Uses and Safety of Hydrocortisone for Dogs (Cream, Spray, Shampoo)

Hydrocortisone for dogs

If you are a dog owner, you know too well that sometimes your lovely pooch doesn’t feel okay.

This may make you more remorseful than sorry, especially when the condition is causing so much pain to your dog.

However, these conditions can be managed by medications prescribed by your veterinarian or using home remedies.

Irrespective of what you choose, do not let your dog wallow in pain. One of the most common pain relievers for dogs is hydrocortisone.

Can I use/put hydrocortisone cream on my dog?

Hydrocortisone is not approved by FDA for use in dogs since it is developed primarily for humans. However, it is not safe to apply this cream to your dog unless authorized by your veterinary officer.

Do not take chances. Seek clarifications from your veterinarian to avoid causing harm to your dog.

When used in dogs, apply a little amount of the cream to minimize irritation. It is also advisable not to apply the cream directly to a large wound or sore.

Hydrocortisone cream is also harmful when ingested by your dog. Therefore, you should watch out lest your dog licks the cream and suffer side effects such as stomach upset, diarrhea and dehydration.

Different uses and benefits

Hydrocortisone is a potent corticosteroid used mainly for its anti-inflammatory effects.

Corticosteroids help in managing inflammation caused by:

  • Allergic reactions such as in atopic dermatitis.
  • Infections of the skin such as with the Staphylococcus bacteria.
  • Parasitic infestations such as flea bites.
  • Disease of the immune system affecting the skin.
  • Most diseases of the dog’s skin.

Since it is anti-inflammatory, its main mechanism of action is suppressing the cardinal symptoms of inflammation such as pain and swelling.

Hydrocortisone cream on dogs

Cream or lotion is the most common formulation of hydrocortisone available both for human use and for dogs.

Although it is not approved by the FDA for use in dogs, it is useful in managing various skin conditions in canines.

It is, however, not advisable to apply this cream directly to large open wounds.

Additionally, you should not apply the cream to the coat, but instead, apply it to the skin around the injured or inflamed area for it to achieve maximum effect.

To achieve this, ensure you part the hairs in your dog’s coat as much as possible to expose the underlying injured skin or areas with ingrown hair.

Use also a little amount of the cream to reduce the possibilities of your dog licking the cream. When consumed, hydrocortisone causes undesirable side effects in the gastrointestinal system which can worsen the health of your dog.

Just as in humans, not all skin conditions may require hydrocortisone cream. Therefore, ensure that you consult your veterinary officer before using hydrocortisone on your dog.

Moreover, the condition may fail to improve after you apply the cream. If you don’t notice any change after a few days of a use, report to your veterinarian. This way, the root cause of the skin problem can be identified and managed appropriately.

The best thing to do however is to use hydrocortisone only under prescription by the veterinarian since any dosages above the recommended amount could be harmful to your pooch.

The following is a summary for the precautions to take when applying hydrocortisone cream:

  • Only use hydrocortisone under the veterinarian’s prescription.
  • Part the hairs so that you can apply the cream on the skin and not the coat.
  • Do not apply directly on large open wounds or sores to avoid further irritation.
  • Apply only a small amount of cream each time to reduce the chances of your dog licking the cream.
  • Check the infected skin keenly especially if you haven’t reported to the veterinary office. Not all skin conditions require management by this cream.

Hydrocortisone spray

Hydrocortisone spray is another potent spray available to reduce itch in dogs. It is a quick remedy for stopping itching and scratching.

Directions and dosages

Always shake the formulation well before using it on your dog. When ready, apply the spray directly on the affected skin.

For safety, do not apply the spray more than three times in a day. Always stay close and prevent your dog from licking the sprayed area.

If symptoms continue to persist even after administering the spray for about one week, discontinue using the spray and report to your veterinarian for further assessment.


Hydrocortisone spray is made of a variety of compounds such as: hydrocortisone, Aloe Vera gel, propylene glycol, propyl paraben, methyl paraben, diazolidinyl urea and water.

These ingredients contribute to its effectiveness and make it stable in liquid state.

Hydrocortisone shampoo

Whether it is allergic reactions, infections by bacteria or yeast, infestation by fleas, or just an accumulation of dirt in the coat of your lovely dog, all you need is the appropriate cleaning agent.

Hydrocortisone shampoo can be used to wash the entire body of your dog to improve his or her grooming and skin health. It also keeps parasites at bay.

These shampoos are made specifically for different types of dogs based on the amount of skin hair.

To achieve desirable results, ensure that you choose a shampoo that best fits the skin and fur requirements of your dog.

Determining the appropriate shampoo may be difficult. However, your veterinary officer may help you choose the appropriate one for your dog.

The composition of hydrocortisone shampoo is somewhat similar to the hydrocortisone spray save for the fact that the shampoo is less likely to cause irritation.

Do not use shampoo intended for humans on your dog. The dosages for humans are way higher than those recommended for dogs and you will cause more trouble to your dog.

The shampoo can be used for general grooming and not specifically when you notice a skin condition.

Sometimes minor irritated areas of the sin escape the eye of a pet owner and become visible only after the condition has worsened.

However, when you intermittently wash your dog with hydrocortisone shampoo, these minor areas of inflammation can be managed before they get severe.

Always consult your veterinarian for directions before initiating any therapy involving hydrocortisone.

Safety information

Is it safe to use hydrocortisone steroid cream, shampoo or spray for dogs? This question is always in the minds of every pet owner concerned about the pain of his or her pet.

Hydrocortisone has been used for a long time by veterinarians. However, the FDA hasn’t approved its use in dogs since it is developed entirely for humans.

It is safe for dogs only when used in the right amounts and when correctly administered.

Although it is safe to use in dogs, do not buy it over the counter without a formal prescription by a certified veterinary officer.

You do not want to cause more harm and inflict more pain to your dog in an effort to manage another skin condition.

Its effect is not long lasting. It only temporarily relieves localized pain and itching.

How to use it safely

  • Seek consent from your veterinarian in the form of a prescription.
  • Apply only a little amount of cream at a time.
  • Keep watch on your dog so that he or she may not lick the cream or the spray.
  • For creams and sprays, ensure you apply the formulation directly to the skin by avoiding impedance by the hairs in the coat.
  • Shake the hydrocortisone sprays well to mix evenly before use.

Warnings and caution

  • Hydrocortisone should be used on adult animals only.
  • Any of the aforementioned formulations should not be used in pregnant animals.
  • Do not apply hydrocortisone on infected skin wounds. Only apply it on inflamed and uninfected areas of the skin.
  • To avoid any unprecedented consumption of hydrocortisone, keep the containers (when used or unused) out of reach of children and animals.
  • Seek professional assistance in the event of an unprecedented consumption. A better alternative would be to call the Poison Control Centre immediately.
  • Any formulation of hydrocortisone – whether it is the cream, spray or shampoo – should not be used for a longer duration. Prolonged use may not yield any desirable effect.
  • Hydrocortisone cream, spray, and shampoo are for external use only. Ensure that you avoid contact with eyes or mucous membranes at all times. In case of any unprecedented contact, flush eyes with water to wash away the medication.
  • Seek medical attention when symptoms of toxicity persist.

Possible side effects

Besides their benefits, all medications have side effects. Conveniently, not all side effects will occur at the same time in after an individual administration.

The development of side effects depends on the body chemistry of your dog, the age and the severity of the condition.

Hydrocortisone has a variety of side effects, including:

  • Irritation especially when applied directly to large wounds or sores.
  • Effects on the skin include:
  • Pinhead-sized blisters
  • Crusting
  • Dryness
  • Flaking
  • Redness
  • Scaling
  • When used in areas with soft skin or where the skin is folded, it can lead to excessive thinning of the skin.
  • It can also cause lightening of the normal skin color leading to the formation of patches in the skin.

Usually, some side effects occur during the onset of treatment as your dog acclimatizes to the regimen. These side effects usually resolve on their own without the need for medical intervention.

If the side effects persist more than one week into the treatment, discontinue the medication and report to your veterinary officer for further assessment.

Hydrocortisone can also suppress the immune system thereby increasing the susceptibility to attack by microorganisms.


Hydrocortisone is mostly developed for use in humans. It is not approved for use in dogs though veterinarians have recommended its use in canines for many years now.

Nevertheless, you should not self-prescribe hydrocortisone for your dog. Whether you are considering a cream, spray or shampoo, seek consent and a formal prescription from your veterinary officer.

Any miscalculated dosages may worsen skin conditions, cause severe irritations or precipitate undesirable side effects.

You really don’t want to harm your dog while trying to help him or her get relief from pain.


  1. Effects of topical application of a 0.0584% hydrocortisone aceponate spray on skin thickness in Beagle Dogs