Is Cortizone Safe for Cats?
Our ancestors were constantly covered in boils, fungal infections, acne, and other unpleasant skin problems, but modern man has developed a wide range of topical gels and creams to treat our every dermatological complaint. We have the means to treat dry skin, rashes, allergic reactions, bug bites, and fungal infections with a simple trip to the drug store. Because we are so accustomed to treating our own mild skin problems, we often try to employ the same tactics on our furry friends. We don’t even hesitate to reach for a tube of Cortizone 10 when we find ourselves resisting the urge to scratch.
Partly because it is applied topically rather than ingested, many pet parents are more comfortable administering cortisone and hydrocortisone creams than they would be with giving their cat oral over-the-counter medications. But is this really a safe way to treat my cat’s itching? Can cats have cortisone?
The answer is technically yes—properly administered, hydrocortisone creams such as Cortizone 10 may be an effective way to treat your cat’s itching. These creams are usually not absorbed into the blood stream in high concentrations, so there is not a huge risk of toxicity associated with using them in small quantities.
However, you should always consult a veterinarian before applying any new drug to your cat’s skin. Cats are extremely vulnerable to toxicity, and over-the-counter drugs such as Cortizone 10 have been formulated for use in humans. Cortizone 10 has not been FDA approved for use in cats. Instead of raiding your own medicine cabinet, consult a veterinarian. They will likely recommend topical creams that are designed for felines.
If you decide to use Cortizone 10 or any hydrocortisone cream on your cat’s itchy skin, it is crucial that you avoid applying it directly to cuts, scrapes, oozing sores, or any other open wounds. This drug is effective for the use of alleviating discomfort associated with skin allergies, but it should not be applied to wounds—it will not prevent or treat any type of infection.
It is also important to prevent your cat from licking any area of skin that has been treated with any topical medication. Ingesting small amounts of topical steroids such as Cortizone 10 is likely to result in indigestion, vomiting, and diarrhea, but because cats are so small, it doesn’t take very much to result in more severe symptoms of toxicity. Prescription-strength cortisone creams are far more dangerous than the hydrocortisone creams that are available over-the-counter. You should never administer anything to your cat that has been prescribed for you.
This is one of the biggest downsides to administering topical medications without veterinary guidance—your cat is almost certain to lick at the affected area as soon as you turn your back on them. If you are only applying the cream to a small part of their body, you may find it helpful to cover the affected area with a bandage after application. After all, if your cat licks all the medicine off of their skin, it will not do much to help their itching!
Though Cortizone 10 and other cortisone creams may be effective for certain situations, it is best to avoid giving your cat topical medications without first consulting a veterinarian. While we often have a pretty strong grasp on our own symptoms and their severity, our cats have no way of communicating with us. Topical treatments like cortisone cream are not going to do anything to solve the underlying condition that has caused the itching—all they will do is cover up the symptoms.
Things to Consider
While there is value in making your cat more comfortable in the short term, that comfort may come at a cost if the cause of their itching is something more serious. Every time we choose to treat our cats’ symptoms using over-the-counter medications at home, we risk misdiagnosis. If your cat has any other symptoms, or if their itching worsens or does not improve, take them to the vet to get an official diagnosis of the problem.
Appropriately used, cortisone creams generally have a very low risk of side effects, but no medication is risk-free. Cortisone cream may repress the immune system, which can result in frequent colds and other infections. If your cat has a fungal infection, kidney or liver disease, stomach ulcers, or any drug sensitivities, consult a veterinarian before administering any over-the-counter medication. Cortisone cream may interact with some other prescription or over-the-counter drugs. If your cat develops symptoms like panting, diarrhea, vomiting, or excessive thirst and urination, stop applying cortisone cream and take them to the vet.
In conclusion, Cortizone 10 and other products are generally considered safe for cats when they are used carefully. To keep your cat safe in the long term, talk to a vet any time your cat has symptoms that need to be treated. This will make sure you don’t misdiagnose your cat if they need serious medical care!