just give it a chance to get outside.
Polyphagia and Vomiting
Polyphagia is an increased appetite that can lead to unwanted weight gain and may be seen in dogs even on short-term therapy. Discuss any concerns with your veterinarian. Vomiting is also a side effect of prednisone, something to keep in mind if you give in and overfeed your pet. You may get a reaction from your dog that you didn't bargain for.
Gastrointestinal ulceration can be serious. Inflammatory lesions that reach deep into the layers of the gastrointestinal tract cause abdominal pain, black tarry stools and weakness, which can lead to shock and death.
Pancreatitis, Hyperlipidemia, Elevated Liver Enzymes and Diabetes
Pancreatitis becomes a higher risk with long-term treatment. Again, consult with your veterinarian if you have any concerns. Keeping your dog on a low-fat diet may help. Hyperlipidemia is the presence of excess fats, or lipids, in the blood. Elevated liver enzymes can cause vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, lethargy, appetite, weight loss and an accumulation of fluid in the abdominal area. Diabetes is another risk of predisone. All these factors point to the importance of a healthy diet, especially during and following treatment.