Corticosteroids, Prednisone for Dogs, Cats – Uses, Side Effects, Dangers

My Boxer x Pit Bull Robbie and my cat Tibby

In this article:
  1. A Brief Explanation of Corticosteroids
  2. Typical Methods of Dispensing Steroids including Corticosteroids, Prednisone
  3. Typical Situations Where Prednisone May Be Prescribed by Your Veterinarian
  4. Side Effects of Prednisone
  5. Conditions That Increase the Health Risk of Prednisone to Your Dog or Cat
  6. Natural Alternatives to Prednisone, Steroids for Dogs, Cats
  7. Common Corticosteroid Glucocorticoids – a partial list
  8. Conventional Steroidal Medicines – a partial list

1.0 A Brief Explanation of Corticosteroids

Your dog and cat’s body naturally produces corticosteroids – a class of hormone steroid produced in the cortex of the adrenal gland. Corticosteroids are subdivided into two major classes as follows.

  • Cortisol is the main glucocorticoid that occurs naturally in dogs
  • Glucocorticoid
      • Is a major player in the body’s ability to increase and maintain natural conversion of glucose from sources such as amino acids (protein building blocks) and lipids (fats)
      • Enables the transfer of amino acids from tissues
      • Supports the conservation of glucose
      • Stimulates breakdown of fat, which releases fatty-acids for energy
    • Is a powerful anti-inflammatory
    • Is an important immunosuppressant
      • These last two functions are not separable
      • This dual function - 1) anti-inflammatory, and 2) immunosuppressant, is what creates the critical fail-point when synthetic drugs such as Prednisone are given to dogs and cats
      • While the anti-inflammatory function is a health asset, the immonsuppressant function is a very serious health threat
      • When corticosteroids such as Prednisone are introduced to the body for use as an anti-inflammatory they also act to suppress the immune system, resulting in a weakening of the body’s natural defense system

  • Are a vital component of the body’s hormone balancing system
  • Function in the kidney, where their purpose is to enable the exchange of sodium and potassium;
  • Support the body’s ability to maintain a balanced level of hydration
Having read the points listed above you can see why keeping balanced natural levels of corticosteroids in the body are so important.

Synthetic corticosteroids are used to treat many health conditions such as allergies, cancer and inflammatory diseases as noted further above. 

Prednisone is just one of the many synthetic corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are commonly used by veterinarians.

2.0 Typical Methods of Dispensing 
      Steroids including Corticosteroids
  1. Oral medication – drops or inhaled
  2. Injected medication
  3. Topical Application – ointment (creams, gels) or drops
  4. For skin
  5. For Eye (opthalmic)
  6. For Ear (otic)
Inhaled (spray)
  • Typical uses: nasal, sinus, bronchial and lung conditions
Topical (creams, gels, etc.)
  • Typical uses: skin and eye conditions
Oral (pills)
  • Cancer, inflammatory conditions and diseases such as:
    • Addison’s Disease (adrenal insufficiency of cortisol – a glucocorticoid)
    • Allergies
    • Arthritis (Rheumatoid arthritis)
    • Crohn’s Disease
    • GME
    • Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) also known as chronic Colitis
    • Kidney Disease
    • Lupus
    • Sudden trauma due to injury resulting in inflammation
    • Ulcers, etc.
Systemic (injection)
  • Typical uses: cancer, inflammatory diseases and conditions
There are multiple classes of synthetic corticosteroids - Prednisone falls under the Hydrocortisone class of corticosteroids.

3.0 Typical Situations Where Prednisone
      May Be Prescribed
A partial list of inflammatory conditions:

Crohn’s Disease
Granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis (GME, MUA)
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Other chronic inflammatory diseases
Sudden trauma
4.0 Side Effects of Prednisone

Use of Prednisone (and other corticosteroids) over the long-term, can and often do erode the body’s ability to respond to physical stress as corticosteroids weaken the immune system.
  • Prednisone
    • May mask signs of infection
    • Make it easier to contract an infection
    • Worsen any current infection
Side effects of Prednisone - a partial listing
  • Adrenal/Hormone problems
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Blood clots
  • Blood sugar elevation
  • Bloody or black stools
  • Bone loss including the triggering of Osteoporosis;
  • Bruising, bleeding (tendency to)
  • Depression
  • Esophageal damage
  • Fluid retention can be severe and can include fluid around the heart and lungs
  • Hair loss;
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased risk of infection
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Mood swings
  • Muscle weakness or pain
  • Neurological issues
  • Respiratory issues
  • Seizures
  • Severe psychological side effects - including aggression
  • Skin rashes
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Slow healing of wounds
  • Swelling
  • Nausea
  • Urinary tract and renal issues
  • Vision Problems
  • Vomiting
  • Weight gain
5.0 Conditions That Increase the Health
      Risk of Prednisone to Your Dog or Cat

The following is a partial list:
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Blood Pressure problems
  • Diabetes
  • Eye Diseases
  • Heart problems
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver Disease
  • Mineral imbalance
  • Osteoporosis
  • Tendency to acquire infections
  • Thyroid problems
  • Ulcers
As you can see above there are many health threatening side effects of Prednisone.

6.0 Natural Alternatives to Prednisone and
      other Steroids for Dogs and Cats

In emergency situations steroids, corticosteroids including Prednisone can save your dog’s or cat’s life. Unfortunately these drugs do have serious side effects as you can see listed above, and the risk for serious harm increases exponentially the longer the dog or cat remains on these drugs.

Natural (non-synthetic) foods, herbs and homeopathic alternatives may (in some cases) be used to completely eliminate the need for Prednisone, in other cases it may be possible to taper off and reduce the amount of Prednisone being used over the long-term.

7.0 Common Corticosteroid

A partial list:
Generic Name (Brand Name):
  • Prednisone
  • Prednisolone
  • Dexamethasone (i.e. Azium)
  • Trimacinolone (i.e. Animax, Panalog Vetalog) 
  • Methylprednisolone (i.e. Medrol)

8.0 Conventional Steroidal Medicines

A partial list:

Oral and Injectable


Voren Suspension


Prednicare Tablets
Prednistab Solu-Delta-Cortef PLT Tablets



Topical for Skin
  • Animax
  • Betagen
  • Corti-Care Spray,  Corti-Care Lotion,  Corti-Care Shampoo Hydrocortisone Cream/Gel
  • Cortispray
  • Dermigard Hydrocortisone Spray, Dermigard Medicated Shampoo
  • Excel Hydrocortisone Spray
    Excel Hydrocortisone Shampoo
  • Genesis, Genesis Topical Spray
  • Fuciderm gel-UK
  • GentaVed Topical Spray
  • Gentosin Topical Spray
  • Mometamax, (otic-ears)
  • Panalog ointment and cream with antibiotics
  • ResiCORT Leave-On Lotion
  • Tritop
  • Zymox Topical Wipes with Hydrocortisone
    Zymox Topical Spray with Hydrocortisone
    Zymox Topical Cream with Hydrocortisone
Opathalmic (For Eyes)
  • Decadron (Dexamethasone)
  • Inflamase Forte (Prednisolone)
  • Econopred Plus (Prednisolone)
  • Pred Forte (Prednisolone)
Steroids with Antibiotics
  • BNP with Hydrocortisone bacitracin, neomycin, polymixin & hydrocortisone acetate Neobacimyx-H
  • Cortisporin
  • Gentocin Durafilm
  • Dexamethasone Sodium Phosphate Ophthalmic Solution
  • Neo-Predef
  • Neo-Poly-Dex
  • Prednisolone Acetate Ophthalmic Suspension
  • Prednisone Sodium Phosphate Ophthalmic Solution Trioptic S
  • Vetropolycin HC bacitracin, neomycin, polymixin & hydrocortisone acetate
Otic (for Ears)
  • Synotic Otic Solution
Steroids with Antibiotics
  • Animax
  • Aurizon
  • Canaural
  • Cortisporin Otic
  • DVMax
  • GentaVed Otic
  • Mometamax
  • Otomax
  • Surolan
  • Tresaderm/Mintezol - also for topical application
  • Tritop
  • Zymox with Hydrocortisone
  • Amazacort (Triamcinolone)

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Article and graphics by Karen Rosenfeld

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