A guide to cortisone for dogs

Cortisone drugs, or more accurately corticosteroids, are often used to treat allergies mainly because of their anti-inflammatory properties. They’re also commonly used to treat conditions such as arthritis and skin problems. They’re vital drugs when it comes to treating some life-threatening diseases although they do have their side-effects, especially in dogs.

A guide to cortisone shots for dogs

Cortisone for dogs

Skin allergies are one of the most common dog health problems. These allergies have three main causes – flea bites, food allergies, and environmental irritants such as dust. Whatever the cause, the result of the allergy is that your dog’s skin becomes itchy and you’ll find they’re constantly scratching, biting and/or licking it. And when they do this, they can easily end up causing wounds in their own skin. Obviously this isn’t good, and you need to get your dog’s allergy treated.

Although there are a number of ways that such allergies can be treated such as changing your dog’s diet, using special shampoos, and antibiotics, the most effective and quickest way of reducing the symptoms is through the use of cortisone. Cortisone can be administered via cream, pills or cortisone injections.

However, because of the known side-effects, both short-term and long-term, you shouldn’t give cortisone to your dog yourself without consulting with your vet. If your vet does suggest prescribing cortisone shots, cream or pills for your dog, make sure you’re aware of all the potential risks so that you can make an informed decision about the best course of action.

Side effects

The side effects of cortisone for dogs range from minor to severe and, as mentioned above, they can be short-term or long-term.

Minor side effects

The minor side effects of cortisone include:

  • Your dog may drink more which in turn leads to increased peeing. This can lead to accidents, especially during the night.
  • Your dog’s appetite may increase.
  • Your dog may become more lethargic. When this is coupled with an increase in appetite, there’s obviously an increased risk of your dog putting on weight.
  • Your dog may start panting a lot more.

Potentially severe side effects

Some of the more serious side effects of cortisone are:

  • Cortisone suppresses the immune system, leading to an increased risk of infection. For example, bladder infections are a common long-term side-effect of cortisone in dogs.
  • Cortisone treatment can lead to liver and kidney problems.
  • Dogs that are given cortisone for long periods of time are also at risk of developing Cushing’s Disease.


Although cortisone is the most effective treatment for skin allergies in dogs, it does have its drawbacks in terms of the side-effects. Short-term treatment is fine but longer term use may lead to more severe side-effects. It’s best to make sure you and your vet have fully investigated the causes of your dog’s skin problems before deciding on long term cortisone use. And always consult with your vet before starting any cortisone treatment.

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