Is There Danger in Long-Term Prednisone Use?

CatChannel veterinary expert Arnold Plotnick, DVM, discusses various treatments for cats with chronic sinusitis.

By Arnold Plotnick, DVM | Posted: Aug. 7, 2009, 3 a.m. EDT

Printer Friendly

Q: My 8-year-old domestic longhair has had chronic snuffles with clear nasal discharge for three years off and on. An X-ray showed a mass in his sinus cavity. He underwent rhinoscopy recently when he had his annual dental cleaning.  My vet was able to biopsy a piece of tissue in nasal passage. The biopsy came back as chronic inflammation; no cancer cells or fungus was seen. My vet is concerned that this could be hidden cancer. The symptoms responded well to a daily dose of oral prednisolone, 5mg. He is now on every-other-day therapy and has intermittent runny nose. Is there any harm in long-term prednisolone on a daily basis? I am worried about my cat developing diabetes, as I have had two diabetic cats in the past. 

A: This is an interesting case, and you ask a lot of good questions. The X-rays revealed a mass, which is worrisome, however, rhinoscopy did not reveal any evidence of cancer. The fact that your cat’s clinical signs have persisted for at least three years makes cancer less likely; if it were cancer, your cat would likely not have survived this long without specific cancer therapy. While it is possible that during the rhinoscopy, the biopsy specimen that was obtained was not representative of the actual disease that is present, I think it’s more likely that your cat simply has chronic sinusitis, probably as a result of a persistent herpesvirus infection.

Antibiotics often help with flare-ups, but most cats spend their lives with a constant low level of sneezing and runny nose. Some cats respond to steroids such as prednisolone, but these drugs have the potential for side effects.  Steroids do antagonize the effects of body’s own insulin, and chronic usage can put cats at increased risk of developing diabetes. Daily administration of steroids is not ideal. The goal of steroid therapy is to control the signs using the minimal amount of drug, ideally giving the prednisolone the way you’re doing it — every other day — rather than every day. Recently, the anti-viral drug famciclovir has shown great promise in treating cats with chronic sinusitis, either alone or in combination with antibiotics and the amino acid lysine. Famciclovir is a little expensive; however, the drug is coming off patent in 2010 and is expected to be considerably more affordable.

Printer Friendly

 Give us your opinion on
Is There Danger in Long-Term Prednisone Use?

Submit a Comment   Join Club
Earn 1,000 points! What's this?
Reader Comments

Sandra    Kennewick, WA

3/6/2013 9:48:33 PM

My 16 year old cat has hyperthyroid. She is on Tapazole,SAMe and she is also on Vetalog. Her appetite decressed in the past few months since she is taking the Tapazole. I called my vet today to see if she could stay on the Vetalog and was told that she would be put on Prednisone for the rest of her life. In the past when she was put on Prednisone it was every 3 days. Is that a safe dosage? Since she has been on the Vetalog she is gaining weight. My poor cat looked horrible. She was down the 5lbs 4 oz's. 2 years ago she was a healthy 9 pound active cat. I haven't seen many side effects when she was on the prednisone. Hopefully this will be a good choice.

Pella    Lansing, MI

9/30/2009 9:10:39 PM

We dont know what the Vet will suggest yet.

Sheryl    Casa Grande, AZ

8/13/2009 8:39:51 PM

We have some cats with the problem - right now we just use lysine unless the cats condition worsens - in which case we temporarily go to some of the other remedies mentioned in this article. We do not think that long-term usage of an antibiotic or prednisolone is a good pratice.

Lindsey    Cary, NC

8/13/2009 4:16:40 AM

Good article! My 6.5 year old cat Sydney has been on 2.5mg of Prednisolone daily for 3 years now. She has pretty severe asthma and unfortunately breaks through her meds if I try to give them to her every other day. My vet has informed me that there is a possibility of diabetes, but that since her dose is so low that she may be fine over the long haul. It pains me to know that the meds that keep her breathing are hurting her elsewhere, but inhaled asthma meds are just too expensive for my budget, and no meds simply isn't an option for her. Anyway, I am always interested in articles that talk about the long term effects of pred use in cats.

View Current Comments

Top Products