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Atopica For Dogs Side Effects

Updated on May 9, 2011

What is Atopica?

Atopica is used to treat allergic skin reactions in dogs, brought on by mites, fleas, dust, pollen, and mold. It's also used to treat anemia, when it's caused by an immune response. In this article, we will go over many different things, including the side effects of Atopica, with the hope that your dog will receive better care through your better understanding of their health needs.

This is a continuing series I have been working on, illustrating different dog medicines I have come to know over the years through my own ownership of pets. My main focus is on dogs, though I will also let it be known when these medicines can be used for other pets as well. 

My purpose here is not to make you a veterinarian, but rather, to help you understand the meds your veterinarian prescribes, so you can deliver them properly to your pet and know the warning signs to look out for, should things go wrong. As I have said many times throughout this series, your pets depends on you to make the right decision for them, and the first step to making those decisions is being properly informed. 

And so, without further ado, we will look into the pet med known as Atopica.

A typical case where Atopica would be prescribed
A typical case where Atopica would be prescribed

How Does Atopica Work?

Quite simply, Atopica suppresses the part of the dog's immune system that react to allergies. You can liken this to getting a mosquito bite on your arm and then having your body overreact with a horrible itch. Of course, your first response is to scratch at it like crazy, and being no fool ... Fido does the same thing.

Of course, this can lead to problems, as Fido's nails tend to be a lot sharper than ours. Not to mention, he might use his teeth and bite at the site, causing even more injury to himself. Many of us have seen a dog that has lost fur or dug itself open ... what we don't often see is how this invites infections to set in and worsen things. That's why Atopica exists, to suppress the allergic reaction and prevent your dog from further harming itself.

We often take a medicine (typically  Benadryl) to relieve our allergies, and dogs are prescribed Atopica, forcing the body to realign its coping mechanisms to no longer form an all out assault on a minor aggravation. By blocking the immune system's response to the allergen, this pet med reduces the allergic response in your dog, allowing them to go back to chasing their tail and begging for treats - you know, the fun stuff a dog's life is made of!

Are There any Known Side Effects for Atopica?

All meds seem to have side effects, and Atopica is no different. Oddly enough, some animals are allergic to the cure itself, and this often manfests itself in the form of diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. You also need to be aware of any abrupt changes in your dog's behavior, as this might also be a sign of an allergic reaction ot Atopica.

While this pet med is relatively safe, we do need to remember that it suppresses part of our pet's immune system. As such, be certain to mention to your vet any immune system issues your pet has had in the past, as he then might want to consider trying another med.

Can I Buy This Pet Med Online?

You can, but before doing so I will make you listen to my lecture that has become a standard throughout this series.

First off, never become your dog's veterinarian. These people are highly trained professionals that spend years in school learning their trade. If you think your pet needs Atropica, then it is best to allow the vet to see him to be certain. Also, you will want the correct dosage, which the vet will prescribe. 

With that information in hand, then yes, you can go online and buy your pet meds cheaper - just make sure you go with a nationally known vendor. 

Also, if your pet exhibits any side effects, be certain to take him back to the vet - your pet would do it for you.

A more serious case, in need of Atopica
A more serious case, in need of Atopica

Is It Safe for Cats?

This pet med is only approved only for dogs. As such, I don't recommend it for fluffy, unless your vet specifically prescribes it. Cats and dogs can often use the same meds, but in this case there is a difference that makes it best for dogs only, and I recommend that you follow the path of the experts and accept that this currently is a 'dogs only' med.

How is This Pet Med Prescribed?

Atopica is typically prescribed as a capsule or as gel caps, each being 10mg to 100mg in strength. Throughout this series I never divulge how much to prescribe to your pet, as I believe  a trained veterinarian should make this decision. Your choice in the matter should be to it that your pet's health improves, and by reading through this article I already know you care enough to see that happen, as you are willing to learn more about the medicines you prescribe to your dog. 

May your pet lead a long and healthy life! 

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    • profile image

      Tamara 5 years ago

      Ihad my shitzu on atopica only 2 days, he trew up day 2, then I skipped a day like my vet said, then gave again he has snalled a place the size of a quater on his shoulder near front of his leg, it is blood raw 1st time this has happen seems he's itching more than ever, after all I've read on line I'M NOT GIVING THIS TO MY BABY, HE HAS ENOUGH PROBLEMS HE DON'NT NEED MORE, PEOPLE READ UP ON THIS MED ATOPICA IT HAS OLT OF SIDE EFFECTS THAT SCARE THE VERY LIFE OUT OF ME, AND SEEING WITH3RD DOSE HOW MY BOOMER HAS REACTED I'M NOT AT ALL PLEASED, SOB CAREFUL AND DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!!!!! THANKS

    • yoshi97 profile image

      yoshi97 5 years ago from a land called 'what if?'

      Any change in behavior always has a root cause, and if you can form a link to a certain event (such as a new pet med) then the possibility is strong that such a link does exist.

      I highly recommend that you discuss this with your vet. Typically, you can stop the Atopica immediately, but you cannot do the same with all pet meds. Still, it's best to consult with your vet first, as there is always the possibility that another unrelated issue has cropped up.

    • profile image

      mimi 5 years ago

      I have a 1 year old Frenchie who is around 20 lbs. He was prescribed Atopica 50mg and has been taking it for about 2 months. This morning he woke up shaking and was very lethargic. He had no appetite and had a difficult time keeping his eyes open. We took him to the ER and he is staying there over night. All of his vitals are fine, but his white blood cell count is slightly elevated. Has anyone had any serious allergic reactions with Atopica? He hasn't improved over the course of 12hrs. I'm very worried. Any comments/suggestions are appreciated.

    • profile image

      michelle 5 years ago

      my bischon frise who is 10 yrs old, has been on atopica 25 mg a day for about 2 years now, there is a definate improvement in her scratching and skin issues but have decided to discontinue use as my dog drinks excessively and then throws up, has become like a different dog this year, always sleeping and this last week has been on a drip for 2 days with kidney failure :( I definitely think there is a connection to long-term use of atopica and have been reading about the human form and its side effects and it is a big worry to me

    • profile image

      Carolyn. 5 years ago

      I keep very ripe bananas on hand. Best when they actually turn dark. My dog loves it. I push her pill onto the banana and she eats the whole thing. It easily slides down her throat. She looks forward to pill time

    • profile image

      Les 5 years ago

      should I not feed "a raw meaty bones diet" to my beloved dog on cyclosporine?

    • profile image

      elofty 5 years ago

      Just started giving our chihuhua/terrier mix as she was having allergic reactions to pollen that included scratching and swelling of the tissue around the eyes. Got a steroid shot to quickly control it and vet recommended atopica. Since she is small dog cost isn't that bad but 3rd day into giving her the pills her mood changed rather dramatically. Always an energetic and more or less happy/curious dog she has become lethargic and sad looking. Her ears are always back now and always seems bothered. Is this a sign of an adverse side effect? Should we stop immediately? Hate the allergies but the behavior change is worse and troubling to me.

    • yoshi97 profile image

      yoshi97 5 years ago from a land called 'what if?'


      I'm almost tempted to think the red spots and scabbing could be some form of parasite - fleas come to mind, but other parasites are possible. Typically, red spots are where the blood has come to the suraface of the skin or just below it. While a liver condition could also cause this, it wouldn't explain the scabs. As scabs are a sign of healing, it would seem something has browen through the skin to cause this issue.

      It's a longshot, but I would have your lab checked for a parasitic infection. If I'm wrong, you'll have to forgive me, as I can only go off the clues you have given me, and I'm missing many of the details a vet would be able to detect from an actual visit, but I can't help but think that's what it has to be.

      As for the all natural cure you are using ... if it makes things better than keep with it. Some pets are susceptible to food allergies, and when you find yourself in this situation you can often spend months trying to find the right food that will work.

    • yoshi97 profile image

      yoshi97 5 years ago from a land called 'what if?'

      Provided you are aware of the dosage needed and the recommended time period for treatment, you could try purchasing the meds online to save some money; however, keep your vet in the loop if you notice any side effects.

      Shopping online for pet meds can save you a lot of money. Where most people go wrong is when they try to save on the vet bill as own by becoming their own doctor. Unless your Aunt Edna were a praticing surgeon you wouldn't want her slapping on the operating table and pulling our a tumor, and it would be no different if you became the vet for your loved one.

      As for pet bills being out of this world ... I once offered up a golden retriever for free adoption and had a family agree to take her. Wouldn't you know it, two weeks before the exchange she managed to somehow get ahold of a corncob and decided it would make for a good treat. I ended up paying $2000 to see her through her poor decision, but I never regretted a cent when the family dropped by and they were able to take her home.

      Pet bills are definitely high, but who can question the cost when it helps us bring new life to a loved one? :)

    • profile image

      pk 5 years ago

      My dog has an auto immune disorder and has just been prescribed 400 mg per day. The cost is over $800 per month, which does not include the $600 per month in vet bills and other meds. I am freaking out. One box of 15 100mg tabs is $100 and lasts 3.75 days. This could go on for quite some time, any suggestions?

    • profile image

      peggy 6 years ago

      I Have a black Lab 6 yrs old always had skin issues and now since may he has a spot on his neck that he has been itching its been treated with antibotic's steroids and still hasn't gone away..It did get a little better so we ween him off the steriods the skin area has become rough and looks like elephant skin...We just started Atopica for about a month now and 5 days ago I noticed a ton of hair loss..No bald spots but he has never shed so much. I also noticed his coat isn't as shiney as it always was...its dull and his skin is dry...Ive tried all kinds of food for his allergy's and nothing changed. So I looked into DR Harvey's Foods for dogs and he liked it so I made my own version which he has been on for over six months his stool is good and he likes it. Oatmeal with mixed veggies and some protien usually chick mixed in. I also supplement with turene, lechithin, nutrional yeast,and fish oil tablets... I spoke to the vet about the sudden change in his coat and he gave me a topical spray for the neck and more antibodics.. because also noticed in the last few days he has red spots and some scabbing spreading to his shoulders and around his ears...any suggestions...

    • yoshi97 profile image

      yoshi97 6 years ago from a land called 'what if?'


      Red spots on the gums and the belly is not a good thing. I have researched several articles on this, and I found one that gave me cause for concern.

      Before reading this article, I want you to this is a POSSIBILITY, but it is NOT a definite diagnosis. I recommend that you read the article with a bit of skepticism and then take your chihuahua to the vet and mention what you have read. They can perform the proper tests to either confirm or deny the possible diagnosis.

      Again ... do not read into the article link I am providing as a definite diagnosis - instead, read into it a possibility that you will need to have checked out.

      Here is a link to the article:

      As for the reason the vet is using a higher dose: The dosage limits are set for typical situations, and sometimes a case occurs where a vet determines that a higher dose could be beneficial. However, whenever you are requested to give your vet a higher dosage than recommended you need to keep a sharp watch for any side effects, as they are more often then to occur.

      You should definitely bring this to your vet's attention, and if they don't show any interest in this symptom then I would recommend a second opinion.

      Keep the faith, and be sure to report back to us to let us know if everything is alright! :)

    • profile image

      Carol Erwin 6 years ago

      My 6 pound, 7 year old, spayed female chihuahua has been on 25mg capsule of Atopica every other day for about three months. It controls her

      auto immune hemolic anemia but this week she is showing

      signs that her blood is not clotting. Red spots on gums and belly. Waiting for the results of blood tests done today to determine if that is the problem. Has this been

      reported in any cases you are aware of. Also, med insert suggests 10mg capsules for dogs 4-6.5 lbs so I'm wondering why mine is receiving 25mg.

    • yoshi97 profile image

      yoshi97 6 years ago from a land called 'what if?'

      Ruby's Mom,

      Vomiting is an allergic reaction to Atopica, and it's not a symptom that's guaranteed to go away. Given the opportunity to itch or throw up, I know which choice I would make - and I'm certain your pet feels the same way as I do. Sadly, regardless of the good a med can do, sometimes the side effects are worse than the ailment being treated.

      I'd give it no more than a day or two, and if things don't improve, ask for other options. I hope everything works out!


      You're absolutely right. Anytime a patent is lifted on a medication competition from other pharmaceutical companies will ensue, driving the price down. However, sometimes these companies will take shortcuts as they create knockoffs of the original, and these can be highly dangerous as only the original derivitive has been tested over a lengthy period of time.

      With the constant rise in vet bills I look for more companies to get involved in the pet insurance business and for more pet owners to have such insurance on their pets.

      Currently, I don't recommend pet insurance as the premiums are geared heavily toward the companies providing them, offering little benefit in anything but the most dire situations. Sadly, the best pet insurance people can afford today is to sock away 50-100 dollars a month into a fido/fluffy account and have it ready for any unplanned emergencies.

    • profile image

      Scott G 6 years ago

      My Boxer Ceaser has been on Atopica for 2 years. This drug has allowed him (now 12) to be much more comfortable and be a better member of the family. This drug is very expensive and has risen sharply in the last year with an increase of about $30.00. We pay just over $250.00 every 6 weeks for this med which Ceaser takes every other day as a maintenance dosage. I'm sure the cost will decline some once Novartis' patent is lifted... I hope.

      A well needed drug by many pets, Thanks!

    • profile image

      Rubys Mom 6 years ago

      We just started our dog, Ruby, 8 yrs. old mix, on Atopia. The threw up her food with the one before medicine and with the 2 hours afterwards, so we tried with food and still she tosses it up between and hour or more after she has ate. We called the vet and they say this is normal but from what I have read, I am worried about this being a bad reaction. True it has only been 4 days, but the tossing of her food, leaves her hungery for the her am feedings. Don't know if I should recall the vet or just give it a few more days like the vet said? Don't want to put her into more harm then good with the effects of Atopia.

    • yoshi97 profile image

      yoshi97 6 years ago from a land called 'what if?'


      According to Novartis Animal Health's website: ATOPICA will initially be given daily until a satisfactory clinical improvement is seen. This will generally be the case within 4 weeks. If no response is obtained within the first 8 weeks, the treatment should be stopped.

      and ...

      Treatment may be stopped when the clinical signs are controlled, if advised to do so by your veterinarian. Upon recurrence of clinical signs, treatment should be resumed at daily dosing, and, as atopic dermatitis is a chronic disease, repeated treatment courses may be required.

    • profile image

      cj 6 years ago

      How long can a dog stay on atopica? Her vet informed me that it's not a long term treatment. Is this true?

    • yoshi97 profile image

      yoshi97 6 years ago from a land called 'what if?'


      I did a little research and found it can take 1-3 months before Atopica starts providing visible relief. So long as there are no detrimental side effects, stay with it for up to three months to see id the Atopica can get ahead of the skin allergy.

      In the interim, you could try a bite cone (those plastic inverted cones they place over a dogs head to prevent them from biting themselves. If you decide to go this route, only use it when you aren't using the e-collar, as it could provide a discomfort for your pet if allowed to be worn for too long.

      Keep us informed on how things go! :)

    • profile image

      czar1845 6 years ago

      We have a 3-year-old shelter pup. I think he's a Shiba Inu mix. While his scratching and biting was pretty distracting last summer and even through the winter, this summer it's gone into overdrive. If we take our eyes off of him without his e-collar on, he will bite at his hind quarters until there's no hair and he's red and raw. We've tried different foods, topical treatments, Benadryl, Claritin, etc. Finally, we talked to our vet about Atopica and bought it online. Zooey's had three days and it doesn't seem to be making a difference. Does this have to build up in his system? And, if so, how long does it take before he gets some relief?

    • yoshi97 profile image

      yoshi97 6 years ago from a land called 'what if?'


      First off, whoever your vet might be - they are a keeper! I wish all vets would get a baseline before recommending medicinal treatment, as this helps sift out probable causes later on when new symptoms arise.

      I agree with stopping the medication to see if the liver count goes down. While this is not a know side effect of Atopica, we need to remember that this pet med is an immune system depressant, which means it could shut down the immune system to allow somehting through that your pets body would otherwise remove on its own.

      Typically, a high liver count signifies possible liver damage, but the possible sources are many. By removing Atopica out of the loop, the immune system has a chance to bounce back and take a crack out expelling several possible issues. Yes, this will most likely bring back the original issue, but I would take an allergy over liver damage any idea, and in all likelihood the original treatment with Atopica can recommence once the liver count is brought back down.

      If it should happen that a direct link is found between the Atopica and the liver count please let me know, as I will add it to my list of possible side effects. To this point it's unheard of, but it's always best to play cautious when evidence is given that might lead one to decide otherwise.

      I hope all goes well!

    • profile image

      Jody 6 years ago

      I have a daschund/beagle mix and we have been using atopica for abouth three months now. She just recently got sick and I took her back to the vet and did more blood work. The result was a high count on her liver. We have stopped using Atopica immediately. The Vet called the manufacturer and they stated that they haven't had any problems with this before. However, before starting her on this medication, the vet took blood work so she could have a baseline just in case she had a reaction or her values went up or down. Interesting that the medicine doesn't do this though????

    • yoshi97 profile image

      yoshi97 6 years ago from a land called 'what if?'


      The increase in itchiness is almost certainly an allergic reaction to the medication. Though Atopica isn't known for causing itching, any allergic reaction or worsening of symptoms should be enough cause to contact your vet and have them recommend a different treatment.

      I hope all goes well for you and Yogi! :)

    • profile image

      Susan 6 years ago

      I have started yogi on atopica but everytime he takes it he gets more itchy to the point he is distressed. I have tried putting him in the bath to try ease the itch.

    • yoshi97 profile image

      yoshi97 7 years ago from a land called 'what if?'


      Some vets recommend pill poppers that 'pop' the pill into the pets mouth. I'm not a fan of these, as they could just as easily lodge the pill in the back of your pet's throat, creating an even worse situation.

      I do, however, have a trick I believe might work. My Shephard is smart too, and it took us a while to outfox him - but we did! Here's the trick:

      Pull out a half piece of bread and smother one side of it with peanut butter (most dogs love peanut butter) and then roll the pill tightly inside of the bread.

      Next, let the dog smell the bread and pull it away as he/she is about to take a bite - this entices your pet into the idea that he/she will have to take it from you to get it. Hold the bread just out of reach, lower it down, and drop it in his/her mouth as they reach for it.

      The reasoning behind this is you are tempting your dog with food, then placing it nearly within their grasp, and finally it falls to them. They consider it mana from heaven and quickly gorge it in their mouth and the sticky peanut butter coats the dogs throat, making it impossible for them to spit out the pill (even if he/she discovers it).

      As I said, this works every time with our Shephard. I hope it works for you! :)

    • profile image

      Joan 7 years ago

      I have a corgi/mix with severe skin problems. With the vet's recommendation, I started him on Atopica around the lst of October. In two weeks, there was a remarkable improvement. Now, however, the dog refuses to take the capsules. I have tried every kind of treat but he "lolls it around in his mouth and spits it out". Now the itching is starting again. I cannot attempt to hold his mouth and force him to take the medicine because he will bite me. I am a senior lady and do not have the strength to hold him and force him to take the medicine. Here is my question, are there any shots that the vet can give him in lieu of the capsules? Have you any other suggestions?

    • profile image

      Lisa 7 years ago

      Natural treatments can also be helpful for those that do not wish to use immunosuppressive drugs.

    • bingskee profile image

      bingskee 8 years ago from Quezon City, Philippines

      interesting information. and still, i am having second thoughts having one because of the cats at home.

    • profile image

      lyricsingray 8 years ago

      Yoshi, this is really good information for me to know, I am recently a new dog owner and trying to learn as much as I can - glad for this Hub-thanks, Kimberly