Cyclosporine - Oral

By Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM, MPH

What is cyclosporine?

Cyclosporine (brand name: Atopica®) is an immune modulating medication (meaning it lowers the immune response). It is used to treat immune mediated diseases such as atopic dermatitis (skin allergies) in cats and dogs. Cyclosporine works by acting on the immune cells involved in an allergic reaction and reduces inflammation and itching associated with allergies.

(For information on cyclosporine ophthalmic ointment, see the handout "Cyclosporine - Ophthalmic".)

How do I give my pet cyclosporine?

Cyclosporine is given by mouth, in the form of a capsule for dogs and a liquid suspension for cats.

Cats should get the medication with food. Dogs should be given the capsules on an empty stomach. Wait 1-2 hours before feeding your dog.

This medication can take up to a few weeks before full effects are noted, but gradual improvements are usually noticeable after a few days.

What if I miss giving my pet the medication?

Give the missed dose as soon as possible. If it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose, and continue with the regular schedule. Do not give your pet two doses at once.

Are there any potential side effects from cyclosporine?

The most common side effects of cyclosporine are gastrointestinal side effects, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and decreased appetite (anorexia).

Other side effects in dogs include urinary tract infections, lethargy, gingival hyperplasia (overgrowth of the gums), and enlarged lymph nodes.

Other side effects in cats include lethargy, hypersalivation (drooling), behavior disorders, conjunctivitis, sneezing/rhinitis, gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), and increased drinking.

Because cyclosporine suppresses the immune system, an increased susceptibility to infection and the development of neoplasia (cancer) are rare, but possible.

This short-acting medication should stop working within 24 hours, although effects can be longer in pets with liver or kidney disease.

Are there any risk factors for this medication?

Some dogs and cats, or those with certain conditions should not use cyclosporine. These include:

  • dogs and cats with a history of cancer or a hypersensitivity to cyclosporine
  • cats infected with feline leukemia virus (FeLV) or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)
  • dogs and cats younger than 6 months of age, that weigh less than 3 pounds (cats) or 4 pounds (dogs)
  • dogs or cats that are breeding, pregnant, or lactating

Cyclosporine should be used with caution in dogs and cats with kidney disease and/or diabetes.

Are there any drug interactions I should be aware of?

Cyclosporine should be used with caution when given with other drugs that are processed by the body in the same way, because it can increase the blood levels of cyclosporine. Examples include ketoconazole and itraconazole.

Is there any monitoring that needs to be done with this medication?

Monitor your pet for side effects, increased thirst or urination, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and mucous membranes), or lethargy.

How do I store cyclosporine?

Cyclosporine should be stored in its original unit-dose container at controlled temperatures between 59 and 77°F (15-25°C). The oral suspension should be used within 8 weeks for the 5mL container and 11 weeks for the 17 mL container.

What should I do in case of emergency?

If you suspect an overdose or negative reaction to the medication, call your veterinary office immediately. If they are not available, follow their directions in contacting an emergency facility.

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