Is Prednisone Good For Dogs Cough?

Prednisone is a corticosteroid medication that is used to treat a variety of conditions in dogs, including allergies, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, and respiratory problems. It works by reducing inflammation and suppressing the immune system. Prednisone is available in tablet form and given orally to dogs.

Coughing is a common occurrence in dogs, and it can arise due to a variety of causes. Some of the most common reasons dogs cough include: tracheobronchitis, heart disease, chronic bronchitis, collapsing trachea, and respiratory infections. Persistent coughing can be distressing for both dogs and their owners.

Prednisone may potentially help treat coughing in dogs by reducing inflammation in the airways and lungs. However, it does carry some risks of side effects. Prednisone should be used under veterinary guidance after the underlying cause of the cough has been properly diagnosed. This content aims to explore whether prednisone can safely and effectively manage coughing in canine patients.

What is Prednisone?

Prednisone is a type of corticosteroid medication that mimics the effects of natural hormones produced by the adrenal glands (Mayo Clinic, 2022). Corticosteroids work by reducing inflammation and suppressing the immune system. They bind to steroid receptors to regulate the expression of certain genes and inhibit the production of inflammatory chemicals (MedlinePlus, 2020).

Prednisone is used to treat a variety of inflammatory conditions in humans, including asthma, allergies, arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, and more (Cleveland Clinic, 2020). It helps suppress the overactive immune response associated with these conditions.

In dogs, prednisone is commonly prescribed to treat inflammatory issues like allergies, asthma, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and autoimmune diseases. It helps reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation in these conditions when the immune system is overreacting. Prednisone can also be used as an immunosuppressant drug after organ transplants in dogs (Cleveland Clinic, 2020).

Overall, prednisone is a corticosteroid medication that works by reducing inflammation through immune system suppression. In both humans and dogs, it is used to treat conditions where the immune system is overreacting and causing excessive inflammation.

Common Causes of Coughing in Dogs

There are several common causes of coughing in dogs that owners should be aware of. Some of the most frequent reasons dogs develop coughs include:

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough, also known as infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by bacteria or viruses like bordetella bronchiseptica. It is easily spread where dogs congregate and causes inflammation in the trachea and bronchi leading to a harsh, dry cough. Kennel cough tends to improve on its own but can persist for weeks or months (

Heart Disease

Heart disease like valve disease or dilated cardiomyopathy can cause fluid buildup in the lungs known as pulmonary edema. This results in a cough as the dog tries to expel fluid from their airways. Cough from heart disease may worsen at night or with activity.

Collapsing Trachea

Collapsing trachea, also called tracheal collapse, happens when the cartilage rings of the trachea weaken and flatten making it difficult for air to pass through. This causes a dry, honking cough typically when the dog is excited or pulling on their leash. Small breed dogs are more prone to this condition.

Lung Disease

Chronic bronchitis is a common lung problem in dogs that leads to coughing. Other diseases like pneumonia, cancer, and pulmonary fibrosis can also irritate the lungs and airways resulting in cough.


Bacterial, viral, parasitic, or fungal infections in the lungs, airways, or sinuses can trigger coughing. Upper respiratory infections are common but pneumonia, fungal infections, and parasites like heartworms can also cause cough.

Does Prednisone Help Control Coughing?

Prednisone can help control coughing in dogs by reducing inflammation that triggers coughing. It works by suppressing the immune system and reducing inflammatory chemicals that cause swelling and irritation in the airways (1).

While prednisone is not a cure for the underlying condition causing a cough, it can provide symptomatic relief by calming inflammation. This is why vets often prescribe prednisone for certain respiratory illnesses in dogs that involve inflammation, like kennel cough. In cases of kennel cough, prednisone helps reduce airway swelling and irritation that triggers excessive coughing (2).

However, prednisone is not equally effective for all causes of coughing in dogs. It generally works best for coughs due to inflammation, infection, or allergies. Prednisone is less likely to relieve coughing stemming from heart disease, collapsed trachea, or cancer, for example. It mainly treats the symptom of coughing itself, not the root problem.

In summary, prednisone can temporarily suppress coughing by controlling inflammation, but it does not cure the condition causing coughing in the first place. Its ability to calm coughing depends on the specific illness involved. Prednisone offers the most cough relief for inflammatory conditions like kennel cough or bronchitis (3).

Potential Side Effects of Prednisone for Dogs

Prednisone is a synthetic corticosteroid that is commonly prescribed for dogs to help with inflammatory conditions like allergies, arthritis, and autoimmune diseases. However, prednisone does have potential side effects that dog owners should be aware of [1].

Some of the most common side effects of prednisone in dogs include:

  • Increased thirst and urination – Prednisone can cause excessive drinking and increased urination[2].
  • Increased appetite and weight gain – Prednisone can stimulate the appetite causing dogs to overeat and gain weight[3].
  • Panting – Heavy panting is a common side effect of prednisone in dogs.
  • Stomach ulcers – Prednisone can increase the risk of gastrointestinal ulcers in dogs.
  • Behavior changes – Prednisone may cause restlessness, aggression, or other behavioral changes in some dogs.

Dog owners should monitor their pet closely when starting prednisone treatment. Consult with your veterinarian if worrisome side effects develop.

When Should Prednisone Be Avoided?

There are certain medical conditions and situations when prednisone is not recommended for dogs. According to WebMD, veterinarians typically avoid prescribing prednisone if a dog has any of the following:

  • Diabetes – Prednisone can interfere with insulin regulation and blood sugar levels in diabetic dogs.1
  • Kidney disease – Prednisone can worsen kidney function in dogs with compromised kidneys.1
  • Infections – Prednisone suppresses the immune system, making dogs more susceptible to bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections.2
  • Pregnant or nursing dogs – Prednisone can cross the placenta and be passed to nursing puppies through milk, potentially causing birth defects or growth issues.3
  • Dogs already taking NSAIDs or steroids – There is increased risk of ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding when combining prednisone with other drugs that suppress immunity and inflammation.2

In general, vets will avoid prednisone if the potential risks outweigh the benefits for that individual dog’s health situation.

Proper Dosage and Administration

When prescribed by a veterinarian, prednisone is given to dogs orally or by injection. The correct dosage is determined by the vet based on the dog’s weight. Generally, the standard dosage is 0.5 to 1 mg of prednisone per pound, given once or twice daily.

It’s important that prednisone is tapered off gradually according to the schedule provided by your vet. Abruptly stopping prednisone can cause serious complications. The tapering schedule will outline the dosage that should be given each day and how to reduce it over time before fully discontinuing the medication.

Some key points for proper administration include:

  • Giving with food to reduce stomach upset
  • Following label instructions carefully
  • Not splitting or crushing tablets unless vet advises it
  • Completing the full course as directed
  • Never abruptly stopping prednisone unless under veterinary guidance

Always consult your vet if you have any questions or concerns about the proper dosage and administration of prednisone for your dog.

Lifestyle Changes to Help Control Cough

Making simple changes to your dog’s environment and routine can help reduce coughing episodes and irritation.

First, avoid exposing your dog to irritants like cigarette smoke, dust, and strong scents which can further aggravate the airways. Keep your home clean and well-ventilated, and use an air purifier if needed.

Switching to a front-clip harness instead of a collar can prevent pressure on your dog’s throat when walking or playing, reducing coughing spells. Humidifying the air can also soothe irritated airways. Use a cool mist humidifier or take your dog into the bathroom while showering.

If your dog is overweight, losing excess pounds can relieve pressure on the throat and chest, making breathing easier. Consult your vet for safe weight loss tips. With some simple changes, you can help your dog breathe and rest easier while recovering from coughing.


Alternative Cough Remedies

In addition to prednisone, there are some other remedies that may help control coughing in dogs:

Cough Suppressants

Cough suppressants like hydrocodone or butorphanol can help reduce coughing by acting on the brain’s cough receptors ( These should only be used for short periods and under veterinary supervision, as they can cause sedation.


Bronchodilators open up the airways and make breathing easier. Inhaled medications like fluticasone have been shown to control cough without side effects (


If a bacterial infection is causing the cough, antibiotics may be prescribed. Common antibiotics for dog coughs include doxycycline, amoxicillin, or azithromycin.


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like carprofen or meloxicam reduce inflammation and may help control cough alongside other therapies.

The Bottom Line

Prednisone can provide relief for coughing in dogs, but it does have potential side effects that should be considered. Prednisone is a corticosteroid that reduces inflammation, which can help suppress coughing. However, possible side effects include increased thirst, increased urination, panting, weight gain, and long-term use can lead to diabetes, Cushing’s disease, and liver problems [1]. For this reason, prednisone should only be given under the direct supervision of a veterinarian to ensure proper dosage and monitoring for side effects.

While prednisone can help control coughing, there are other treatment options to consider as well. A recent study found inhaled steroids like fluticasone to be effective for cough suppression without the side effects of oral steroids [2]. Additional lifestyle changes like using a harness instead of a collar, humidifying the air, and avoiding irritants can provide relief too. Ultimately, prednisone can be an effective cough treatment for dogs, but pet owners should weigh the potential risks and benefits with their veterinarian.

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