Cat owner’s hand administering oral pill to black cat in front of lime green backdrop

Why pet owners are switching to online vet care with Dutch

  • Prescriptions delivered free to you

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  • Unlimited video visits and follow-ups

Pet parents do everything possible to keep their feline friends happy and healthy. But unfortunately, there are some situations when your cat might need prescription medication. Vets use a variety of medications to treat our animal companions, helping them heal after surgery, reducing symptoms associated with allergies, arthritis, and other conditions, and improving a cat's quality of life.

One medication you might hear about from your vet is prednisone for cats. This steroid is used to treat various symptoms and conditions in pets by working as an anti-inflammatory and immune suppressant. But what is prednisone used for, and is it the best option for your cat? Keep reading to learn more about prednisone for cats to ensure you and your vet make the best choice for your feline friend.

What Is Prednisone?

Prednisone is a prescription steroid— or glucocorticoid — that's an anti-inflammatory and immune suppressant.1

Glucocorticoids are administered for a variety of different ailments in cats, such as:

  • Allergies: Prednisone for cats works by suppressing the immune system to block the symptoms of allergies due to inflammation.
  • Asthma: Oral steroids like cat prednisone can reduce inflammation in the airways to help your cat breathe better.
  • Hives & itchy skin: Hives and itchy skin are often the results of an allergic response. Prednisone suppresses the immune system and prevents inflammatory responses that can cause these symptoms.
  • Arthritis & orthopedic diseases: Prednisone can be used to treat arthritis and other chronic orthopedic diseases to reduce pain and increase mobility.
  • Nervous system disorders: By suppressing the immune system, prednisone can treat various nervous system disorders to prevent nerve and muscle damage.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: Prednisone is one of the most common treatments for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in cats, working to suppress inflammation.
  • Autoimmune diseases: Immunosuppression through prednisone can help treat several autoimmune diseases, including lupus — a rare disease caused by abnormal immune system regulation that causes inflammation in the body.5

Prednisone for cats is a steroid and hormone typically prescribed as a short-term anti-inflammatory.1 For example, it might be used after surgery or to treat various ailments that cause inflammation in the body. Prednisone is also often prescribed to treat itchy skin in cats from flea bites or allergies and can reduce symptoms of serious illnesses to make your cat more comfortable.

List of ailments prednisone treats

The most common use of prednisone for cats is as an allergy and itching treatment that reduces inflammation and suppresses the immune system to reduce symptoms associated with the condition. However, prednisone may also be used as a long-term treatment option for serious health conditions to suppress the immune system.

This medication affects every cell in the cat's body to suppress immune system function in serious diseases like lupus, reduce itchy skin, and treat many health issues like Addison's disease, a condition where your cat doesn't produce enough glucocorticoids.

At low doses, prednisone works to reduce inflammation. It has anti-inflammatory effects that can reduce the severity of symptoms associated with many different types of cat ailments, including allergies and arthritis. In some cases, higher doses may be used to treat cancer.1

List of side effects of prednisone

Side Effects Of Prednisone

While prednisone is effective for treating several cat health conditions and reducing or eliminating unpleasant symptoms like itchy skin, the steroid has potential side effects. Common side effects include:

  • Increased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Panting
  • Agitation
  • Vomiting and diarrhea1

Your cat may experience changes in their behavior due to the potential side effects. For example, since prednisone can make them drink more water, they may urinate more frequently or outside the litter box because they can't make it in time. Additionally, some cats may experience behavioral changes while taking prednisone.2 Contact your vet as soon as possible if your cat begins displaying signs of aggression.

In addition, some cats shouldn't take prednisone. Because prednisone suppresses the immune system at higher doses, cats with infections shouldn't take it because it can affect the body's ability to fight the infection.2 Prednisone can increase your cat's risk of infection. Depending on your cat's needs, your vet may prescribe another medication or antibiotic to help fight infection.

Additionally, animals with Cushing's disease already create too much hormone on their own and shouldn't receive additional glucocorticoids. Prednisone can also increase a cat's risk of Cushing's disease by giving them too much of the hormone.2 This medicine can also affect insulin and blood sugar levels in diabetic cats, making it potentially dangerous. Prednisone may also cause diabetes in cats. According to a recent study, cats on a high dose of prednisone should be monitored for prednisone-induced diabetes mellitus (PIDM).3

Cat prednisone and similar medications can interact with other types of drugs like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Therefore, it's crucial to tell your vet if your cat is already taking medication, vitamins, or supplements that may affect the efficacy and safety of the medication.

It's also recommended to consult your vet before stopping your pet's prednisone. Cats shouldn't suddenly stop taking the medication because it affects their ability to create cortisol, a hormone that can help your pet cope with stressful events.2

How To Administer Prednisone

Prednisone should be given to your cat orally with food to reduce stomach irritation and the potential for ulcers.2 Cats are usually given prednisone once per day at night.However, some may receive two doses a day, every twelve hours.

Always follow your vet's instructions to ensure your cat receives the proper dosage at the correct times. If you forget what your vet told you, the directions are listed on the prescription label to guide you through your cat's treatment.1

Most cats receive prednisone for one or two weeks, depending on the health condition it's being used to treat. Following your vet's instructions to wean them off the drug properly is crucial to ensure their body can return to creating its own steroids.1

Cat prednisone is available in the following doses:

  • 1 MG
  • 2.5 MG
  • 5 MG
  • 10 MG
  • 20 MG
  • 50 MG

Your cat's dosage will depend on their weight and the condition being treated. Never give your cat more prednisone than is advised by your vet.

If your cat consumes more than the recommended dose, it could result in an overdose with symptoms like GI upset, decreased appetite, and black stools.1 If you believe your cat has consumed too much prednisone, contact your vet immediately or call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 for the next steps.

Depending on the underlying illness, you may have to have your cat's routine tested while they're on the medication to ensure it's working and not affecting their health in any way.

Prednisone Vs. Prednisolone

Dogs and cats have different liver processes for how the body converts and uses prednisone. Can cats have prednisone? Technically, cats are usually given prednisolone, which is the same class of drug. The difference between prednisone and prednisolone is how the liver converts them. Prednisone must be converted into prednisolone before it works.4 However, cats can't absorb and convert prednisone like dogs, so vets prescribe prednisolone.1

Both prednisone and prednisolone are prescribed as short-term anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling and itchy skin. Since they're the same class of drugs, they have the same potential side effects and benefits. However, vets may prescribe one or the other depending on the species of pet and their underlying health condition. For example, vets usually prescribe prednisolone to cats and dogs with liver disease because it doesn't have to be converted before it starts working.1

Is Prednisone Right For Your Cat?

Prednisone is usually preferred for dogs, while prednisolone is preferred for cats because there's concern about whether their bodies can convert prednisone into prednisolone for the medication to work correctly. Unfortunately, some cats shouldn't take prednisone or prednisolone due to underlying health conditions. Additionally, only you and your vet can decide if prednisone is the right option for your pet.

Short and long-term prednisone treatments can reduce your cat's symptoms and help treat various health issues. However, your vet will likely want to monitor your cat during long-term use because of potential side effects.

If, for some reason, your cat can't take prednisone, your vet will come up with an alternate treatment to relieve their symptoms and help treat their condition. Of course, the best course of treatment will depend on your cat's illness. Since prednisone is used to treat so many different health issues, your options will vary. For example, if your pet has allergies, your vet may prescribe a different type of allergy medicine for cats, such as antihistamines, to reduce their symptoms. Meanwhile, if your cat suffers from arthritis, your vet may prescribe an NSAID to reduce joint pain and inflammation.

Talk to your vet about the benefits and drawbacks of prednisone to ensure you're making the right decision for your pet. Like with all medications, there are potential side effects, and arming yourself with the knowledge about what you should expect can ensure your cat is getting the best treatment.

Cat owner and cat sitting in front of laptop for a veterinary telemedicine appointment

Final Notes

Prednisone and other corticosteroid medications can relieve your cat's symptoms and improve their quality of life while treating serious health issues. However, it's important for cat owners to stay informed and ensure they're making the right decision for their pets. Unfortunately, this medication isn't right for all cats, and you should ensure it's safe before giving it to them. Depending on your cat's illness, there might be other treatment options.

Try Dutch's online vet service to talk about your cat's health and wellness and determine if prednisone is the right treatment option for them.

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References

  1. "Prednisone and Prednisolone." PetMD, https://www.petmd.com/pet-medication/prednisone-and-prednisolone

  2. "Pharmacy Prednisone Prednisolone ." Colorado State University, http://csu-cvmbs.colostate.edu/vth/Documents/pharmacy-prednisone-prednisolone.pdf

  3. Nerhagen S;Moberg HL;Boge GS;Glanemann. "Prednisolone-Induced Diabetes Mellitus in the Cat: A Historical Cohort." Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32716236/

  4. "Prednisone vs. Prednisolone - What's the Difference?" Drugs.com, https://www.drugs.com/medical-answers/difference-between-prednisone-prednisolone-3508888/.

  5. "Cats with Lupus ." Lupus Trust UK, https://www.lupus.org.uk/cats-with-lupus.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

What is a visit with Dutch like?

When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

After your video call, the vet will send you a message with a custom treatment plan to help your pet feel better, including a link to buy any recommended prescription or over-the-counter medications. Place your order and we’ll ship it free.

How much will it cost for Dutch to treat my pet?

The Dutch membership starts at $7/mo for unlimited access to the vet. No more long waits for appointments or surprise bills.

In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.