Dog receiving injection in leg for corticosteroids

Corticosteroids can be given to your pet either by injection (into a vein, joint or muscle, or under the skin) or by mouth (tablets). In dogs with immune-mediated disease, e.g. inflammatory bowel disease, polyarthritis, meningitis, myositis, granulomatous meningoencephalitis (GME) and tumours, the most commonly prescribed corticosteroid is prednisolone.

Why has your pet been prescribed corticosteroid tablets?

Corticosteroids reduce inflammation and control abnormal immune system response. Therefore, in pets with immune-mediated disease, the problem can generally be managed rather than cured with prednisolone.

How frequently will my dog need to take prednisolone?

Follow the prescribed dose and directions given by your veterinarian. Generally, prednisolone tablets are given in the morning, either with or shortly after a meal.

What is the dose of prednisolone my pet will need?

Your veterinary surgeon will advise you of the dose of prednisolone required to treat your pet; the dose will depend on the particular disease. Higher doses are often prescribed at the start of treatment and reduced very gradually as your pet improves; it may be necessary to continue your pet on a low dose of prednisolone indefinitely. The dose of prednisolone mustn’t be changed without consulting your veterinarian; it can be dangerous for your pet if the dose is stopped abruptly. Prednisolone generally works quickly, and your pet should begin to improve within a few days.

What are the side effects of prednisolone?

The most common side effects of corticosteroids are increased thirst (polydipsia) and urination (polyuria), weight gain and gastrointestinal problems (upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhoea); some dogs may experience muscle wasting, exercise intolerance and lethargy. Side effects are more severe with high doses over prolonged periods, so your veterinarian will use the lowest amount to manage your pet’s disease effectively. In addition, prolonged treatment with prednisolone can predispose to infection, and dogs with diabetes may require a change in their insulin dosage.

Are there alternative treatments to corticosteroids?

Alternatives to corticosteroids can be considered if the response to treatment is inadequate or the side effects of the drug intolerable. Your veterinarian or neurologist will discuss alternative treatments with you.

Will my pet require blood tests during treatment?

Blood tests to evaluate liver function or sugar levels may be performed periodically.

If my pet is taking other medication, could corticosteroids have an adverse effect?

Generally, corticosteroids can be taken along with your pet’s other medications. However, some drugs will exacerbate the side effects. It is important to note that corticosteroids should not be taken in combination with other anti-inflammatory medicines (pain killers such as meloxicam or carprofen), as severe or life-threatening gastrointestinal haemorrhage can occur.

Can I continue to vaccinate my pet if corticosteroids have been prescribed?

Most vaccines are safe to give, but it is always prudent to first check with your veterinary surgeon. If in doubt, live vaccines should be avoided.

If you require further information about corticosteroids, please do not hesitate to contact your veterinary surgeon. Always keep records of treatment if the vet you have contacted is not familiar with your pet’s history.

Remember to keep all medications out of the reach of children and use gloves when handling tablets.

Arranging a referral for your pet

If you would like to refer your pet to see one of our Specialists please visit our Arranging a Referral page.