Prednisolone is a medication commonly prescribed in veterinary medicine. Its uses are varied, thanks to its varied attributes and effects in the body.
What Does Prednisolone Do?
Prednisolone belongs to a class of drugs called corticosteroids. A corticosteroid is a synthetic drug that mimics cortisol, a hormone normally produced in your dog's adrenal glands. Corticosteroids can mimic cortisol in greater concentrations than the adrenal glands can produce. They also include prednisone, dexamethasone, methylprednisolone, and triamicinolone. In addition to mimicking cortisol, they also have anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties.
It should be noted that, yes, prednisolone and prednisone are in fact two separate drugs, but, prednisone is normally converted into prednisolone in your dog's liver. So oftentimes your veterinarian will prescribe prednisone in lieu of prednisolone. If your dog's liver function is compromised, though, your vet may opt to prescribe the already converted form of prednisolone. It should also be noted that cats cannot convert prednisone into prednisolone, so your veterinarian will prescribe the already converted form of prednisolone to your cat as well. Beyond that, prednisone and prednisolone have virtually the same uses and functions.
Diseases and Illnesses Prednisolone Can Treat
First and foremost, thanks to its ability to mimic cortisol, prednisolone can be used to treat hypoadrenocorticism, also called Addison's Disease. This disease process is characterized by a lack of hormone production by your dog's adrenal glands. The same hormone prednisolone mimics. The clinical symptoms of Addison's Disease are non-specific, including things such as vomiting, lethargy, and diarrhea.
Prednisolone's immunosuppressive properties can be utilized for treating autoimmune disorders. Lupus and Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA) are just two autoimmune diseases that your vet can treat with prednisolone. Lupus causes your dog's immune system to attack his own body tissues, most commonly a layer of tissue in their skin. AIHA causes your dog's immune system to attack his own red blood cells. The immunosuppressive attributes are also well utilized in the treatment of allergic reactions, especially those that cause itching and skin irritation. It can alter allergy test results, though, so if you are thinking of getting your dog tested for allergies, they will need to be off prednisolone for at least one month prior to testing.
Prednisolone's anti-inflammatory properties can be used to treat various inflammatory conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease, severe muscle sprains/strains (especially those associated with your dog's back), and even some forms of cancer.
Side Effects of Prednisolone Use
Prednisolone, while a powerful anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive, also has various short term side effects. These side effects can include increased thirst, increased urination, increased hunger, delayed wound healing, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and even behavioral changes such as aggression. All dogs react differently to medications, so if you notice your dog exhibiting any of these symptoms, let your vet know. They may try lowering your dog's dosage or try a different medication altogether.
There are also side effects to long term usage of prednisolone. If your dog needs to be on prednisolone long term for any disease process, your dog may experience hair loss/dry fur, a bloated and distended abdomen, heart problems (which can present as exercise intolerance and/or coughing or increased/heavier breathing), and gastrointestinal ulcers or liver problems (both of which can present as non-specific GI symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and a lack of appetite).
If you suspect your dog is suffering from any of the above side effects of prednisolone usage, call your veterinarian before stopping the medication.
Prednisolone should not be stopped abruptly. Rather, your vet will give you instructions so that you can taper your dog's dosage and slowly wean them off the medication.
Prednisolone should also never be given in conjunction with any NSAID, that is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (such as Rimadyl, Carprofen/Carprovet, Truprofen, Meloxicam/Metacam, Novox, or Previcox) as doing so can cause your dog to go into liver failure. Make sure your vet knows if your dog was prescribed an NSAID elsewhere and when your dog's last dosage of that medication was given.
Prednisolone has been used in veterinary medicine for decades. Despite its list of side effects, it still has its uses. If you have questions or concerns about your dog being on prednisolone, speak to your veterinarian openly about them.