My Dog Ate Hydrocortisone Cream – What Should I Do Now?

Ever had a situation when your dog just scarfed down your hydrocortisone cream?

If this has happened to you, then you know how frustrating it is. What should you do now? Keep reading to find out.

What Is Hydrocortisone cream?

Hydrocortisone cream is applied to the skin to treat itching, rashes, and other minor skin conditions. It can be applied with a finger or a cotton ball.

The drug’s exact mechanism of action on the body still isn’t clear after all this time, but it is believed that hydrocortisone inhibits the release of substances in your dog’s body that cause inflammation (a hypersensitive reaction caused by histamine).

The active ingredient in Hydrocortisone cream is called Hydrocortisone 17-butyrate. This compound has many offshoots – other compounds with “cortisone” in their names are used as well – but all these medications have anti-inflammatory properties.

As an ingredient in medications, hydrocortisone cream is an anti-inflammatory. It reduces the redness and swelling associated with allergies, insect bites, stings, skin irritation, etc. Alleviating these symptoms also helps relieve itching.

How Does Hydrocortisone Cream Work?

Hydrocortisone creams work by suppressing immune system activity. In other words – they suppress histamine release from mast cells (a type of white blood cell that contains histamine).

When your dog’s body detects an allergen or irritant in his environment he releases histamines as part of a hypersensitive reaction to neutralize the invader. This happens because of receptor sites on cells that are triggered when antibodies identify the presence of harmful or offensive material.

This release of histamines causes a chain reaction that results in watery eyes, itching, sneezing, swollen lymph nodes, and hot spots.

How do anti-histamine medications work? They bind to the receptor sites on cells so they can’t be activated by histamines. This blocks the hypersensitive reaction and relieves your dog’s symptoms.

Is Hydrocortisone Cream Harmful If Swallowed By Dogs?

No. Skin creams are not absorbed unless you apply them to broken skin or on a large area of your dog’s body.

Hydrocortisone cream is also available as an oral medication for dogs that has the same active ingredient, but in different doses and uses (an anti-inflammatory for IBD patients).

Although it won’t cause a hypersensitive reaction, swallowing hydrocortisone will still be harmful because your pet doesn’t have receptors that can process the drug properly.

Your dog may develop symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, blood sugar imbalance, and fluid retention in his limbs.

If this happens get him to a veterinarian immediately because he may need to go on an IV drip while his body processes the drug.

How Long does it Take for Hydrocortisone to Leave Your Dog’s Body?

Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid, and as such – it can take a while to be flushed from your dog’s system.

It takes about 12 days for hydrocortisone cream to leave your pet’s body when you apply it once every other day on an area of 4 inches or smaller.

If you apply 2 inches of hydrocortisone cream once daily, it will take about 10-12 days before he is completely clear of this medicine and its effects.

However, if your pet swallowed 1-2 tablespoons of hydrocortisone cream, then do not wait! The procedure described below needs to be started as soon as possible.

How To Tell If Hydrocortisone Cream Is Causing A Reaction In My Dog?

dog unwell

In all cases, it is likely that hydrocortisone cream will initially cause nausea in your pet.

This can also be accompanied by vomiting (in dogs), lethargy, weakness, pale gums or lips (from anemia caused by blood loss), excessive panting or drooling, diarrhea that contains blood, or even an unconscious state.

If your dog is displaying any of the symptoms listed above, he may have a medical emergency and you should contact an animal hospital as soon as possible.

How Should You Handle A Dog Who Has Swallowed Hydrocortisone cream?

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, you should call your veterinarian or local pet emergency center immediately after you notice that your dog has swallowed hydrocortisone, and start following the steps listed below:

If your dog is alert and not showing signs of pain (like licking his lips, staring vacantly at nothing in particular) then induce vomiting.

If your pet wasn’t vomiting up some of the hydrocortisone on his own, bring him to a professional specializing in small animals for further treatment (bring along a sample of whatever was vomited).

How Much Hydrocortisone should Your Dog Swallow Before You Call The Vet?

dog treated by a vet

This depends on how much your pet weighs, but generally speaking, any amount of hydrocortisone ingested is a cause for concern.

If you notice that your dog has swallowed some of the creams, then follow the steps above to ensure that he doesn’t swallow it again. (Don’t rub his nose in what he just did!)

If you see him licking the cream off his paws and face, then collect what was consumed – or better yet prevent him from reaching it!

If there was more than 1 tablespoon of this medication absorbed into your dog’s body, get him to a vet immediately.

Treatment that takes place before 12 hours passes from the moment your pet swallowed hydrocortisone is more effective.

This is why it’s so important to call your vet right away! If there was only a little bit of this medication ingested, you can observe his condition for 12 hours.

If he displays any symptoms that are not typical behaviors (listed above), then take him to the vet before 24 hours pass by.

How Can You Prevent Your Dog From Swallowing Hydrocortisone cream?

Hydrocortisone cream should not be applied directly to your dog’s body because dogs like licking themselves clean, and if they ingest some while grooming themselves they may become ill.

Check out these tips below:

Make sure that all members of the household know that hydrocortisone cream is toxic for dogs.

Never leave it on tables or in areas where your dog may reach it while you’re not watching.

Apply for this medicine only when you are right by your pet’s side and ready to put the cap back on after application

Use a different medication if you need to treat an issue that hydrocortisone cream can help with (contact dermatitis, lupus) because any treatment which uses small quantities of hydrocortisone can be dangerous for pets

Do Not Leave Hydrocortisone Cream In Its Original Container

Place the tube of hydrocortisone cream inside a zip-lock bag, then tape this bag shut to avoid spillage. Place another zip-lock bag over the top of the container, and do this for all tubes to keep them away from your dog or cat.

If you accidentally get some on your fingers while applying hydrocortisone cream, wash it off with warm soapy water – don’t wipe it off with a tissue because you may not have gotten rid of all of the residue. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water afterward.

Do Not Put Hydrocortisone Cream In The Mouth Of Your Pet

Due to the fact that dogs are omnivores, they have very low levels of an enzyme called glucuronidase which starts breaking down hydrocortisone cream in their stomachs after about one hour has passed since ingestion.

If you doubt this claim, check out these pictures of what happened when I applied hydrocortisone cream directly on a dog’s paw – it was still visible after a day.

If you find your pet with hydrocortisone cream inside his mouth and nothing is visibly wrong then start following the steps listed below:

Make sure that he does not get to lick his lips or accidentally swallow anything.

Take him outside if necessary because he may try licking off all of the hydrocortisone cream, which can cause him to ingest more than before.

If your pet has ingested any amount larger than 1 tablespoon, call your veterinarian immediately

How To Clean Up Hydrocortisone Cream Spills?

If you accidentally spill some in areas where pets or children may walk on it, do not use water to clean it up. You should use a product that contains triethanolamine (TEA) which is effective in cutting through this medication.

If you find any leftover hydrocortisone cream on the floor or table and your dog/cat has not gotten to it yet, throw away all uncapped tubes of hydrocortisone cream as well as caps because they can be bitten off and ingested by pets.

If you cannot locate the cap, try to figure out how much was used beforehand or collect some of what was spilled inside a plastic bag for 24 hours.

If there is no residue left behind then you can simply throw the tube away if there is no more chance of your pets or friends’ pets getting into any of the tubes.

How To Clean Up Hydrocortisone Cream Residue From Tables Or Countertops

Use a paper towel to wipe up as much residue as you can.

Place these towels in a sealed plastic bag, along with any other leftover pieces of a hydrocortisone cream which may be lying around (capped or uncapped), and throw out this bag using your regular trash.

Do not place hydrocortisone cream in the sink or gutter because it will eventually end up in water sources such as lakes and streams which are used for drinking by humans and animals alike.

If you cannot find any caps left behind then simply use a paper towel to wipe up as much residue as possible, and throw this in with the first bag of plastic bags.

Do not mix these two bags together – seal them separately

How To Get Rid Of The Smell Of Hydrocortisone Cream?

In order to remove any remaining odors from floors, carpets, or wood furniture, you should sprinkle baking soda over the affected area.

Let it sit for 15-20 minutes on carpets or 1 hour on hard surfaces such as tile, linoleum, countertops, etc. before vacuuming it up. You can also use equal parts water and white vinegar if you prefer this mixture instead.

For Dog Owners Only: Visually inspect your dog for any redness, open wounds, or other symptoms which may indicate accidental ingestion of hydrocortisone cream (especially if you do not know how much he has ingested).

In this case, you should contact a veterinarian as soon as possible to determine the appropriate course of action. If your dog does not have any visible side effects after 2 hours, it is unlikely that he will develop any further complications.

If you have applied hydrocortisone cream to your dog’s skin/coat and not ingested any of the substance, then he is unlikely to develop side effects as long as you stay away from him for at least two hours.

You should make sure that he does not lick himself after that time period has elapsed.


We hope that this information is useful in helping you to care for your pet after he has ingested hydrocortisone cream.

Remember that if you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to help you figure out what the best course of action would be for your situation.

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