80% of the dogs given CBD oil showed significant improvement in pain levels and quality of life… All without observable side-effects. This article will show you what to give your dog instead of Prednisone for inflammation-related conditions, such as allergies and skin problems. Explore natural alternatives to Prednisone.
CBD For Dogs: A Natural Prednisone Alternative Dogs Love
Using CBD as an alternative to Prednisone can help your dog avoid the long term side effects that come with the extended use of both Prednisone & Prednisolone.
Cornell University recently published a study which concluded that …
80% of the dogs given CBD oil showed significant improvement in pain levels and quality of life… All without observable side-effects.
Unlike Prednisone, the key part of those findings are that CBD use comes “without observable side effects”
Prednisone certainly does work for some treatments…, but it’s the long term side effects of prednisone that many dog and pet owners should be aware of.
In this article, we break down the ‘pros and cons’ of the popular pet prescribed drug named prednisone as well as using CBD oil as a natural alternative.
Most Common Reasons Why Dogs Get Prescribed Prednisone.
Prednisone is commonly prescribed medicine for dogs and sometimes for humans as well.
Prednisone is a type of ‘synthetic steroid‘ (not naturally produced by the body) known as a ‘cortico-steroid‘.
Because of their anti-inflammatory properties, ‘cortico-steroids’ such as Prednisone are valuable medications.
Prednisone is commonly prescribed to dogs to treat conditions with mild inflammation or to suppress inflammation from an allergic rash.
Prednisone is Also Commonly Prescribed to Dogs For:
- Joint pain (typically caused by arthritis)
- Skin diseases or rashes such as eczema, dermatitis or itchy skin
- Allergic reactions
- Anaphylactic shock
- Addison’s disease
- Disorders of the central nervous system
- Prednisolone is used to treat liver conditions
- Cancers such as lymphomas
‘Tail’ of Caution:
According to Dr. Demian Dressler, author of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide…,
Veterinary overuse of Prednisone has given this class of ‘cortico-steroid’ drugs a bad rap…
Many diseases can be better managed with less serious drugs, but some Vets are too quick to reach for the ‘fast-fix’….
Because of this…a significant number of dogs experience Prednisone’s serious side effects when in reality, they really don’t need to.
What Are The Side Effects of Prednisone
Prednisone reduces inflammation by reducing immune system activity.
The down side to ‘cortico-steroids’ such as Prednisone, is that by reducing immune system activity, it makes your dog more likely to getting other infections.
Because of this side effect it leaves many pet owners looking for alternatives to prednisone for their dogs.
Prednisone For Dogs: Short Term Side Effects
For the first week or two, Short-term side effects are experienced when your dog is initially placed on a corticosteroid.
Short-term side effects generally include:
- Increased thirst and urination
- Increased hunger
- Panting (especially dogs)
- General loss of energy
- Development or worsening of infections (especially bacterial skin infections)
- Vomiting or nausea (less common)
If your dogs gets any of these side effects, they can often be reduced or eliminated by lowering the prednisone dosage or frequency that it’s being taken.
The objective when prescribed prednisone is to determine the lowest dose of medication that controls the condition with the least number of side effects.
In other words….It’s a careful balance between risk & reward
As a result of risk-reward balancing act, when it comes to fighting pain, inflammation, and skin rashes, many dog owners are turning to a ‘side effect free’ alternative to prednisone such as CBD.
Prednisone For Dogs: Long Term Side Effects
Dogs with long term conditions like chronic arthritis will require longer treatment regimens.
But when corticosteroids are used for more than 3-4 months, especially with larger doses, additional side effects become more of a concern.
The most commonly seen long-term side effects include:
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s) in up to 30% of patients. Pets receiving steroids will not experience the usual symptoms of urinary tract infection because the steroid will suppress the inflammation and discomfort commonly associated with a UTI. In many cases dogs have to give a urine culture in order to detect the infection.
- Development of thin skin, blackheads, and a poor or thin hair coat or hair loss
- Lowered ability to naturally heal wounds
- Development of obesity due to increased hunger
- Muscle weakness secondary to protein catabolism (breakdown)
- Development of hard plaques or spots on the skin called calcinosis cutis. These plaques are the result of calcium deposition in the skin.
- Increased susceptibility to opportunistic or secondary bacterial infections
- Increased susceptibility to fungal infections (especially of the nasal cavity)
- Development of adult onset demodectic mange.
- Predisposition to diabetes mellitus
If your dog is prescribed Prednisone for a chronic condition such as arthritis or eczema its important to weigh the long term risks vs. rewards.
In many cases the long term risks can outweigh the reward.
Having said that, many Vets are not up to date on the current research, but Prednisone is not the only option.
CBD For Dogs: A Natural (and side effect free) Alternative to Prednisone
According to research, many conditions in which dogs are treated with prednisone, can also be naturally treated with cannabidiol (CBD).
- Arthritis from Arthritis & Inflammation / Rashes
CBD for Dogs: Arthritis and Inflammation
In one of the most recent studies published in 2020 on ScienceDAILY.com…
Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine conducted studies to assess the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) for arthritic pain in dogs….,
And the results could lead the way to studying CBD’s effect in humans.
“We found encouraging results,” Dr. Halpert said….
“9 of the 10 dogs on CBD showed benefits, which remained for two weeks after the treatment stopped. “
“under the conditions of our study, the treatment seems to be safe.”
CBD vs. Osteoarthritis:
Osteoarthritis is caused by the ‘wearing down’ of cartilage… this intern, leads to inflammation…. Osteoarthritis cannot be cured, but it can be managed….
CBD studies on dogs conducted by Cornell University concluded that “dogs with OA (osteo-arthritis) receiving CBD were (found) to be more comfortable and active”.
According to Dr. Debra Rose Wilson, PHD from Medical News Today
“At a time when we are trying to reduce the use of pain relievers, CBD oil can be an effective approach to managing the pain of arthritis.”
Dr. Rose continues to say that “Researchers have also recognized the role that CBD could play in reducing the [underlying cause &] pain-causing inflammation of arthritis.”
CBD treats Osteoarthritis by reducing both the inflammation response & the associated pain.
CBD vs. Polyarthritis
Inflammatory Joint Disease (AKA Polyarthritis) can also be effectively managed by using CBD.
Poly-Arthritis, is caused by an internal ‘bodily response’ which in-turn causes the immune-system to attack its own tissue in the joints.
In response to the ‘overstimulated’ response by the immune system, CBD interacts naturally with Endo-cannabinoid receptors.
The endo-cannabinoid system helps to ‘naturally regulate’ immune system responses (but not necessarily suppress it).
This relationship between CBD, the endo-cannabinoid system, and the immune system, is why CBD works well for symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis in humans & poly-arthritis in dogs.
The best thing about CBD is that it’s natural, organic & comes with minimal to no side effects.
Bottom Line Summary: CBD has beyond a scientific doubt been proven to reduce & improve arthritis symptoms in multiple canine studies.
CBD Vs. Dogs Skin Conditions (eczema)
CBD not only helps relieve the symptoms of certain skin irritations, like eczema (atopic dermatitis)…, but studies have also shown that CBD can help with regenerating healthy cell growth…
“With measurable anti-itch, anti-pain, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, the effect of cannabinoids (such as CBD) in patients with AD (Atopic Dermatitis AKA Eczema) has already begun to be demonstrated.”
You can see an example of ‘CBD at work’ for a skin rash on a small pup that we recommended CBD for.
Jeanette Jacknin, MD gave an hour long presentation on the benefits on CBD for skin health….During the presentation she concluded that
“There are studies documenting the anti-inflammatory properties of topical CBD”….
She also touted the effectiveness of “topical cannabinoids (such as CBD) working on acne, eczema, and psoriasis”
What Exactly is CBD?
CBD is short for Cannabidiol and is 1 of over 100, completely organic & 100% naturally occurring, compounds produced by the Cannabis plant
CBD was made federally legal in 2018 and NOPE, it doesn’t get you or your dog ‘high‘.
These 100+ different organic compounds produced by the cannabis plant are called Cannabinoids…
(THC & CBD are the most famous cannabinoids)
All mammals, including humans (and dogs), produce cannabinoids naturally within the body.
Cannabinoids interact with a network of receptors that are part of the Central Nervous System known –
This network of receptors is known as the Endo-Cannabinoid System.
The Endo-Cannabinoid System is one of our most important internal bodily systems & is responsible for maintaining many functions within the body.
The ‘endo-cannabinoid system’ works similar to a thermostat in a house…
If the temperature in a room is too hot…., the thermostat goes into ‘cooling mode’ –
If your immune system is over-extended on an allergic rash, the endo-cannabinoid system ‘kicks in’ to normalize the response levels.
How Does The Endo-Cannabinoid System Work ?
CBD commonly ineracts with 2 specific types of ‘endo-cannabinoid receptors’.
Cannabinoid Receptors Type 1 (CB1) – CB1 receptors are a critical piece of our central nervous system and are most heavily concentrated in our brain and spinal cord.
Cannabinoid Receptors Type 2 (CB2) – CB2 receptors are mainly concentrated in the various parts of the immune system, the skin cells and most internal organs.
Because of the wide reach of CB1 & CB2 receptors in the EndoCannabinoid System, CBD has a wide range of health benefits which are currently being studied.
CBD’s is currently being studied to treat pain, inflammation, anxiety, immune system disorders such as eczema & psoriasis, brain injuries, PTSD & more.
Put simply into a visualization… CBD interacts with both CB1 & CB2 receptors as well as other receptors in the body sort of like fitting a key into a lock, or like Cinderella’s foot into a glass slipper.
CBD Oil for Dogs: a Natural Prednisone Alternative
For an arthritis condition, CBD oil or CBD treats taken orally are most effective.
CBD is most effective after it is able to accumulate in the blood stream for a couple of weeks….This is known as the ‘Cumulative Effect”
For a skin condition, a topical lotion or sprays are effective… and even more effective when combined with CBD oil taken orally.
Taking CBD and Prednisone Together: Is It Safe?
Many Dog owners are asking
“Can my dog take CBD oil with prednisone”
Mixing CBD and Prednisone for dogs may not be the best idea.
CBD oil can interact with prednisone, making side effects more likely. Veterinary Doctors don’t consider them safe to take together.
If your dog suffers from an inflammatory condition and you want to try CBD, you should first wean off prednisone. However, you must do this carefully and under the supervision of your vet.
Here’s what you need to know if you are thinking switching your dog from prednisone to CBD.
Discontinuing Use of Prednisone in Dogs
If your dog is currently taking prednisone and you decide that it may not be the right choice for you, be aware that side effects may occur if you suddenly discontinue your dog’s use of it.
According to 1-800-PetMeds Stopping use abruptly can cause an abrupt increase in joint pain, body aches, nausea, and fatigue.
In order to avoid any discomfort, you want to wean your dog off prednisone slowly.
According to experts, tapering off of a prednisone treatment typically takes between two and five weeks.
Whether you’re using Prednisone, or an alternative such as CBD oil for your dog, make sure to do your due diligence on the long term effects of both options.
Always speak to your Vet, but understand that because CBD has only been legalized since 2018, some Vets are not up to date on the latest science behind CBD.
Ultimately you know your dog better than anyone and it’s up to you to make the best decision in the best interest of your dog….
Each situation is different & only you know what is best for your pup’s long term health.
On a personal note, my chocolate lab Jamaica passed away a few years back due to liver complications from an arthritis medicine she was taking….
If CBD was available at the time, or if I had known about it, taking CBD could have likely helped her arthritis and ultimately extended her life’s journey.
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Prednisone Alternatives For Dog: What to Give Your Pet Instead?
Steroids are an important class of medication that have been used to treat human conditions for decades. This class of drugs proves to be just as effective in handling veterinary allergies and inflammatory diseases.
Steroids, such as Prednisone, are employed to alleviate pet allergies and treat asthma-like symptoms, among other conditions.
However, despite its usefulness, Prednisone is not intended for long-term use. Prednisone therapy requires a list of alternatives ready to prevent Steroid addiction.
What is Prednisone?
Prednisone is an oral steroid used to treat autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. It’s a glucocorticoid that diminishes the effects of the immune system by inhibiting the migration of polymorphonuclear leukocytes and reversing increased capillary permeability that is indicative of an inflammatory process.
Prednisone is used in humans and the veterinary population to treat asthma, gout, COPD, Meniere’s disease, lupus, shingles, hives, allergies, and even migraine and cluster headaches. Its immunosuppressive activity may be exercised in organ transplantation, preventing graft rejection.
The medication has also been employed as an antitumor drug and adjunct to cancer therapy. Prednisone is said to manage hypercalcemia caused by cancer activity.
Prednisone may be used to prevent heart failures in patients with renal insufficiency and high blood pressure.
Prednisone is synthetic, FDA-approved, and has a delayed release pattern.
Can Dogs Take Prednisone?
Glucocorticoids are the most common steroids used to treat canine inflammatory disorders and CBD is commonly used to treat allergies on dogs.
When treating a dog with a steroid, it’s crucial to keep the duration of its use in mind. Prednisone may be administered systematically (orally), topically, or by infusion. In any case, the steroid should only be used for short periods to prevent dependence and side effects.
The safest way to take Prednisone to your dog is to apply it topically, using a patch, gel, or cream. Prednisone eye drops may also be used to treat itchy, red eyes associated with an allergy. Long-term use of Prednisone is not advised.
Prednisone for Dogs Dosage
The prednisone dosage depends on the condition it is to be used to treat. It also depends on the severity of the inflammation or allergy and the use of other veterinary medications. Generally speaking, a low dose of Prednisone is needed for anti-inflammatory actions, while a much higher amount is required to suppress the immune system but is a lot more difficult to wean off.
The dosage range for anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive action is 0.5-1.0mg/lbs (1) (2). For a dog weighing 50 pounds with a mild rash, administer 25mg of Prednisone once a day for three days, then taper the medication by adjusting the dose to once in two days before finally ceasing the medication.
However, if it is used as an immunosuppressive agent following surgery, you may use 50mg of prednisone for a similar duration.
Prednisone dosage should not be extrapolated to Prednisolone because the former undergoes metabolism by the liver, called the first-pass effect.
Side Effects of Prednisone for Dogs
The side effects of prednisone in dogs may be divided into short-term and long-term effects. The long-term effects remain even after the medication is no longer in use.
Short term effects of Prednisone:
- Frequent urination and thirst: Prednisone is a drug that influences the production of cortisol by the adrenal glands positioned on the kidneys. These glands are also responsible for the sensation of thirst and water balance. Stimulation of these glands will cause an increase in thirst, which will then spur frequent urination.
- Increased appetite and weight gain: cortisol stimulates the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates, releasing stored energy for your cells to boost your activity. However, your brain receives a signal to increase food intake leading to weight gain.
- Slower wound healing: when a dog’s skin is cut, the blood vessels in that area immediately constrict to reduce the amount of blood lost. The blood loss triggers the immune system, which sends leucocytes to the injury site. Prednisone prevents the migration of leucocytes involved in wound healing and inflammation.
- Higher risk of infection: while the immune system remains compromised, foreign or opportunistic pathogens that make up the microbiome may increase and initiate an infection.
Long term effects of Prednisone:
- Diabetes: long term administration of high doses of prednisone is known to cause hyperglycemia in dogs. The elevated blood sugar levels persist one week to four months after discontinuation of prednisone (3). Studies suggest that prednisone overuse may irreversibly damage the pancreatic cells responsible for glucose metabolism.
- Bone demineralization: cortisol causes calcium to be absorbed from the bone into the blood, a process called demineralization of bone. This demineralization is peculiar to the lumbar spine. A dog population was treated with 2mg/kg of Prednisone for 30 days and witnessed a 14% loss in bone mass (4).
- Behavioral changes: dogs treated with Prednisolone and its analog display more aggressive tendencies, especially in the presence of food. They are also more restless and more prone to barking than dogs being treated with other classes of medications. Prednisone use is also associated with aversiveness and reduced confidence in canines (5).
- Adrenal insufficiency: overstimulation of the adrenal glands, caused by overuse of corticosteroids, will reduce the production of cortisol. This may be likened to dependence. In this case, once Prednisone is ceased, an adrenal crisis may occur (6).
Alternatives to Give Your Dog Instead of Prednisone
Yucca shidigera is a Native American plant grown for ornamental purposes. Aside from its aesthetical uses, it may relieve pain, reduce inflammation, improve digestion and circulation. It is also rumored to treat high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, amongst others.
Turmeric is said to have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and healing properties in humans and dogs. The spice is also safe for coloring in both human and dog food. The question of its anti-inflammatory potency in dog food is directly linked to its dosage.
Dog treats typically contain a sparse amount of turmeric as a flavor enhancer or even to improve the color of the treat. Still, these dosages are too little to sprout any anti-inflammatory properties.
Unfortunately, no studies have been performed using higher doses of turmeric, so it’s difficult to ascertain whether turmeric will indeed reduce inflammation in dogs.
CBD oil is a natural extract obtained from Cannabis sativa. It only contains trace amounts of THC in its natural form, so you won’t get high off of it. A good quality CBD oil for your dog has the potential to relieve itching, inflammation, pain, and restlessness. In a recent study, CBD was administered to a canine population. The scientists observed that the dogs experienced a slight upregulation of IL-10, an anti-inflammatory cytokine, and a more pronounced downregulation of IL-6 and 1L-8, the pro-inflammatory cytokines (7).
Thus we may infer that CBD can modulate the immune system. This may become a novel therapy for allergies and immune reactions in pets.
CBD and Prednisolone: Can They Be Taken Together?
Both Prednisone and CBD are potentially effective options for pet allergies. However, concomitant use of these medications is not advised. Prednisone inhibits cytochrome P450, just like CBD.
This means that CBD may delay the systemic clearance of Prednisone. The increased serum Prednisone levels increase the risk of long-term side effects, even with short-term use.
However, since pulse therapy is advised with corticosteroids, CBD may fill the spaces. When administering CBD and Prednisone, ensure that you cease one treatment before initiating the other. Certain types of drugs and CBD shouldn’t be mixed or administered within the same day, and Prednisone is one of them.
Prednisone is an oral steroid used to combat inflammation and allergic reactions in dogs. While it can be a decent source of relief when used short-term at appropriate doses, long-term use or giving Prednisone without prior consultation with a veterinarian can do more harm than good.
If you’re looking for natural alternatives to Prednisone for your dog, try natural health supplements like turmeric or CBD oil. CBD is the most versatile and best-researched anti-inflammatory compound of all alternative options mentioned in this article. It’s also the only compound that regulates the functioning of your dog’s endocannabinoid system — which is its first line of defense against environmental stressors.
With a properly working endocannabinoid network, your dog’s immune system may return to balance, bringing desired results in a longer period — but with a better safety profile.
- Sauerbrey, M. L., Mullins, M. N., Bannink, E. O., Van Dorp, T. E., Kaneene, J. B., & Obradovich, J. E. (2007). Lomustine and prednisone as a first-line treatment for dogs with multicentric lymphoma: 17 cases (2004-2005). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 230(12), 1866–1869. 
- Weinfurter, M. (2021). Prednisone for Dogs: Side Effects, Dosage, And Alternatives. Relievet. Retrieved from: https://www.relievet.com/blogs/tips/prednisone-for-dogs-side-effects-dosage-and-alternatives
- Zeng, Y., Ricordi, C., Lendoire, J., Carroll, P. B., Alejandro, R., Bereiter, D. R., Tzakis, A., & Starzl, T. E. (1993). The effect of prednisone on pancreatic islet autografts in dogs. Surgery, 113(1), 98–102.
- Costa, L. A., Lopes, B. F., Lanis, A. B., De Oliveira, D. C., Giannotti, J. G., & Costa, F. S. (2010). Bone demineralization in the lumbar spine of dogs submitted to prednisone therapy. Journal of veterinary pharmacology and therapeutics, 33(6), 583–586.
- Notari, L., Burman, O., & Mills, D. (2015). Behavioural changes in dogs treated with corticosteroids. Physiology & behavior, 151, 609–616. 
- Broersen, L. H., Pereira, A. M., Jørgensen, J. O., & Dekkers, O. M. (2015). Adrenal Insufficiency in Corticosteroids Use: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 100(6), 2171–2180. 
- Gugliandolo, E., Licata, P., Peritore, A. F., Siracusa, R., D’Amico, R., Cordaro, M., Fusco, R., Impellizzeri, D., Di Paola, R., Cuzzocrea, S., Crupi, R., & Interlandi, C. D. (2021). Effect of Cannabidiol (CBD) on Canine Inflammatory Response: An Ex Vivo Study on LPS Stimulated Whole Blood. Veterinary sciences, 8(9), 185. 
Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.