Itchy Dog Skin Relief with Hydrocortisone

Itchy dog skin can be caused by skin infections, allergies, parasites or other factors. Itchy skin can be relieved with hydrocortisone. Hydrocortisone, also known as cortisol, is a steroid that can be administered orally or as a topical ointment.


Hydrocortisone is a hormone that is normally produced by the adrenal gland. It is used to reduce swelling and to inhibit the immune system, and may be used in a wide range of diseases ranging from arthritis to allergies. The drug may also be effective in managing Addison's disease. Hydrocortisone is not as effective in reducing nervous system inflammation as other steroids. The drug is not FDA approved for use in pets, but may be used under veterinary supervision.

Hydrocortisone for Itchy Skin

Hydrocortisone may be used to relieve itchy skin and may be administered orally or as a topical cream. The cream can be applied on the skin and will bring immediate relief. The hydrocortisone cream is known for its antipruritic effects and can also reduce swelling.

If taken as a tablet, hydrocortisone may also relieve itchiness, but it will take up to 12 hours until the ingredients get in the dog's system. The cortisol will inhibit the immune system which can be responsible for itchy skin (in the case of allergies).

A short treatment should be enough to relieve itchiness; however, the underlying condition causing itchiness should be detected and treated.

Hydrocortisone Side Effects

The side effects of hydrocortisone may occur if the drug is administered for a lengthy period of time. The side effects may include:

  • Fluid retention
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Kidney problems
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Increased appetite and weight gain
  • Increased thirst but normal urination
  • Coarse hair
  • Behavioral changes
  • Weakness in the muscles
  • Lethargy

Typically, the topical ointments containing hydrocortisone will not cause these side effects. Only the tablets will cause side effects. The tablets should not be discontinued at once. A gradual reduction of the dosage is recommended first to prevent adrenal insufficiency. Hydrocortisone administered for a long period of time is not recommended due to the serious side effects involved. A topical cream containing cortisol can be administered on a regular basis.


Hydrocortisone is a prescription medication and should not be administered unless recommended by the vet. The hydrocortisone tablets shouldn't be used in dogs that are allergic to steroids or glucocorticoids. Cortisol will interact with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and shouldn't be administered in conjunction with NSAIDs. Hydrocortisone shouldn't be used in dogs with:

Hydrocortisone Dosage

The hydrocortisone dosage should be decided by the vet and will depend on the severity of the dog's condition and the size of the dog. The hydrocortisone ointments have different concentrations. There are over the counter hydrocortisone creams that have a low concentration of active ingredients.