Cyclosporine is an immunodepressant drug that is used for both humans and animals. In dogs, Cyclosporine is used mostly to treat atopic dermatitis or atopy, which is a type of eczema or a skin condition caused by your dog reacting to allergens. Humans usually react to allergens with sneezing, coughing and watery eyes. Dogs, on the other hand, react to allergens with itching and swollen skin, rashes, constant licking of snout or paws and, of course, scratching. The danger is that allergies in dogs can rapidly lead to worse conditions. Cyclosporine, most recently released under the brand name “Atopica” by Novartis, is the latest drug recommended for canine atopy.
Uses of Cyclosporine
The most common indication for Cyclosporine is atopic dermatitis. However, it is also used to treat perineal fistulas, immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, Keratoconjuctivitis sicca, more commonly known as “dry eye”, and Discoid lupus erythemathosus , which is also a skin condition in dogs. It is also used to treat asthma in cats.
How does Cyclosporine work?
It targets specific immune cells that react to allergens, thereby causing the allergic reaction. Cyclosporine restrains these cells thereby reducing the response to the allergens.
How is Cyclosporine administered and what is the dose?
Cyclosporine is available in 10, 25, 50 and 100 mg soft gelatin capsules. The therapeutic dose is 5 mg/kg once daily for a month. Vets recommend building up to the therapeutic dose. Cyclosporine is most effective when taken on an empty stomach, either 1 hour before or 2 hours after a meal. In the event a dose is missed, continue the next day; you must never give Cyclosporine for dogs more than once a day.
Precautions to consider when your dog is taking Cyclosporine
Cyclosporine should only be given to dogs that weigh at least 4 lbs, and are over 6 months old. It should not be given to breeding dogs, pregnant or lactating dogs or dogs that have been diagnosed with malignant neoplasia, which is another way of saying cancer. If your dog is taking Cyclosporine he cannot be vaccinated using a live vaccine as there is a high risk of him developing an infection caused by the active microorganism in the vaccine. If he absolutely has to be vaccinated, ask your vet about the suitability of a killed vaccine.
Common Side effects
The most common side effects associated with the use of Cyclosporine for dogs are gastrointestinal in nature. They include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, anorexia, and the like, especially within the first few weeks of drug use. These side effects are usually transient and your dog will adjust after a while, but there are drugs like Metoclopramide that minimize some of the effects, like nausea and vomiting. You must be sure to keep your dog well hydrated if he is experiencing diarrhea and vomiting, as he will be losing a lot of fluids.
Field studies carried out by the manufacturer show that Cyclosporine use also has an effect on the levels of some enzymes, and this will be reflected in your dog’s blood work. In addition, dogs taking Cyclosporine are prone to Urinary Tract Infections, but whether this is due to the atopic dermatitis or to the drug has not been established so far.