Using cortisone to help itchy dogs and cats

Skin allergies are a common reason for veterinary visits

Skin allergies are amongst the most frustrating health problems exhibited by both dogs and cats, and are likely the most common reason for veterinary visits outside of wellness exams. Pets present with various manifestations of self trauma from licking, biting or scratching at themselves. Commonly affected areas include the lower back, feet, ears, chest and abdomen. However, any area of the body can be affected. Many pets can develop secondary yeast or bacterial infections of the skin or ear canals, which often add to the discomfort.

The most common causes of allergies include flea bite allergens, inhalant/contact allergies, and food allergies. That’s why it is necessary for veterinarians to address the potential underlying causes or the problem will recur. While such a workup and treatment often takes time and patience, animal guardians are often most insistent about relieving their pets of itching discomfort as quickly as possible.

While shampoo therapy, antihistamines, antibiotics and dietary changes can offer sometimes gradual relief, depending upon which of the above underlying causes are involved, it is often only the prescription of cortisone by injection or oral medication that often is the only class of medicine that offers dramatic and quick relief which animal guardians are demanding. Various concerns expressed by both veterinarians and animal guardians center around the short and more importantly long term potential side effects of cortisone. These include its suppressive effect on the immune system and increased risk of infection, to thinning/weakening of the bones, ligaments and skin, as well as weight gain, excessive thirst, urination and appetite.

If cortisone is overused or misused, some animals have an increased risk of diabetes as well. And while most veterinarians will always offer other options, including other drugs like Cyclosporine or Atopica, as well as even referral to veterinary dermatologists for allergy testing on long term skin/ear cases, many animal guardians simply do not have the money in today’s economy for these more expensive treatment options.

Repeated injections of long-acting cortisone derivatives like Depo-Medrol have much more of a risk for the side effects mentioned above. However, if cortisone is used appropriately, most safely by the oral route and tapered to the lowest effective dose,  many pets can be maintained during their allergy seasons or even longer on every other to every third day oral therapy. When Prednisone or Prednisolone is prescribed in this manner, and the pet is monitored periodically by the veterinarian, most pets do indeed tolerate long term oral cortisone safely, and animal guardians are able to offer their animals relief of frustrating skin problems that bother both them and their animal companions.  And when other adjunctive treatments such as shampoo therapy, omega 3 fatty acid therapy, as well as other supplements like Proanthozone and Vetri-DMG, many pets can eventually have their cortisone doses lowered and discontinued.

Have pet health questions? For any medical concerns, we always recommend you consult your veterinarian. However, for non-emergency questions, you can contact Dr. Dym directly using our Ask the Vet form.

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  1. can i put depo medrol in my dogs food

  2. Can I rub a tiny bit of Cortizone cream on my cats neck ? he has scabs from please I come him 3 to 4 times a day and he is an inside cat and I keep a very clean house and we have wood floors that I vacuum daily and spray inside as well . My main question is can I rub the cream a little bit around his neck to relieve his itching ? I just don’t want the cream to kill him

  3. Will Cortizone cream kill my cat if I put it on his scabs ?

  4. I personally dont see a problem with wiping a little topical over the counter hydrocortisone cream on his scabs a few times daily. However, if scabs are chronic and/or persistent or are bothering him or causing him itching, etc best to take him to vet for full exam and evaluation as he may need systemic allergy medication such as prescription antihistamine and/or systemic cortisone, as well as an antibiotic if secondary bacterial infection is present on his skin

  5. See above answer I already posted

  6. My puppy started itching and scratches so much he has bloody ears i put a little bit of our cortisone cream is that ok ? I just don’t want to see him scratching and hurting his ears

  7. Hi Lilly. Most likely has underlying allergies, most likely inhalant/contact allergies known as canine atopy to molds, grasses, trees, pollens, dust mites, ragweed, etc. You can try antihistamine such as benadryl orally at dose of 1 mg per pound twice daily. You can also try zymox otic HC inside ears from 1800petmeds. However, if your puppy is under one year of age, you should have vet exam and evaluation of ears and discharge to make sure not ear mites.

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  9. I put some over the counter flea and tick treatment on my cat, and it was after I had already applied it I noticed it smelled like fingernail polish remover! I washed off what I could but she is now scratching the area so much that her fur is flying! Can I use cortisone 10 on her or will it make her sick?

  10. Hi Dianna. I dont see a problem using the cortisone 10 on it. You can also try antihistamine like chlorphenirmine at dose of 2 mg twice daily if she is still itchy. See vet if signs persist or worsen.

  11. Hi. My mini dachshund has a rash on her chest. I think it is caused by high grass that may be treated for weeds, etc. Is it safe to put cirtizone cream on the area. She has been licking the area. Wasn’t sure if it is OK if she licks area with cotizone cream applied.

  12. What is the minimum dose of prednisone you can give to stop itching & hotspots? My small dog is in need of this and I have forgotten how much I need to stop her itching. She is 6.7 kgs and the prednisolone is 25mg. Hope you can help.

  13. Hi Ann and thanks for your question. We always recommend consulting with your veterinarian, as the usual dose for this medication is determined based on the condition being treated and the pets response to treatment. You can speak to one of our pharmacists directly at 1-888-738-6331.
    ~ Abby, PetMeds Pro

  14. What is the minimum dose of prednisone , that can be given to my 5 year old pitbul

  15. Can I use peroxide to clean my cats neck were she has been itching and then put cortisone cream on it a small amount?

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  17. jennifer ellen blanchardMay 7, 2020 at 4:04 pm

    my name is jennifer, my cat is scratching,licking and chewing excessively.i brought her to vet and they gave her a shot of meds and changed her food.but now her tummy is all red.any recommendations i could do i will bring her back to vet but was just wodering

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