Hydrocortisone cream is safe to use on dogs in some situations, in small amounts, and ideally in places where your dog isn’t able to easily lick it off.
You’ve likely seen a tube of hydrocortisone cream in the pharmacy or in your own medicine chest.
It looks harmless enough. It’s relatively inexpensive, easy to apply, and doesn’t need a prescription. The problem is that it can actually thin the skin and suppress the dog’s immune system if overused.
In this blog post, we’ll talk about the uses, dosage, and possible side effects of hydrocortisone cream in dogs. We’ll also give you some tips on how to give the cream to your furry friend.
It is important to use hydrocortisone cream only under the guidance and supervision of a veterinarian, and to follow the dosage and administration instructions carefully to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the treatment.
If your dog is experiencing skin irritation or inflammation, hydrocortisone cream may be a useful treatment option to consider.
What is Hydrocortisone Cream Used For?
Hydrocortisone cream is a topical medication that contains the active ingredient corticosteroid, which is a hormone steroid.
It is used on people and pets to reduce inflammation and swelling in the skin. Hydrocortisone cream made for humans shouldn’t be used on dogs with skin problems unless recommended by a veterinarian.
In dogs, it’s commonly used to treat a variety of skin conditions, including:
Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can be helpful in managing allergic reactions in the skin, such as hives or allergic dermatitis.
Signs of allergies in dogs can include:
- runny nose
- excessive sneezing
- biting their paws
- licking their paws excessively
- itchy skin
Hydrocortisone can help relieve itching and inflamed skin in dogs, but it won’t treat the core problem.
Atopic dermatitis is a common skin condition in dogs that causes extreme itching. Treatment usually includes medications and baths to help relieve the itching.
Medications prescribed can include antihistamines, cyclosporine and corticosteroids.
Hot spots are areas of inflamed, irritated skin that can be painful and uncomfortable for dogs. They can occur as a result of excessive itching due to bug bites, flea allergies, mites, poison ivy, skin diseases, or anything that causes extremely itchy skin.
Hydrocortisone cream can help to reduce the inflammation and discomfort associated with hot spots.
Hydrocortisone cream can be used in combination with other medications (antimicrobials) to help manage certain types of skin infections in dogs.
How to Use Topical Hydrocortisone Cream on Dogs
When applied to the affected area, hydrocortisone is absorbed through the skin. It works by inhibiting the production and release of inflammatory mediators. These “inflammatory mediators” are the messengers that act on blood vessels and cells to promote an inflammatory response.
This can help to reduce swelling, redness, and discomfort in the affected area.
Directions for Use
Unless the veterinarian suggests otherwise, you can apply hydrocortisone cream to the affected area once or twice a day. It should be applied to the skin in small quantities. If possible, try to keep your dog from licking the area. The cream should have at least 30 minutes to sink in.
Avoid areas of skin that have already begun the healing process. In other words, avoid rubbing the cream into scabs because it can break down the skin causing the wound to reopen.
Ultimately, hydrocortisone cream should only be a temporary fix unless a veterinarian has prescribed it and has given you follow-up instructions. Human-grade hydrocortisone may not be appropriate for pets and can cause adverse side effects if not used properly.
Always wash your hands after applying hydrocortisone cream.
Avoid Mucus Membranes
Do not apply hydrocortisone cream anywhere near your dog’s eyes, mouth, or genitals.
Potential Side Effects
Long-term use of topical steroids, such as hydrocortisone cream, in dogs can potentially cause a number of side effects.
Topical steroids work by reducing inflammation and suppressing the immune system.
While they can be effective in relieving symptoms of certain skin conditions, their long-term use can cause the following side effects:
Thinning of the skin
Prolonged use of topical steroids can cause the skin to thin, making it more prone to bruising and injury.
Changes in hair growth
Long-term use of topical steroids may cause changes in the pattern of hair growth, leading to thinning or excessive hair loss.
Increased susceptibility to infections
Topical steroids can suppress the immune system, making the skin more vulnerable to infections.
Topical steroids can affect the production of hormones in the body, leading to hormonal imbalances.
When to Not Use Hydrocortisone Cream on Dogs
Hydrocortisone cream is considered safe for use in dogs when prescribed by a veterinarian. However, there are certain situations in which it may not be appropriate to use hydrocortisone cream on dogs. These include:
Hydrocortisone cream should not be used in pregnant dogs as it may affect fetal development.
Hydrocortisone cream should not be used in lactating dogs as it may be passed on to the puppies through the milk.
Certain health conditions
Dogs with certain health conditions, such as liver or kidney disease, may not be able to use hydrocortisone cream safely. It is important to discuss the potential risks and benefits with your veterinarian if your dog has any underlying health issues.
Hydrocortisone cream may interact with certain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antifungals, and antibiotics.
Avoid applying hydrocortisone cream to open wounds because it can delay healing. Open wounds or cuts in dogs’ skin can quickly become infected.
Dog-Friendly Hydrocortisone Cream
There are several hydrocortisone products specifically formulated for use in dogs, including creams, ointments, hydrocortisone sprays, medicated shampoos, and injectable solutions. Many of these can be purchased online with a veterinarian’s prescription.
Shop Chewy.com for generic hydrocortisone cream (2.5%) for only $4.99. Please note that a vet’s prescription is required for this purchase.
Other Hydrocortisone Products Available include:
- Zymoc Otic Dog & Ear Infection Treatment with Hydrocortisone
- Compounded hydrocortisone Capsules (prescription required)
- PetArmor Hydrocortisone Spray
- Healers Hot Spot Relief Hydrocortisone Ointment for Dogs and Cats
Alternatives to Using Hydrocortisone Cream on Dogs
You might be able to get away with using something else if your canine companion has a minor skin irritation. Aloe Vera, for example, can help soothe raw skin. Ultimately, if your dog is really itching and scratching at his or her skin, you’ll want to find a solution to the problem.
Constant biting and scratching the skin can tear the skin open, leaving your dog vulnerable to bacterial infection.
Ask your veterinarian about…
- supplements for healthy skin
- topical flea and tick treatments to prevent things like flea allergy dermatitis
- oatmeal treatments (shampoo, soap bars, etc.)
Hydrocortisone cream can be used in dogs and people to treat itchy skin, atopic dermatitis, insect bites, and skin inflammation. Although there can be adverse reactions, hydrocortisone cream is generally considered safe except for the conditions noted above.
Remember, a small amount of cream goes a long way. Always talk to a veterinarian for advice before administering any type of medication to your dog.
Thank you for reading!
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“Hot Spots.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 8 July 2021, www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/riney-canine-health-center/health-info/hot-spots.
Garcia, Eric D. “Canine Atopic Dermatitis: Updates on Diagnosis and Treatment.” Today’s Veterinary Practice, 16 Jan. 2018, todaysveterinarypractice.com/dermatology/canine-atopic-dermatitis-updates-diagnosis-treatment.