Cyclosporine For Dogs: Uses, Dosage, & Side Effects

An adorable small white dog is held by her unrecognizable owner as she answers intake questions by an unrecognizable vet tech. The vet tech holds a clipboard. She strokes the dog and speaks to her to put her at ease.

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

Cyclosporine for dogs, also known by the brand names Atopica and Optimmune, is an immunosuppressant drug primarily used to treat a condition called atopic dermatitis. This condition is not contagious, but it causes chronic inflammation of the skin due to an overactive immune system response. Cyclosporine suppresses the immune system in dogs, relieving symptoms of the condition, though it may also leave dogs more open to infection or neoplasia. It is approved by the FDA for veterinary use in canines and is only available with a prescription. If your veterinarian prescribes cyclosporine for your dog, follow their instructions closely and do not discontinue giving it to your dog until your veterinarian instructs you to do so. Here is what you should know about the uses, dosage, and side effects of cyclosporine in dogs.

Uses Of Cyclosporine For Dogs

professional vet doctor examining pet dog skin with examining light

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

While cyclosporine for dogs is primarily used to treat atopic dermatitis, it can also be prescribed for a variety of other condition caused by an immune system response. Several immune mediated disorders, such as hemolytic anemia, perineal fistula, and keratoconjunctivitis sicca can also be treated with the drug, and it is sometimes prescribed after kidney or bone-marrow transplants to prevent the immune system from rejecting the new tissue.

Cyclosporine can be an alternative to certain steroids, which have some troublesome side effects, especially with long-term use. In terms of effectiveness, cyclosporine helps about 70 percent of allergic dogs, and about half see a reduction in skin lesions and itching. The drug is also used to treat asthma in felines, though it is not used for this purpose in dogs.

Dosage Of Cyclosporine For Dogs

Veterinarian greeting family with dog at reception

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

The usual dosage of cyclosporine for dogs is 1.5 to 3 mg per pound of body weight given twice a day. This is usually tapered off after about 30 days to a minimum dose that will still be effective in preventing symptoms. Cyclosporine is available in 10 mg, 25 mg, 50 mg, and 100 mg capsules. The capsules have an odor when the package is opened, and this is normal. The medication should be given orally with plenty of water at least two hours before or after eating. Veterinarians may prescribe the drug ketoconazole along with cyclosporine, which reduces the metabolism of cyclosporine and may, in turn, reduce the necessary dosage of the drug. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions closely.

Side Effects Of Cyclosporine For Dogs

Beautiful Pug

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

There are some side effects of cyclosporine that have been seen in dogs. They are most often related to the digestive system. If you see concerning side effects in your dog, consult your veterinarian, as they may wish to alter the dosage or seek an alternative form of treatment. Here are some of the side effects of cyclosporine in dogs.

  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Mucus in stool
  • Otitis externa (commonly known as swimmer’s ear)
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
  • Overgrown gums
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Bacterial or fungal infection (due to weakened immune system)

Cyclosporine should not be given to dogs that are under 4 pounds in weight or younger than 6 months in age. Tell your veterinarian about any other medications your dog is taking, as they may interact poorly with cyclosporine. Also, let your veterinarian know about any other medical conditions your dog suffers from, especially liver disease, cancer, high blood pressure, kidney disease, or infections, as these may be worsened by cyclosporine. As with almost all medications, there is a risk of allergic reaction that can lead to anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening condition. If you see the signs of an allergic reaction, including swelling, hives, difficulty breathing, or other symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Has your dog ever taken cyclosporine? Did it help treat their condition? Let us know in the comments below!

Around The Web

Breed Profile Finder