PetMD’s medications content was written and reviewed by veterinary professionals to answer your most common questions about how medications function, their side effects, and what species they are prescribed for. This content shouldn’t take the place of advice by your vet.
What Is Methylprednisolone?
Methylprednisolone is an FDA-approved prescription glucocorticoid (steroid) used to treat a variety of medical conditions, including seasonal allergies (atopic dermatitis) and hypersensitivities in dogs and cats.
As a glucocorticoid replacement, methylprednisolone can also be a lifesaving emergency treatment for a serious condition in dogs with dangerously low levels of cortisol, a condition known as Addison’s disease. Methylprednisolone can also be used as an immunosuppressive medication to treat inflammatory diseases and has a role in anti-cancer (chemotherapy) regimens.
Methylprednisolone is available in multiple formulations, including the brand name Medrol® and as generic methylprednisolone. The injectable forms of methylprednisolone, either fast-acting (methylprednisolone sodium succinate) or sustained release, which are slowly absorbed and last weeks to months (methylprednisolone acetate), are administered in the hospital by your veterinarian.
Methylprednisolone is intended to be given to your pet for the shortest amount of time at the lowest dose needed to help relieve your pet’s symptoms. Your veterinarian will determine the best course of treatment for your pet.
In certain circumstances, your vet may recommend a compounded oral formulation of methylprednisolone. Compounded medications are prescribed if there’s a specific reason your pet’s health can’t be managed by an FDA-approved drug, such as if your pet has trouble taking pills in capsule form, the dosage strength is not commercially available, or the pet is allergic to an ingredient in the FDA-approved medication. Compounded medications are not FDA-approved. They are created by a veterinarian or a licensed pharmacist on an individual basis to best suit a patient’s particular needs. You can learn more about compounded medications here.
It is important to note that methylprednisolone can weaken the immune system, which may make it more challenging for a sick pet to fight off an infection. Methylprednisolone should not be used in pets with certain medical conditions, such as fungal infections, viral infections, stomach ulcer, corneal ulcer, overactive adrenal gland disease (Cushing’s syndrome), tuberculosis, or in pets that are hypersensitive to the medication. This is why it’s important to discuss your pet’s entire medical history with your veterinarian.
Methylprednisolone should be used cautiously in pets with diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, or blood clotting conditions. Giving methylprednisolone with certain medications can result in health risks to your pet, so it is important to discuss your pet’s medications and medical conditions with your veterinarian.
How Methylprednisolone Works
Methylprednisolone can have various effects on the body depending on the dose and treatment regimen. At lower doses, it can reduce inflammation and have broad anti-inflammatory effects. At higher doses it can suppress the immune system, which may be helpful in treating certain forms of cancer.
Methylprednisolone is also used to help pets with Addison’s disease replenish dangerously low cortisol levels. Methylprednisolone is considered a much stronger steroid than over-the-counter cortisone medication, and it is also commonly used to aid in certain emergencies such as severe allergic reactions.
Your veterinarian will prescribe a dose and regimen that is appropriate for your pet’s medical condition.
Follow the directions on the drug label or as provided by your veterinarian.
Methylprednisolone is best given with food to lower the risk of digestive upset. Ensure your pet has access to plenty of water.
If your veterinarian recommends that you discontinue this medication for your pet for any reason, they will generally wean your pet off slowly, under their supervision, especially if your pet has been taking the medication long-term. Methylprednisolone stays in your pet’s bloodstream after your pet stops receiving it, so you may notice its effects continuing for several days after their last dosage.
Do not stop this medication abruptly without a veterinarian’s guidance, as serious side effects may occur.
Missed a Dose?
Speak with your veterinarian about what to do if you forget to give a dose of methylprednisolone. Generally, they may instruct you to give it when you remember, or if it is almost time for your pet’s next dose, to skip the missed dose and resume your normal dosing schedule. Do not give extra or double doses.
Methylprednisolone Possible Side Effects
Methylprednisolone is generally well tolerated. Common side effects may include:
Other more severe side effects may be seen with higher dosages and long-term therapy:
Ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract
Dull/dry haircoat with hair loss
Elevated liver levels
Inflammation of the pancreas
Abnormal blood clotting
Worsening of diabetes mellitus
Decreased muscle mass
Behavior changes (depression, low energy, aggression)
Corticosteroids administered orally or by injection to pregnant animals may induce premature birth. Additionally, this medication has resulted in birth defects when used in pregnant pets. Be sure to inform your veterinarian if your pet is breeding or pregnant.
Human Side Effects
Methylprednisolone is also a prescription medication for humans, frequently with dosages that are different from those prescribed for your pet by a veterinarian. Due to possible side effects, humans should never use medicine dispensed for their pets and pets should not be given any medicine dispensed for a human’s use.
If you have hypersensitivity to glucocorticoids, talk to your veterinarian about using another medication, or ensure that you wear gloves while in contact with this medication. Wash your hands after application.
If you accidentally ingest this medication, call your physician, seek medical attention, or call the national Poison Control Center hotline at 800-222-1222.
Call Your Vet If:
Severe side effects are seen (see above)
Your pet’s condition worsens or does not improve with treatment
You see or suspect an overdose
You have additional questions or concerns about the use of methylprednisolone
Methylprednisolone Overdose Information
Overdoses of methylprednisolone can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, or gastrointestinal upset. Prolonged use or overdosage may suppress your pet’s immune system, which can cause dangerous side effects if the medication is stopped abruptly.
If you suspect an overdose, immediately contact your veterinarian, seek emergency veterinary care, or call an animal poison control center. Consultation fees often apply.
Pet Poison Helpline (855) 764-7661
ASPCA Animal Poison Control (888) 426-4435
Methylprednisolone tablets should be stored at controlled room temperatures of 68 F to 77 F. Always confirm storage temperatures by reading the label.
Keep the container tightly closed to protect this medication from moisture and light. Compounded medications should be stored according to the compounding pharmacy’s label.
Keep out of reach of children and pets.
Methylprednisolone for Dogs FAQs
Is methylprednisolone safe for dogs?
Methylprednisolone can be used safely in dogs under the direct supervision of your veterinarian. It is best to discuss any current medications your pet is on and any known medical conditions with your veterinarian before giving methylprednisolone, as there may be health risks to your pet if they are hypersensitive to it, have certain medical conditions, or are taking certain medications. Your veterinarian will determine whether this medication is right for your pet, based on their symptoms and circumstances.
Is Medrol® the same medication as methylprednisolone?
Yes. Medrol® is the brand name and methylprednisolone is the generic name.
Is methylprednisolone the same as prednisolone?
No. Methylprednisolone and prednisolone are different medications that are both categorized as glucocorticoids. They are both considered intermediate-acting, last up to several days in the body after administration, and have very similar effects. Methylprednisolone is slightly more potent than prednisolone and is available in oral and injectable forms, while prednisolone is only available in oral forms.
No vet writer or qualified reviewer has received any compensation from the manufacturer of the medication as part of creating this article. All content contained in this article is sourced from public sources or the manufacturer.
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