Dexamethasone for Dogs

Dexamethasone is a synthetic corticosteroid that's 25 times more powerful than the naturally occurring cortisol produced by the adrenal gland. It's an anti-inflammatory prescription drug that is commonly administered to dogs suffering from arthritis. It also acts as an immunosuppressant.

Benefits of Dexamethasone

Dexamethasone is a synthetic glucocorticoid that is used in the treatment of several conditions such as allergies, inflammations, colitis, cancer, autoimmune diseases, shock, spinal cord trauma, neurological diseases and Addison's disease. Corticosteroids play an important role in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats and also help control inflammation. The drug also reduces irritation, swelling, burning sensation and redness in pets. It's available in tablet form, as an injectible, an inhalant and can also be applied topically to treat skin and eye problems.

Conditions that Dexamethasone Treats Include:

  • Adrenal gland disorders
  • Various cancers
  • Skin disorders
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Liver disorders
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Treatment for shock 
  • Arthritis

Administration of Dexamethasone

Dexamethasone should be administered only as prescribed by the vet. You should be very clear about the dosage and method of administering this drug. Store the medicine at room temperature and keep it out of the reach of pets and children. If you miss a dose give it as soon as you remember, but if it's very close to the time of the next dose, only administer the directed one and skip the missed one in order to avoid a double dose.

Contraindications to Dexamethasone

The drug is contraindicated in dogs suffering from a bacterial, viral or fungal infection unless they are taking medications to treat the existing infection. Dexamethasone is also contraindicated in animals that are allergic to the drug. The drug shouldn't be given to pregnant or lactating dogs or to pets suffering from heart disease, diabetes, liver disease or osteoporosis. In addition, dexamethasone shouldn't be given to dogs that are administered other NSAIDs such as aspirin.

Side Effects of Dexamethasone:

  • Polyuria
  • Polydipsia
  • Change in appetite
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Suppression of the immune system
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Muscular weakness
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Swelling of the brain
  • Cushing's disease 
  • Lethargy

Overdose of Dexamethasone

You should seek emergency vet care if there has been an overdose of this medication, because it can cause side effects like vomiting, diarrhea and metabolic crisis.


Dexamethasone shouldn't be administered over a long period of time as it can cause metabolic and hormonal changes that could be fatal. The drug should only be given in small doses for the same reason. Dexamethasone should be withdrawn by tapering the dose and lengthening the duration between consecutive doses. The medication should never be abruptly discontinued. You should inform the vet of any other medications being administered to your pet, as some drugs may interact with dexamethasone.

Dexamethasone should be administered only after discussing the benefits of using it with the vet. Although it effectively controls inflammation that causes damage to tissues and organs, it should be administered with care to avoid any adverse effects.