Major Uses

Dexamethasone is a glucocorticoid that has a wide range of healing capabilities. Primarily, it is used as a replacement for glucocorticoid activity in patients with adrenal insufficiency, as an anti-inflammatory agent, and as an immunosuppressive. It may also be used to treat endocrine conditions, rheumatic diseases, collagen diseases, allergic states, respiratory diseases, dermatologic diseases, hematologic disorders, neoplasias, nervous system disorders, and renal diseases.

Common Precautions

Dexamethasone should not be used by itself when treating adrenal insufficiency, as it has a negligible mineralocorticoid effect. Dogs are more susceptible to experiencing gastrointestinal complications caused by dexamethasone, meaning dose requirements should be carefully observed. Animals at risk for diabetes mellitus or with those with cardiovascular disease, especially cats, should receive dexamethasone cautiously because complications can arise.

The most common negative side effects associated with dexamethasone typically appear as clinical signs of hyperadrenocorticism. Dogs can show signs of polydipsia, polyphagia, and polyuria while on this drug. Other negative side effects include dull, dry hair coat, panting, vomiting, weight gain, diarrhea, pancreatitis, elevated liver enzymes, lipidemias, GI ulceration, activation or worsening of diabetes millitus, behavior changes, and muscle wasting.

Dexamethasone should not be used in animals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to the drug. A veterinarian should be contacted immediately if an overdose is suspected or any alarming symptoms occur.


Dexamethasone should be kept at room temperature in a light resistant, childproof container. It should be stored out of reach from children and animals.


A typical dose of dexamethasone for dogs is .1-1 mg/kg for 3 to 5 days. For cats, a typical dose ranges from .125-.5 mg/kg for 3 to 5 days. A normal dose for horses is .05-5 mg/kg once daily for up to 7 days. A dose of 40 mg every other day is useful for treating horses with recurrent airway obstruction. If a dose is missed, it should be given to the animal as soon possible unless it is time for the next scheduled dose. In this case, the missed dose should be skipped and the regularly scheduled dose should be administered. Two doses should not be administered concurrently.

Doses may vary in different species, when the drug is given by a different route or concurrently with other medications, and with regards to a patient's age, breed, and health status. A veterinarian's dosing instructions and/or those printed on the medication label should be followed closely.

This information is for general reference only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition of your pet. It's intended as a general reference, this information may not include all possible uses, precautions, directions, reactions (including allergic), drug interactions, or withdrawal times. Always consult your local veterinarian and have your pet examined for any advice concerning the diagnosis and treatment of your pet, including which products and doses are most appropriate. Any trademarks are the property of their respective owners. VetDepot is not a pharmacy. All prescription products are dispensed by our Pharmacy Partner. Article last updated 2/2014.