Can You Use Hydrocortisone Cream on Dogs? Which Is Safest?

Written by Amber LaRock
Published: September 30, 2022
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If you have ever had an itchy bug bite, you know just how much of a relief it is to reach for your hydrocortisone cream. This cream is known to stop the itch and reduce inflammation, and it often gets to work immediately after application. Since this cream works so well for our minor bug bites and skin irritation, can we use it on our dogs as well?

It turns out that hydrocortisone cream can be used for dogs, but there are a few guidelines you will need to follow to keep your pup safe! We want your pup to soak in the benefits that hydrocortisone cream has to offer, so let’s break down everything you need to know about hydrocortisone cream for dogs below!

What Is Hydrocortisone Cream?

Hydrocortisone is a skin cream that contains a low dose of steroids. Most over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams contain anywhere from 0.1% to 1% of hydrocortisone in each gram, and some even contain antimicrobial properties that fight off bacteria. When using this cream on minor bug bites and itchy skin irritation, most creams get to work within 30 minutes to stop the itch and reduce inflammation. Many different forms of hydrocortisone cream can be found over the counter at your local drug store or pharmacy, but there are prescription strength steroid creams that you can find at your vet’s office as well.

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Hydrocortisone is a skin cream that contains a low dose of steroids

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Is Hydrocortisone Cream Safe for Dogs?

Hydrocortisone cream is generally safe for dogs when following a few safety guidelines. Most over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams are safe for dogs as long as it is applied to the skin in small amounts, as well as if it is applied in an area they cannot lick.

When it is used on minor skin inflammation and swelling, this type of cream is found to be quite effective for dogs. Many vets will even prescribe hydrocortisone cream for dogs, proving just how handy of a tool it is to have in your dog’s first aid kit. There are some limitations when it comes to the use of this itch-relieving cream for our canine friends, but we will break down the specific uses in dogs below.

Which Types of Hydrocortisone Are Safe for Dogs?

As we mentioned above, you will likely see a variety of hydrocortisone cream options on the shelf at your local pharmacy. We want to make sure you choose the safest option for your pup, so let’s list a few of our favorites below.

While most over-the-counter creams you find at a local store are likely just fine, there are a few hydrocortisone creams and sprays that are created specifically for dogs.

Some of our favorite hydrocortisone creams for dogs include:

  • Pet MD Hydrocortisone Spray
  • Veterinary Formula Hot Spot & Itch Relief Spray
  • Zymox Veterinary Strength Hydrocortisone Cream

The above creams and sprays are best for our canine friends as they are free of any ingredients that can make them sick if they lick it once applied to their skin. Because of this, we suggest keeping one of the above options in your pet’s first aid kit!

If you need some hydrocortisone cream in an instant and you do not have any dog creams on hand, you can typically choose any option from your local drugstore. Just keep in mind that you will need to make sure your dog cannot lick the cream once it has been applied to its skin, especially if it contains alcohol.

dog licking itself
If you apply hydrocortisone cream to a dog and it licks itself, it could get sick.

©Rattanapon Ninlapoom/

When Can You Use Hydrocortisone Cream on Dogs?

So when can you use hydrocortisone cream on your dog’s skin? Hydrocortisone cream is only a suitable option for dogs with minor skin irritation, as well as those dealing with an acute form of skin irritation. To make sure you have a clear understanding of when it is safe to use hydrocortisone cream on your dog’s skin, let’s list a few examples of safe use below.

Hydrocortisone cream can be used in dogs for the following skin irritations:

  • Bug bites such as ant bites, mosquito bites, bee stings, and any other critters with an irritating bite or sting
  • Minor rashes such as heat rash, poison ivy, poison oak, and other irritating plants
  • Minor hot spots that are not showing signs of an active infection such as swelling, odor, or severe pain
  • Skin irritation from allergies, as long as you are not applying it on any open wounds

While we still always suggest giving your vet a call and getting their approval first, it is typically safe to use hydrocortisone cream for your dog in the above situations. Just make sure you are only applying it twice a day at most. If your dog is still experiencing irritation between doses, it may be time to reach out to your vet for a prescription strength option.

When Not to Use Hydrocortisone Cream on Dogs

Now that you know when you can use hydrocortisone cream in dogs, it’s time to list the times you should not use hydrocortisone cream in dogs. There are a few situations in which we always suggest reaching out to your vet before the use of this cream, so let’s list these situations below.

Do not use hydrocortisone cream on your dog without veterinary guidance in the following situations:

  • Your dog is pregnant or nursing
  • Your dog’s skin irritation is around their eyes or mouth
  • Your dog has a chronic skin condition
  • Your dog is currently taking any other medication
  • Your dog’s skin irritation has persisted for more than 72 hours, or it appears to be getting worse as each day passes
  • Your dog has open wounds on their skin
  • Your dog’s skin is showing signs of an infection such as open wounds, oozing wounds, swelling, pain, or odor
  • Your dog is showing signs of an allergic reaction such as facial swelling, skin redness, hives, changes in breathing, or GI upset. You might still be able to use hydrocortisone cream, but your pup will likely need other medical support as well.

If your dog is dealing with any of the symptoms or situations we listed above, you should not apply hydrocortisone cream to its skin until you get approval from your vet.

How to Use Hydrocortisone Cream on Dogs

Now that you are aware of the safety guidelines you should follow when using hydrocortisone cream on your pup, let’s discuss the instructions for safe skin application.

  1. Make sure you are only applying the hydrocortisone cream to areas with minor skin irritation.
  2. Apply the cream directly to your dog’s skin, not their fur.
  3. Rub the cream into their skin so there is not a thick layer sitting on the surface of their skin.
  4. If there are any scabs on the area of skin irritation, make sure to apply the cream around the grab. The cream can potentially break down scabbing and slow down the healing, and you don’t want that.
  5. Make sure your dog does not lick the cream before it has a chance to dry. Rubbing it into the skin will also reduce the risk of them licking the cream.
  6. Do not apply the cream more than twice per day. If they need it more than twice per day, it is time to reach out to your vet for a more suitable treatment option.

What Happens if My Dog Eats Hydrocortisone Cream?

Even when you do everything right, sometimes your pup can sneak a lick of the hydrocortisone cream. This can cause immediate concern for the owner, leading them to wonder if they need to make an emergency trip to the vet. Thankfully for most pups, licking a small amount of hydrocortisone will only lead to minor symptoms, if any.

Most dogs will only experience an increase in thirst, drooling, or panting. It is rare for a small taste of hydrocortisone cream to cause serious harm to your pup, but we still suggest keeping a close eye on them for the 24 hours that follow. If you want to prevent any possibility of your dog licking the hydrocortisone cream on their skin, you can always put an e-collar on them for the hours following the cream application.

If your dog accidentally chews a hydrocortisone cream bottle or consumes a large amount of the cream, we suggest reaching out to your vet for guidance. Dogs that eat a large amount of hydrocortisone cream can experience more severe symptoms such as agitation and vomiting, so we suggest seeking veterinary care in these situations.

vet with dog
If your dog ends up eating hydrocortisone cream, take him to the vet.

©Ermolaev Alexander/

Final Thoughts

Hydrocortisone cream can be a wonderful way to soothe any minor skin irritation in your canine companion. As long as you follow the safety guidelines we discussed in detail above, your pup should find relief and be back to its normal self in no time!

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About the Author

My name is Amber, and I am a Licensed Vet Tech with a degree in Veterinary Technology. My love for animals and their pet parents drove me to work remotely in this field, aiming to provide pet education and guidance whenever it's needed. There’s nothing I love more than helping you feel empowered about your dog or cat’s care!

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