Prednisone is a medication that has a wide range of usages in dogs. Generally speaking, steroids are used to reduce inflammation, allergies, or suppress the immune system. Prednisone in dogs is prescribed for many different conditions, including atopy (skin allergies), inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune blood disorders, autoimmune disorder such as lupus, arthritis, allergic conjunctivitis, uveitis (inflammation inside the eye), asthma, specific muscular disorders, and more. Prednisone, if used properly, is a very useful drug and can cure many conditions, but must be used with caution because it has many side effects. Prednisone, if taken long enough and at high enough dosages, can weaken the immune system and cause problems with hormones. In specific, prednisone can cause cushings disease, a hormonal condition that causes increased thirst, urination, appetite, weight gain, hair loss, increased panting and anxiety. In addition, cushings weakens muscles, thins bones, weakens joints, can cause stomach ulcers, causes liver enlargement, increases the risk of type II diabetes, and causes a pot-belly appearance.  Prednisone lowers the body’s immune system, making it susceptible to infections, the most common being skin infections and urinary tract infections. All of these negative side effects is why you want to limit your dog (and yourself, for that matter) to the lowest dose of prednisone necessary to control your dog’s conditions. One of the most common conditions steroids is prescribed for is skin allergies and itchy skin. If you are having to treat your dog multiple times a year with steroids for itchy skin ,you should consider a different, safer treatment. There are several new medications available for allergies in dogs, including Apoquel and Atopica, that are labeled for treatment of allergies in dogs without the negative side effects listed above. Some dogs also respond well to allergy shots or anti-histamines, so talk with your veterinarian for alternative treatments for your dog’s condition. Steroids are a prescription medication, which means that you can only get them with a prescription from your veterinarian.  Your veterinarian will assess your dog and determine if steroids are the appropriate treatment. Follow dosing instructions closely: steroids are usually prescribed as a tapering dose, which means that you slowly decrease the amount given over time. If you stop the steroids abruptly, you could cause your dog to get sick, including lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea, so always follow the prescription instructions exactly. If you have any questions, talk to your local veterinarian.

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