In mice and people, administering corticosteroids before chemotherapy can reduce the severity of myelosuppression without reducing antitumour effects. This study investigated whether pretreatment with dexamethasone would reduce the incidence of grade 4 neutropenia in dogs receiving CCNU. Twenty-five dogs received dexamethasone [0.1 mg kg−1 per os (PO) every 12 h] for 5 days and on the sixth day received CCNU (90 mg m−2 PO). Historical dogs (n = 67) received CCNU alone (90 mg m−2 PO). Forty-five percent of historical dogs had grade 4 neutropenia, while 64% of dogs pretreated with dexamethasone had grade 4 neutropenia (P = 0.16). Dexamethasone plasma levels were quantified by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in three healthy dogs. Peak plasma concentrations after a single oral 0.1-mg kg−1 dose were <80 ng mL−1, the minimum level associated with chemoprotective effects of dexamethasone in people. Pretreatment with dexamethasone did not reduce the incidence of grade 4 neutropenia in dogs receiving CCNU.