Prednisolone For Cats With Asthma – What it is and How to Use it

Prednisolone For Cats

Natural remedies for feline asthma are great, but sometimes we need what the doctor ordered. Prednisolone for cats is prescribed to help with a number of illnesses including asthma, but it does not come without warnings. There are concerns with long-term use and side effects that range from ‘meh’ to really freaking nasty. Arming yourself with information is, as always, the best way to use this drug safely and manage the fall-out that comes along with it.

Sparrow and I have an on again/off again, love/hate relationship with this stuff. While it does a great job of controlling his asthma flare-ups, I’d prefer not to be throwing synthetic drugs down his throat unless I really have to, especially when there are so many other ways to keep the kitty wheeze-free. If Sparrow could speak English, I’m sure he’d say the same.


Prednisone or Prednisolone – What’s The Difference?

No, it’s not a spelling mistake. Prednisolone and prednisone are two slightly different things. Many asthma cat parents talk about using prednisone to treat their feline but it’s more likely that prednisolone has been prescribed. Basically, prednisone is broken down by enzymes in the liver and turned into prednisolone, so it’s much safer for cats to be prescribed the end result in the first place, especially if there are other liver function factors involved.

Difference - Prednisolone For Cats

It doesn’t make much difference what you call it, so if you want to save yourself a couple of syllables, referring to it as prednisone is cool, as long as you remember what it actually is. For the sake of this piece I’m going to refer to prednisolone because that’s what Sparrow has been prescribed, but what I’m going to say can probably be applied to both.


What is Prednisolone?

Prednisolone is a corticosteroid that prevents the release of substances that cause inflammation in the body. In higher doses, it is used to suppress the immune system. It isprescribed to treat inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and asthma, as well as for certain autoimmune diseases.

Prednisolone is a synthetic version of cortisol, a hormone produced naturally by your cat’s adrenal glands. Cortisol has a number of functions in the body such as breaking down glucose for energy and helping the immune system deal with inflammation and swelling.

These synthetic versions of cortisol are much more potent and longer lasting than their naturally occurring forms, so caution must be exercised to avoid nasty side effects and withdrawals. Your vet will likely prescribe a high initial dose, with instructions to taper off the dose until the symptoms are gone. Here’s some great technical information on prednisolone if you’re interested. 


Is Prednisolone Safe For Cats?

Sure. It’s not ideal to be loading your cat’s system with synthetic drugs, but as a short-term fix for the occasional flare-up, prednisolone is fine when used correctly. Obviously, it’s preferable to be doing other things to keep the wheeze at bay, such as feeding your kitty the best diet and eliminating environmental triggers – but sometimes even these things aren’t enough. That’s when we call upon medical science.

This is a potent medication that messes with several of your kitty’s major organs, a fact that Cute Kitten - Prednisone For Cat's Asthmashould not be taken lightly. It’s important to follow your vet’s instructions regarding the dosage, timing and tapering off of this medication.

Many of the side effects of prednisolone are mild and expected, but some are more serious and if they come up, you’ll have to get to the vet and get it sorted. If you’re giving any kind of medication to your feline friend it’s important to keep a close eye on the patient, know the potential side effects and do what you can to ease any distress these side effects may cause.


Nasty Side Effects

By definition, side effects are undesirable and usually pretty ugly. Some of the side effects of short-term prednisolone use are relatively minor and may include:

  • Increased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Behaviour changes
  • Aggression
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy

The side effects of long-term prednisolone use are much more serious and could include:

  • Diabetes
  • Cushings Disease
  • Inhibited growth in young pets
  • Ulceration of the digestive tract
  • Delayed healing.
  • Depression.

Cat Lady - Prednisolone For Cats With AsthmaBecause prednisolone suppresses the immune system, it should not be given to your cat if she has any kind of infection as this could delay the healing process. Likewise, it’s not to be given to pregnant or lactating cats or young kittens. Your vet will know all of this anyway and you’ll ask good questions that relate to your cat’s special little situation because you’re a smart and caring pet owner…right?

Steroid treatment can save your cat’s life in a nasty flare-up, but over time it will take a toll on the delicate feline system. Rather than just automatically reaching for your stash or running to your vet for a prescription, please address these flare-ups. Do your detective work – find out why they’re happening and take steps to eliminate the trigger.


Don’t go Cold Turkey!

The real danger of using prednisolone for any length of time is the withdrawal. It’s not a rehab type situation, but stopping suddenly can make for a scary time which could include extreme fatigue, trembling, the development of Addison’s disease or even death.

When you give prednisolone to your cat, the adrenal glands slow down the production of cortisol quite significantly. If you stop suddenly the adrenal glands won’t be able to catch up and produce cortisol quickly enough, which leads to the aforementioned scary times.Turkey Sparrow - Prednisolone For Cats

Weaning kitty off his pred habit is pretty simple – your vet will be able to give you instructions on the schedule. As an example, the last time Sparrow was on prednisolone we did twice a day for the first 7 days, once a day for the next 7 days, once every other day for the next 7 days and on like to the point of stopping. Please don’t use this as a set of instructions though, speak to your vet to make sure you’re using the right method for your cat.


Prednisolone and other corticosteroids can be lifesavers if used correctly, but caution needs to be taken to avoid long term problems. You have a much better chance of giving your kitty a long and healthy life if you find what’s causing the problem and fix that, rather than just masking it with drugs.

What are your thoughts on steroid treatments? If you’ve given your cat prednisolone (or prednisone) how did it go? Head to the comments and share your thoughts.

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  1. This is a very informative post. I love cats. When I was younger I had two cats. I did not realize that animals can get diseases like humans. One of my cats died from feline leukemia. I don’t have a cat now, but I intend on getting one in the near future. Very good information and a very good website.

    1. Thanks Phyllis, I’m sorry to hear about your cat. Come back and introduce your new kitty to us when s/he moves in!

  2. Hi there,
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge about prednisolone. I agree that it’s really helpful if it’s used correctly. Nevertheless, it is important to pay attention to the long-term side effect.I’m the same way, I’m not a big fan of giving pets synthetic drug unless it’s definitely necessary.

    1. Thanks Kien, you’re right. It’s best to use stuff like this only when it’s really necessary. I’m far too concerned with the long term side effects to let this become a habit!

  3. Hmm, I wonder if I put 2 of my tiny chihuahuas together, does it count as 1 cat? (:
    Luckily, my pets are all healthy, but I had asthma a while ago, so I know what Sparrow is going through. I can totally relate!

    Yep, that’s the deal with synthetic drugs – Side effects, side effects & more side effects..
    I consider it as the story with “happier” ending if there’s an emergency situation drug you can come off from & take steps to minimize the withdrawal effects..

    I think it’s very important, & you’ve done a great job letting folks know not to stop suddenly – It can save lives paying attention to such details!

    Dramatic change can usually have an impact.

    But often, as far as chronic illness goes, one drug adds the second one to counter the first one.. & then comes the third one to counter the second one – Ending up as a rainbow of pills. Isn’t it?

    Seems like natural remedies are mandatory go-to, but it also feels like a luxury, & like you said.. none of those things will cure your pet’s condition nor replace your prescribed medications.

    Although, I’m the one who never ever stops hoping, that medicine will advance to the point where better solutions come for both animals as well as humans.

    PS! My chihuahua-squad is sending their regards to Mr Sparrow (:

    1. I’ve always wondered who would come out the winner in a Sparrow vs. chihuahua battle. Sparrow would probably get eaten alive by the tiny beasts, he’s not very tough.

      Whenever I’ve had to give prednisolone to Sparrow, I’ve found that the vets are really good about letting me know the specific instructions, but I always find out more when I do my own research. I suspect many pet owners don’t do this and it makes me kinda sad. Why wouldn’t you want to know everything there is to know about what you’re putting into your fur baby?

      I love science and I love that we have so many medicines that can save lives, but for me, the side effects are just a bit too risky to not be doing some proper investigation and looking for alternatives. Natural remedies are wonderful and there are a few of them in my toolbox, but sometimes…science has to win, especially in a life-threatening situation.

      Thanks for joining the conversation Henry, I hope to see you around here some more. Say hi to Team Chihuahua from me and Sparrow 🙂

  4. Hi Shirley,

    Thanks for such a detailed post on Prednisolone. It’s pretty confusing that there are two different prescriptions(Prednisone or Prednisolone) both with similar names and effects. I have to agree with Kien in that I’m not a big fan of giving pets(in my case a dog) synthetic drugs. But I guess that if it’s necessary there’s not much we can do but do the best we can for them.

    Thanks again,


    1. Hi Luis,

      yeah it is a bit confusing. I had no idea until I started talking to other asthma cat parents, I’d only ever heard of prednisolone because that’s what Sparrow was prescribed. We learn something new every day, huh? Thanks for saying hi!

  5. I didn’t realize that the treatment takes 28 days. I guess I didn’t know much about asthma because I thought it was something you either have or you don’t, and there and a flare up can occur at any time. Thanks for the lesson.

    1. Hey Carole. This is my first real experience with an asthmatic, so I’m learning a lot about it all the time. There are good times and bad times, I have Sparrow’s asthma mostly under control these days but occasionally he needs a bit more help than usual. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Shirley, I expect we will never know if our cat, Katie, gets asthma as she is permanently on prednisolone. The reason for this is she has a severe liver enzyme problem.

    So far she has had a full open surgery biopsy on all organs to diagnose this. As her enzyme count first came down (good) and then slowly started going back up (bad) she had a needle biopsy. From both it turned out she doesn’t have an infection problem but most likely a genetic one.

    She has regular vet visits and blood tests, and we watch her carefully, to make sure no bad things are happening. What she does have is a slightly more portly physique. And what we have is an extremely expensive puss!

    I certainly know about the withdrawal effects of prednisone. A friend of mine was put on it at first diagnosis of asthma. He wasn’t warned about this, was kept on it for a while and when told to go off it he did. Straight away. The result was he went partially deaf. Not nice.

    The moral of the story is, as you say, do your research on everything to make sure you get the facts. And make sure you do this through reputable sources as there is so much garbage on the net.

    1. Oh wow, Helen. That’s a lot for poor Katie to deal with, but it sounds like you’re taking very good care of her. So strange that a doctor didn’t tell your friend to come off the pred gradually, what a terrible result. Sometimes I think I’m over-researching and over thinking but hearing that makes me feel much better about it!

  7. Hi Shirley,

    Great article, I’ve found it very helpful!
    I have two beautiful cats and thanks god they don’t have asthma, but my neighbor found a cat on the street, and she has just discovered that the cat has a problem with asthma. If it would have happened to my cats, I don’t think I would have used steroid treatment. I really dislike it! I am curious about this, from what a cat could be allergic to?
    However, I will show this article to my neighbor, I am sure she will find it very useful!
    Thank you for this excellent post!

    1. Hi Daniella,

      I’m not a huge fan of steroid treatment either, but if it’s going to make my Sparrow able to breathe again, I’ll do it. It’s absolutely not a long term fix, but it gets us out of trouble every now and then. Taking care of his diet and environment are far better options and I’m confident that attending to these things will reduce the amount of synthetic drugs I have to give him. Thanks for sharing with your neighbour, I hope she finds some good advice here

    1. Hi Marge,

      The standard AeroKat inhaler comes with two different sized masks, so you can choose which one is the best fit. There’s some more information here about the inhaler and the masks. Come back again if you have any more questions, I’m always happy to help 🙂

  8. Hi Shirley,

    I never knew anything about asthma for cats, but with your informative post I do now. I love all pets, I don’t own cats but I have three dogs.
    When Prednisolone can have so many side effects, your vet will have prescribed to your feline, he or she would have to explain what may occur.
    I think I would try any natural remedy, before going down the prescribed route.
    Being weaned off is a proper and only way to help our pets after being on certain drugs. Sparrow is very lucky to have you caring for him.


    1. Thanks John. Yeah I really don’t like giving Sparrow this nasty drug, but if I have to…I suppose I have to. Much nicer than having him hacking all over the shop.

  9. Fortunately my cats have never had the need to take prednisolones but my sons paediatric prescribes them almost every time he has a flu. That’s why I was surprised and worried after reading that prednisolone should not be given to small kittens. Luckily, I have tried natural solutions before starting with prednisolone and often times there were no need for other.

    Sorry for my ignorance but how can you know if cat is having a flu often or is actually having an asthma?

    1. Hi Maria,

      Your poor son, I’m glad you’re onto the natural remedies.

      Cat asthma is a tricky thing to diagnose, we went through a process of elimination with the vet – when Sparrow’s condition didn’t respond to initial treatment for things like the flu or upper respiratory infections we did some x-rays and that’s when we discovered it was asthma. It’s mostly under control these days, aside from the (very) occasional flare-up. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Hi Shirley,

    Your article was very informative. I never really thought about cats getting asthma. I currently have one cat and am thankful she is healthy. Sparrow looks so adorable and thank goodness he is being well taken care of. I also feel the same as you, I don’t like the use of synthetic drugs.

    I didn’t realize how dangerous prednisolone is when it’s time to stop taking this drug.

    Thank you for sharing this post.

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