Friday, October 14, 2011

Tapering prednisone in cats

cats asleep in bed
Eamon is feeling healthy enough to cuddle with his friends once more.
When your cat is facing a serious medical problem, like chronic itchy skin or painful joints, veterinarians often prescribe predisone. The medication can reduce inflammation and just make the animal feel better.

About a month ago, Eamon went on prednisone for a back problem and he went from being an immobile and painful cat to a jolly, snuggly guy in just a few days. Like most owners, I was resistant to taper him off a medication that seemed to be working.

Prednisone is a great medication, my veterinarian reminded me, but it's just not a great idea to give high doses of the medication over a long period of time. That's why veterinarians often suggest that you provide the medication at a high dose and then slowly decrease the amount you're giving until you find a low dose that works to control the chronic problem.

I am not the type of cat owner that argues with medical advice, so I follow dosage instructions carefully and we're tapering off the prednisone now. I am on the alert for signs of pain, stumbling or weakness and I'll be calling my veterinarian when I see any of these problems. He may go on a higher dose at that time, or we may add in a pain medication to help with the symptoms. I'm hoping that doesn't happen, but I'm prepared in case it does.

You'll notice that I am following instructions here. When I worked in veterinary clinics, I encountered many pet owners who refused to taper and would call multiple clinics to fill prescriptions for their pets. I have a lot of things to say about this behavior, and none of it is good, but the short version is this: Veterinarians have a pet's best interests at heart and they've spent many years studying animal physiology. Questioning their expertise is a bit silly, unless you're a veterinarian yourself. Always do what they say.

But if you can't resist the temptation to tinker, do your research first. I often look up medical conditions in this book The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats (Prevention Pets), and if I'd like to follow the recommendations I see there (rather than those my veterinarian requests), I bring the book with me to my animal appointments. I outline why I'd like to do something differently, and I give the veterinarian a chance to change my mind.

It's much safer to follow an approach like this. Rather than making some sort of snap decision about what my pet should do, I'm educating myself and then asking the pros for education. If the advice you're getting about a pred reduction just doesn't sit well with you, this could be an approach you might consider.

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