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Do Your Pets take Steroids?

   Prednisone is likely the most common steroid used in pets – it has strong anti-inflammatory effects and is used for a multitude of conditions and indications. Prednisone - and all glucocorticoids - affects nearly all cell types and systems in mammals. Prednisone or prednisolone should be dosed at the lowest effective dose for the shortest amount of time as clinically possible.  It is also important to determine the endpoint or course of treatment when initiating treatment and a taper should be implemented when discontinuing therapy. 
   Higher doses are usually required when prednisone is used as an immunosuppressive compared to as an anti-inflammatory agent, and therefore adverse effects are more likely. In dogs, excessive thirst, excessive hunger and excessive drinking often occur, as well as dull dry coat, weight gain, panting, GI ulceration, muscle wasting, elevated liver enzymes, loss of diabetes mellitus control, and behavioral changes. Although cats generally require higher doses than dogs, they also generally develop fewer adverse effects. When used in conjunction with other medications, the potential for drug-drug interactions should be checked. Finally, it is important to note that prednisone can also affect many laboratory values and mask disease. 
   Commercially available veterinary or human formulations of prednisone and prednisolone often fail to meet the needs of many animals.  Our compounding pharmacists can work with owners and veterinarians to create a custom medication for pets and exotics.  We are able to compound custom doses in capsules, flavored oral suspensions or other dosage forms for your patients that may benefit from prednisone or prednisolone therapy.  Your questions are welcome.


Adams, R. H. (2009). Veterinary pharmacology and therapeutics (9th ed.). Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press.

Lowe A, Campbell, et al.  Glucocorticoids in the cat. Veterinary Dermatology 2008; 19 (6): 340-347.

Plumb, D.  Veterinary Drug Handbook. Ames, Iowa: Wiley-Blackwell, 2015.

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