Atopica–relief for your pet’s skin allergies

Your pet is part of your family unit and their health is of the utmost importance. Your veterinarian does not see your pet on a day-to-day basis, so it is up to you to notice any physical changes in your pet or if they acting peculiar. Is your pet licking or scratching incessantly? Does this occur year-round or is it seasonal? One of the most common conditions overlooked in pet companions today is atopic dermatitis. Unfortunately, your pet’s fur can make it difficult to spot. It is important to monitor your pet’s behavior and observe his or her skin while grooming your pet.

What is atopic dermatitis and what are the signs?
Atopic dermatitis is an incurable skin allergy that is brought on by seasonal pollen and other environmental allergens (dust mites or mold spores). Common signs seen in canines and felines are: itching, scratching, licking, gnawing, and chewing. These can lead to more serious symptoms such as skin infections, hair loss, skin lesions, scaly skin, red-inflamed skin, or red-brown staining on the skin.

How do you treat atopic dermatitis?
The first step is to consult with your veterinarian. Your vet will diagnose your pet via the 3 slide technique: skin scrape; tape prep/impression smear; and ear swab. Your vet will review the results under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis. The good news is that there is a treatment option for this problem. Atopica (cyclosporine, USP MODIFIED) can provide your pet with relief from the incessant itching by targeting the immune cells involved in the allergic response. Atopica comes in capsule form for canines or oral solution for felines and does require a prescription from your veterinarian.

What is the recommended dose and duration of treatment?

Felines (6 months of age and at least 3 lbs):
Dose: 3.2 mg/lb (measure using a syringe)
Administer the dose with food or right after a meal. Allow plenty of water to drink.
Duration: once a day for 4-6 weeks or until resolution of clinical signs

Canine (6 months of age and at least 4 lbs):
4-9 lbs (green box):         10mg
9.1-16 lbs (yellow box):   25mg
16.1-33 lbs (purple box):  50mg
33.1-64 lbs (blue box):     100mg
Administer the dose 1 hour before or 2 hours after a meal.
Duration: once a day for 30 days

Your vet may taper down the medication after the 30 days (or 4-6 weeks with felines) to every other day or twice a week. It is very important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions and to not adjust your animal companion’s medication without their permission. If your pet misses a dose, administer the next dose as soon as possible. Do not double the dose. Remember, there is no cure for this disease. Atopica may have to be administered long-term depending on your pet’s allergies.

What are the possible side effects?
The most common side effects are vomiting, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. These side effects should dissipate over time, but contact your vet if your pet’s condition does not improve or worsens. Your pet may also experience muscle cramps or weakness, change of hair coat, or gingival hyperplasia (overgrowth of gums). If your pet develops an allergic reaction (swelling of lips/tongue/face or difficulty breathing) contact your vet immediately and stop the medication.

What are some important things to tell your veterinarian?
Notify your vet of any over-the-counter medications or supplements your pet is taking. There are many drugs that interact with Atopica and increase the risk for blood toxicity. Your vet may suggest some alternatives which do no interfere with Atopica’s immunosuppression.

Notify your vet if your pet is pregnant/nursing, has a history of kidney/liver disease, or suffers from other chronic diseases. Specifically with felines, inform your vet if there is a history of cancer, feline leukemia virus (FeLV), or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Atopica is an immunosuppressant and therefore long-term use puts your pet at risk for developing an infection. It is important to visit your veterinarian for check-ups at their discretion.

It can be stressful and overwhelming to learn about more health problems your pet may or may not have. However, as with most illnesses the sooner you discover atopic dermatitis, the sooner you can consult with your veterinarian and choose the right treatment plan. If you suspect your pet has atopic dermatitis, make an appointment with your vet and bring relief to your pet.