Cytopoint for dogs. Hailed as the new wonder drug! Said to be super safe because it’s “not an immunosuppressant” … and also because it’s “not a pharmaceutical.”
This is what conventional vets are telling their clients. And I suspect that this message is coming from the reps for the company that manufactures and markets Cytopoint.
Let’s break this down. Our first step is to understand what the hell Cytopoint is.
What Is Cytopoint For Dogs?
Cytopoint is one of a new family of drugs. Now … the company would argue black and blue that this isn’t a drug. But it is.
It’s an artificially synthesized substance that’s injected into the body with the intention to cause changes in physiology and function. It especially targets the immune system. But, Cytopoint isn’t a chemical, like most drugs we’re familiar with.
It’s a synthetic monoclonal antibody.
So what’s an antibody? An antibody is a special protein the body creates as part of the immune response to antigens (agents that cause disease, like viruses, bacteria, fungi) or toxins.
Your dog’s body naturally produces large numbers of antibodies. They bind to the foreign substances and inactivate them (if or when they pass through the body’s defenses and get inside). This is called neutralization.
Antibodies also play another role in the immune response. They activate part of the immune response called the complement system. This then attacks and kills bacteria and other pathogens.
Anyway, it’s clear that natural antibodies are very important. But Cytopoint is an antibody. So what’s the difference?
Cytopoint is an antibody for dogs that binds to and inactivates part of your dog’s immune system. Cytopoint targets a special compound called Interleukin 31 (IL 31). IL 31 is a cytokine.
So I want to explain what a cytokine is, and the function of cytokines in your dog’s body.
What Cytokines Do
Cytokines are a family of many small proteins that are found throughout your dog’s body. They’re synthesized by a broad range of cells. These include immune cells, endothelial cells, fibroblasts and stromal (connective tissue) cells.
There are many different cytokines, and they activate each other in a range of different sequences, called cytokine cascades.
The key point here is that cytokines have many different functions, and they affect your dog’s body in many ways. Each cytokine is not a one-trick pony. It’s a multifunctional substance that’s involved in regulating multiple physiological functions in multiple sites of action in your dog’s body.
So, what about IL 31, the cytokine that Cytopoint targets in dogs?
Interleukin 31 (IL 31)
T helper cells, mast cells, macrophages and dendritic cells produce IL 31. Its major sites of action are the skin, lung, intestine and nervous system. The main role of IL 31 is to trigger cell mediated immunity against pathogens.
This means that blocking it may make your dog more vulnerable to infectious disease.
IL 31 also regulates homeostasis of the cells that create red blood cells. And it’s involved in the regulation of connective tissues. So, blocking it may contribute to the development of diseases like IMHA (immune-mediated hemolytic anemia) and neuro-fascial pain.
IL 31 is thought to be important in the link between the immune and sensory nervous systems. It plays a role in the proliferation and differentiation of cells in the body. So … blocking it may cause immune system dysregulation. This makes me wonder if it could even cause or accelerate tumor growth.
When the body is out of balance, then IL 31 levels are elevated. This plays a role in triggering the chronic itch of atopy (allergies). And this is why the drug company made the medicine.
In their infinite wisdom, they decided that because injecting dogs with IL 31 made them itchy, then to turn that cytokine off (with the monoclonal antibody) would be the magic bullet to cure allergies in dogs safely.
Alas. There’s nothing “safe” about it.
Side Effects Of Cytopoint For Dogs
A short search on Bing for “Cytopoint killed my dog” showed me a large number of dogs suffering severe side effects or adverse reactions shortly after getting Cytopoint. (Interestingly, the same search on Google did not show up these search results. Always try different search engines.)
In some dogs these reactions happened shortly after the first dose. In others it took several Cytopoint treatments before there were problems. There are stories of several dogs dying. And there are a worrying number of reports of gastrointestinal side effects, and some of epilepsy.
There are other dogs who feel off color, have increased pain, or are unwell in other ways after treatment. And most worryingly I’ve seen stories of multiple dogs developing serious autoimmune disease shortly after treatment. There have been several cases of IMHA … a disease for which the survival rate is not good, to say the least.
No way would I give Cytopoint to dogs under my care. I think it’s likely to cause significant harm or even kill your dog.
How Cytopoint Harms Your Dog
How does it cause harm? Because it blocks a messaging process in the body that is important in regulating many different processes. This can have multiple, severe unintended consequences (none of which are good for your dog)!
Here’s an analogy. One small pipe in your car that carries oil to only one bearing in the motor gets blocked. That bearing seizes up. The engine can still function, but next thing you know the metal shavings from the initial damage are circulating in all of the oil. So many parts of the engine quickly get damaged, then the whole motor is completely destroyed.
So you can see why blocking part of your dog’s immune function can end up causing serious disease in your dog.
RELATED: Is Atopica safe for dogs?
What Cytopoint Claims
So… back to the claims from the vets (via the drug company). Let’s tear those to shreds!
They claim that Cytopoint is not an immunosuppressant.
Well, it’s not a blanket immunosuppressant like cortisone (or Apoquel). But it absolutely suppresses the activity of one small, yet very important part of the immune function. That also impacts ALL the cytokine cascades that IL 31 is involved in. So it suppresses one part of the immune system, and thus dysregulates the whole immune system.
They claim Cytopoint is not a pharmaceutical.
Hmmm. Well, it’s an antibody that if created inside the body would be unhealthy and likely cause autoimmune disease. So it’s not natural. And it’s a man-made substance. So while it’s not a chemical pharmaceutical, it is in my view a monoclonal antibody pharmaceutical.
Why? Because it has the same intention and function of all pharmaceuticals. It tries to affect one small part of the function of the body to “cure” disease … while ignoring the whole. It doesn’t address the root cause … the underlying imbalance in the body.
And they claim Cytopoint is safe for dogs.
Their safety claims are after a relatively small study on lab Beagles. The study isn’t representative of the dogs treated at large in society. The evidence I can see of many dogs being harmed (or even killed) so early in the use of this drug tells me that it’s not safe at all.
My advice is – avoid Cytopoint like you would the plague.