Cyclosporine is a potent immunosuppressive agent that has treatment applications in both veterinary and human medicine. It is a cyclic polypeptide derived from the soil fungusTolypocladium inflatum. In 1983, cyclosporine gained U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the prevention of transplant rejection in humans. In 2003, it was FDA-approved as Atopica (at that time, manufactured by Novartis Animal Health, but now manufactured by Elanco, for treatment of atopic dermatitis in dogs. Oral cyclosporine is currently being used to treat a spectrum of inflammatory and immune-mediated diseases in dogs, including but not limited to atopic dermatitis, autoimmune skin disorders, perianal fistula, inflammatory bowel disease, granulomatous meningoencephalitis, and immune-mediated blood disorders (e.g., immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, pure red cell aplasia, and immune-mediated thrombocytopenia).


Cyclosporine for dogs, also known by the brand names Atopica and Optimmune, is an immunosuppressant drug mostly used to treat 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 atopic dermatitis. Although, it may also leave dogs more open to infection or neoplasia. The FDA approves it for veterinary use in canines, and you can only purchase it with a prescription

If your vet prescribes this drug for your dog, follow their instructions closely and do not discontinue giving it to your dog until your vet instructs you to do so. Here’s what you should know about the uses, dosage, and side effects of cyclosporine in dogs.

Uses Of Cyclosporine For Dogs

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

Cyclosporine can provide 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 also treats asthma in felines, though it does not do the same for dogs.

Dosage Of Cyclosporine For Dogs

You must ask your veterinarian for the proper dosage for your individual dog. The following are simply averages that may not suit every dog’s needs. The usual dosage of cyclosporine for dogs is 1.5 to 3 mg per pound of body weight given twice a day at first. Then, vets usually taper this off after about 30 days to a minimum dose that will still effectively prevent 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. Vets 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 vet’s instructions closely.

Side Effects

The most common side effect seen with cyclosporine is upset stomach (appetite loss, vomiting, diarrhea, or all of these). Upset stomach occurs in one dog in three, but generally resolves within one week even if the medication is continued. Some options to mitigate the upset stomach side effect include:

  • Beginning with a lower dose of cyclosporine and working up to the therapeutic dose over a couple of weeks.
  • Giving cyclosporine with food at least for the first two weeks in canine patients.
  • Freezing the capsules.
  • Giving a dose of metoclopramide 30 minutes before the cyclosporine.

Dogs infected with the papilloma virus may develop large numbers of viral papillomas (warts) while on cyclosporine.

Dogs on cyclosporine may develop a thicker coat than usual and more shedding than usual can be expected.

Other side effects reported include: heavy callusing on the footpads, red/swollen ear flaps, and proliferation of the gums. When cyclosporine was discontinued, these findings either resolved or improved. The gum proliferation can be mitigated by toothpastes containing azithromycin.

Prices of Cyclosporine For Dogs

$16.24 – $56.99

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