Cyclosporine Uses for Dogs - Oral and Eye Solutions

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. February 13, 2022
Cyclosporine Uses for Dogs - Oral and Eye Solutions

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Cyclosporine is an immunosuppressive drug that is used to treat allergy responses and immune-mediated diseases which affect various bodily systems. It is considered a safe drug with high efficacy rates, most often being associated with mild and reversible side effects. However, its relatively high cost means it is not usually the first drug of choice in immunosuppressive therapies.

If you want to know more about cyclosporine uses for dogs, we provide them in this AnimalWised article. We see how its different preparations affect its administration, as well as find out possible side effects and contraindications for the drug.

You may also be interested in: What is Cyclosporine for Cats Used For?


  1. What is cyclosporine?
  2. What is cyclosporine used for in dogs?
  3. Uses of Cyclosporine for Dogs
  4. Cyclosporine dosage for dogs
  5. Side effects of cyclosporine for dogs
  6. Contraindications of cyclosporine for dogs
  7. Cyclosporine overdose or intoxication in dogs

What is cyclosporine?

Cyclosporine, also known as cyclosporine A or ciclosporin, is an immunosuppressive drug. As with all immunosuppressives, it is used to reduce the dog's immune system response. More specifically, it is a selective immunosuppressant that acts specifically and reversibly on T lymphocytes.

It is a highly effective and safe drug for use in dogs. Its use is somewhat restricted due to its significantly higher economic cost than other immunosuppressants, such as corticosteroids for dogs.

Currently, it is commercially available in three different preparations:

  • Oral capsules
  • Oral solution
  • Ophthalmic ointment (eye drops)

In the USA, cyclosporine is commonly sold under the brand names Gengraf, Neoral and SandIMMUNE. Cyclosporine is a prescription medication which cannot be purchased over the counter.

What is cyclosporine used for in dogs?

As previously stated, cyclosporine is a powerful immunosuppressant. It works by binding to T lymphocytes and inhibiting the production of interleukin-2 (IL-2) and other cytokines involved in activating the immune system. For this reason, cyclosporine is used as an immunosuppressive treatment for pathologies that require a modulation of the functioning of the immune system. The most common examples are allergic processes and immune-mediated diseases. In the next section, we will talk more specifically about the uses of cyclosporine in dogs.

Despite the efficacy and safety of cyclosporine, it is not usually a drug of first choice in immunosuppressive treatments due to its high cost. In medium-large dogs, treatment with cyclosporine can cost hundreds of dollars. This can make it prohibitively expensive for some dog caregivers. It is most commonly used when the dog does not tolerate other immunosuppressive drugs, such as corticosteroids.

Uses of Cyclosporine for Dogs

As we have pointed out in the previous section, cyclosporine is used as a treatment in pathologies that require immunosuppressive therapy. Specifically, cyclosporine in dogs is used in:

  • Allergic processes: it has been approved in the USA for treatment of chronic atopic dermatitis in dogs.

  • Immune- mediated diseases: this very diverse group includes diseases affect numerous systems in the dog's body. Some of the most frequent are immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, inflammatory bowel disease (or IBD), perianal fistulae, immune-mediated stomatitis, immune-mediated hepatitis, immune-mediated meningoencephalitis, lupus erythematosus, immune-mediated conjunctivitis, keratitis and uveitis.

Cyclosporine dosage for dogs

The dose of cyclosporine in dogs depends on several factors:

  • Administration type
  • Pathology to be treated and its severity
  • Patient response

Oral cyclosporine dosage for dogs

The recommended oral dose of cyclosporine (both capsules and oral solution) is 5 mg/kg body weight. It should always be administered at least 2 hours before or after meals.

Specifically, the dosage of oral cyclosporine is as follows:

  • Initially, the treatment should be administered daily until clinical improvement of the animal is detected. This usually occurs within 4 weeks. If after 8 weeks no improvement is detected, treatment should be discontinued.
  • Once clinical signs are controlled , the drug can be administered every other day as a maintenance dose. During this period, the veterinarian should make regular checks and adjust the dosage based on the observed clinical response.
  • When the symptoms are controlled, the veterinarian will be able to prescribe the treatment every 3 or 4 days.
  • When the disease is controlled, treatment can be stopped. In case clinical signs reappear, treatment can be resumed with a daily dose.

Cyclosporine eye drops dosage for dogs

Before applying the ophthalmic ointment, the eye should be cleaned of possible traces of dirt and exudates using non-irritating solutions. After that, 1 ml of ointment should be applied to the affected eye and the application repeated every 12 hours.

The duration of treatment with cyclosporine ophthalmic ointment depends on the severity of the process and the response obtained. If used in conjunction with other eye drops or ophthalmic ointment, 5 minutes should be left between administration of each drug.

Side effects of cyclosporine for dogs

Cyclosporine is considered a safe drug for veterinary use. In fact, its data sheet indicates that adverse reactions are usually mild and transient. The reason they rarely occur is partly due to lower doses than when used for human medicine. Furthermore, they usually do not require discontinuation of treatment and usually regress spontaneously after completion of therapy.

However, as with any drug, cyclosporine is not without its possible side effects. The most frequent adverse reactions associated with cyclosporine administration in dogs are:

  • Gastrointestinal Disorders: anorexia, vomiting, mucous or loose stools, and diarrhea.
  • Lethargy or hyperactivity
  • Gingival hyperplasia: the majority of dogs treated with cyclosporine develop proliferations in the gums. However, they are not usually bothersome and disappear when the treatment is withdrawn.
  • Hypertrichosis: excessive hair growth.
  • Redness and swelling of the pinna
  • Muscle weakness: may be accompanied by cramps.
  • Diabetes Mellitus: has been observed very rarely. It is mainly associated as a relatively common health problem of the West Highland Terrier breed.
  • Eye problems: redness, blepharospasm (eye closure due to eye pain), conjunctivitis and eye irritation, most associated with eye drops.

Contraindications of cyclosporine for dogs

Despite the efficacy and safety of cyclosporine, there are certain situations in which its use may be counterproductive. The main contraindications of cyclosporine in dogs:

  • Allergy to cyclosporine or to any of the drug's excipients (non-active ingredients).
  • Puppies less than 6 months old or weighing less than 2 kg.
  • Dogs with clinical history of malignant tumors.
  • Vaccines (either live or inactivated) should not be administered during treatment or in the two weeks before or after treatment, as the drug may interfere with the effectiveness of vaccination. Learn more with our article on vaccination schedules for dogs.

Cyclosporine crosses the placental barrier and is excreted in milk. Therefore, the use of this drug in pregnant or lactating dogs is not recommended. However, when considered necessary, treatment with cyclosporin may be started in breeding bitches after a positive risk/benefit assessment by a veterinarian.

Cyclosporine overdose or intoxication in dogs

Cyclosporine overdose or intoxication in dogs can be caused by accidental ingestion of the drug or by errors in administration by caregivers. Although the adverse reactions associated with overdose are not very serious, it is important to detect them in time and go to the veterinarian to establish the most appropriate treatment.

The reactions that can be observed in cases of intoxication due to doses 4 times higher than the recommended dose or due to overdosing for 3 months may include:

  • Hyperkeratosis in the pinna (hardening of the outer ear)
  • Callous lesions on the plantar pads (see more with our article on hyperkeratosis of a dog's paws)
  • Weight loss or decreased weight gain
  • Hypertrichosis (excessive hair growth)
  • Increased erythrocyte sedimentation rate and reduced number of eosinophils

Whenever you detect any of these symptoms, do not hesitate to go to a trusted veterinarian. Although there is no specific antidote for cyclosporine, symptomatic treatment can be instituted to control the signs of cyclosporine intoxication in dogs. Symptoms are usually reversible within 2 months.

In any case, remember the importance of keeping any medicinal product away from your animals and carefully follow the guidelines established by your veterinarian. This will be the easiest way to avoid cases of overdose or intoxication by cyclosporine. Learn more about general canine intoxication with our guide to poisoning in dogs.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Cyclosporine Uses for Dogs - Oral and Eye Solutions, we recommend you visit our Medicine category.

  • Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS). Technical sheet or summary of product characteristics: Optimmune ophthalmic ointment. Retrieved from:
  • Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS). Technical sheet or summary of product characteristics: Atopica 100 mg/ml oral solution for cats and dogs. Retrieved from:
  • Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS). Technical sheet or summary of product characteristics: Atopica 100 mg soft capsules for dogs. Retrieved from:
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Cyclosporine Uses for Dogs - Oral and Eye Solutions