Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
"I have been giving my 13-pound dog 1.25mg prednisone once a day for 3 weeks for severe itching and scratching. He is doing a little better but still has spots of hair missing. I give him Frontline Plus and I check every day to make sure he has no fleas.
The prednisone was left over from a visit to vet in 2020. They are 5mg. I am trying to schedule a visit with my vet (the only one in my small town), but they are booked. I was giving him Benadryl, but it didn't help as well as the prednisone. The pills are tiny enough now that I don't think I can split them again.
This happens only in the summer. How do I wean him off?" —June
Tapering Prednisone for Dogs
That is a fairly low dose and your dog would probably be fine even if not weaned off the drug, but you still shouldn't risk it. Dogs that have taken prednisone for some time and then stop abruptly are in danger of entering an Addisonian crisis and can die.
Symptoms of stopping prednisone can include vomiting, shaking, severe diarrhea, or collapse. If your dog shows any of these signs, it is an emergency. Take him to the vet even if you do not have an appointment.
Even though you are only giving 1/4 of a tablet, you will have to split them and give half of that to wean him off. I realize it is not going to be accurate, but do the best you can. Give 1/8 of a tablet every day for 3 weeks, and then hopefully by that time you will be able to see your regular vet and they will tell you when it is okay to stop.
If you still have not been able to take your dog to the vet, start giving 1/8 of a tablet every other day. If you have enough prednisone left over, give it for another 2 weeks before stopping.
Prednisone Alternatives for Dogs
There are a lot of new alternatives to prednisone now too. Even if the Benadryl did not help much, there are other antihistamines that might. Most of the other allergy meds suppress the immune system, like prednisone, but there are natural alternatives like licorice and coconut oil and a relatively new medication on the market called Cytopoint that does not have all of those nasty prednisone side effects.
The Cytopoint injection is relatively expensive (usually over $50 for an injection that lasts one to two months), but it will usually make a dog a lot more comfortable than the prednisone or the natural therapies. There is still not a lot of data on it, but it is safer than prednisone or Atopica. If the cost is not a problem you can talk to your regular veterinarian about it.
Dealing With Dog Allergies
Since you mention this is usually a summer issue, I hope this will all clear up as you move into the winter months. If not, an allergy to something in the house or a food allergy are more likely the problem.
The only way to really take care of allergies, summer or year round, is by finding out what is wrong and removing the allergen or helping the dog respond to it is another way (immunotherapy).
This article is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from your veterinarian. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2022 Mark dos Anjos DVM