Treating Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs with Cyclosporine

Atopic dermatitis in dogs is a condition caused by various factors in the environment (pollens, dust mites, mold spores). AD may affect the dog's skin and ears, and is considered a genetic disease that is immune system mediated. Cyclosporine may be effective in treating AD in canines, as it is an anti-inflammatory medication that will suppress the immune system.

Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a condition that manifests through pruritis or excessive itchiness. The most frequently affected areas include the ears, the face, chin, groin, armpits and in between the toes. The skin can become red and the dog will be scratching the affected areas.

AD is difficult to diagnose, but this can be done by ruling out other possible diseases that cause similar symptoms.

AD will often cause flaky skin, hair loss, acral lick granulomas and hyperpigmentation, due to the excessive scratching and licking of the itchy skin. Secondary viral or bacterial infections may also occur.

Cyclosporine for AD

AD may be manageable by avoiding the factors that cause the skin reactions. This may be difficult, as the dog may react to several allergens and these may be permanently present in the environment (i.e., dust mites). Steroids and antihistamines may also be administered along with topical creams and sprays.

Cyclosporine, marketed as Atopica, is an immune system suppressant that can reduce the dog's reactions. The drug will act differently than steroids, which will affect the entire system of the dog. Cyclosporine will only act on the inflammatory cells produced by the dog's body when he is in contact with the irritants. The drug is highly effective, reducing the symptoms of atopy within four to six weeks after the treatment is started. More than 75 percent of dogs respond well to the treatment.

Side Effects of Cyclosporine

Cyclosporine is a drug that should be administered regularly to eliminate the symptoms of atopy. Once the initial symptoms are gone, the dose may be reduced, but the dog should get this treatment, as otherwise, the symptoms of AD will return. Cyclosporine is considered safe for use in pets, but may cause side effects such as:

  • Stomach distress, especially during the first few weeks of administration
  • Kidney problems
  • Reduced resistance to diseases and frequent infections, due to the fact that the drugs will inhibit the immune system

Cyclosporine Dosage

The dosage of cyclosporine will be established by the vet, judging by the weight of the dog. Typically, the initial dosage will be more aggressive, but once the dog's condition is stabilized and there are no symptoms of AD, the dog can get a lower dose. In some dogs, it is possible to administer cyclosporine only when the dog has atopy flare-ups.

Other Uses of Cyclosporine

In addition to atopic dermatitis in dogs, cyclosporine may be used in canines affected by:

  • IBS (inflammatory bowel syndrome), an immune system disease
  • Sebaceous adenitis, a skin condition that is believed to be genetic