I wrote this article to answer every question I had about Prednisolone when Moose started the medication 1 month ago to treat his Insulinoma. I didn’t understand what the medication did, I didn’t understand why he needed it, and I didn’t realize all the important considerations to make when administering Prednisolone. Because Insulinoma is one of the most common illnesses our ferrets suffer from, it’s important we all stay informed on the proper treatment and medication. Book mark this page for future reference!
What is Prednisolone?
Prednisolone is the most common medication used to treat ferrets with Insulinoma. It belongs to a class of drugs called glucocorticoids -meaning it reduces inflammation throughout the body. Prednisolone is a common steroid used in both humans and ferrets. Prednisolone is also used to treat irritable bowel disease and lymphoma in ferrets.
Prednisolone vs. Prednisone
Prednisolone is the “active” form of Prednisone, meaning it has already been hepatically-metabolized, which is easier on your ferret’s liver. Think of it like this: your ferret’s body would turn prednisone into prednisolone using the liver anyway, so when you give your ferret prednisolone to begin with, you are saving your ferret’s liver the work/wear and tear. Prednisolone is recommended for ferrets instead of Prednisone for this reason.
Why Does My Ferret Need Prednisolone?
Ferrets with Insulinoma require immediate treatment to prevent seizures and death. Ferrets with insulinoma have blood glucose levels under 70-90 mg/dl after 3-4 hours of fasting. The best way to test your ferret’s blood glucose levels to determine whether they have insulinoma is with a blood glucose monitor.
Prednisolone increases blood glucose levels by inhibiting cellular uptake, promoting hepatic gluconeogenesis , and inhibiting insulin binding to insulin receptors.
What Dose of Prednisolone Should My Ferret Be On?
Vets like to prescribe the lowest dose possible of Prednisolone to begin with. As time goes on and the disease progresses, your veterinarian will typically increase your ferret’s dose of Prednisolone.
Diazoxide is another medication that is often added if Prednisolone is not enough to treat your ferret’s insulinoma symptoms.
Recommended doses for ferrets range from .5 to 2 mg/kg PO q12h (this means .5 to 2mg per kg of your ferret’s weight every 12 hours) . Moose started his dose of Prednisolone at .25mg twice per day (it is compounded with Ferretone to come out to .25ML of liquid into a syringe).
Just for reference: 1mg is 1/1000 of 1ml. Moose’s compounded medication is 1mg per 1ml…aka .25mg in a single .25ml dose. If the Prednisolone medication was not compounded (mixed) with something else, the dosage would be 1/1000th the amount shown above. Too small to work!!
Should I Give My Ferret Liquid or Pill Prednisolone?
Ferrets are almost exclusively given liquid form Prednisolone because their dosage is so small and it can be more accurately calibrated. Liquid Prednisolone is also available to be mixed with Ferretone at a compounding pharmacy to encourage your ferret to accept the medication. We currently pay $35 per month for Moose’s Ferretone Prednisolone compounded medication.
Mixing Prednisolone with Ferretone?
Ferretone is a product by 8 and 1 found in Petco and PetSmart. Though it is marketed as a regular supplement, it is not recommended as a healthy treat in most ferret communities. The only acceptable use we have seen is the use of Ferretone to encourage taking medication.
Veterinarians will often recommend you mix your ferret’s Prednisolone medication with Ferretone to increase its palatability (tastiness).
Though Ferretone does NOT contain sugar, Ferretone is controversial because it contains two preservatives known to cause cancer -BTA and BHA. With ferrets having such high cancer rates already, it is a good idea to steer clear of Ferretone if you can.
That being said, Moose currently takes Prednisolone that is mixed with Ferretone through a compounding pharmacy. We are currently researching and exploring other options.
Prednisolone and Carafate?
Carafate is a medication used to treat ulcers that coats the stomach lining of a ferret (think of it like a temporary band aid). Because of its sticky, coating properties it can prevent the absorption of other medications. If your ferret is on Prednisolone, it is very important that you space out Carafate and Prednisolone. Our vet recommends waiting two hours after a Carafate dose to give Prednisolone.
Should My Ferret Eat with Prednisolone or Take on an Empty Stomach?
Prednisolone irritates the lining of the stomach. You should always get your ferret to eat before or immediately after taking Prednisolone.
How Do You Store Prednisolone?
Prednisolone should be stored at room temperature out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources.
What Should I Do If My Ferret Misses a Dose of Prednisolone?
DO NOT DOUBLE THE DOSE to make up for a missed dose. If you only miss a single dose of your ferret’s Prednisolone, take the following dose at the usual time, in the normal amount.
It is important to give your ferret Prednisolone at the same time every day to keep their blood glucose levels as steady as possible.
What Happens if You Stop Your Ferret’s Prednisolone Suddenly?
Prednisolone is a man-made steroid that mimics your ferret’s body’s own cortisol. If your ferret has been on Prednisolone for longer than 3 weeks, their body has adjusted its own cortisol amount to accommodate the Prednisolone.
For humans, Prednisolone will remain in the body for 16-22 hours. Because ferrets metabolize and digest much faster than humans, it is safe to assume Prednisolone remains in a ferret’s body for a shorter amount of time.
If you stop your ferret’s Prednisolone medication abruptly (for longer than 1 missed dose), they could experience withdrawal:
- Severe fatigue
- Body aches
- Joint Pain
- Blood Glucose drop and possible seizure
What are the Long Term Effects of Prednisolone with Your Ferret?
- Prone to infections
- Abdominal weight gain
- Fluid retention
- Slow regrowth of hair in shaved areas
- Increased dose needed to treat Insulinoma
Prednisolone is an immune suppressant. This makes it harder for your ferret’s body to fight infections. It is important that you keep your ferret away from stressful situations and far away from sick humans or ferrets that could spread illness.
Insulinoma is one of the most common illnesses in ferrets and Prednisolone is the most common medication prescribed to treat it -I knew we could all use a thorough explanation of the medication we have all heard about at some point! Book mark this page to easily find it at a later date!
Do you know if your ferret has Insulinoma? We found out Moose had Insulinoma by checking his blood glucose levels with the AlphaTRAK2, the only blood glucose monitor our vet recommends for ferrets. Get one today and start monitoring your ferret’s blood glucose this week!