Weaning Dog Off Prednisone

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By Tess Thompson

Practically all conventional medications have side effects. Some side effects are self-limiting and mild, but others can be severe. Prednisone is often projected as a wonder drug that is used to treat numerous conditions in dogs.

The drug affects almost all parts of the body and is instrumental in remission of autoimmune diseases in cases where the fundamental cause cannot be treated. It is used as a standalone drug or as a supplementary treatment for conditions like allergies, respiratory disorders, Cushing’s disease in dogs, Addison’s disease and various types of cancers.

The downside of prednisone is as alarming as the benefits. One of the side effects of prednisone is that it can cause the same disease that it is meant to cure. A classic example is hyperadrenocorticism in dogs , commonly termed as Cushing’s disease . It is a glandular disease caused by excessive cortisol in the system. When prednisone is used indiscreetly to supplement deficiencies of corticosteroids, it can potentially lead to iatrogenic (a complication resulting from medical treatment) Cushing’s disease.

Withdrawing prednisone also needs a large amount of care. The hormone comes under the glucocorticoid class of hormones. Unlike anabolic steroids, it does not build the body, but it helps in breaking up stored fats, sugars and carbohydrates by acting upon the metabolic processes. Abrupt discontinuation of the drug can cause a metabolic crisis.

Adrenal glands naturally produce these hormones, so it is important to keep the adrenal glands active. If the adrenal glands detect external administration of these hormones, they can stop natural production. Over time the adrenal glands decrease in size from lack of use and stop production of the hormone completely. Abrupt discontinuation of prednisone can result in a total absence of the hormone making the body incapable for responding to stress factors.

To keep the adrenal glands active for producing, it is extremely important that prednisone be tapered off slowly. The best way to do it is to put the dog on alternate day dose after the condition has been controlled. The interval can later be increased based on the specific condition that it is being used for.

The length of prednisone administration depends upon the dog’s response to the drug and the severity of side effects that it causes. The best way you can help your dog in combating the disease and the side effects of prednisone is by adhering to the prescribed dosage and ensuring that the discontinuation instructions are followed to the letter.


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