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Can J Vet Res. 1999 Jan;63(1):18-24.

The effects of prednisone and azathioprine on circulating immunoglobulin levels and lymphocyte subpopulations in normal dogs.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Studies, University of Guelph, Ontario.


This study investigates serum immunoglobulin (SIg) levels and lymphocyte subpopulations in normal dogs in response to putative immunosuppressive doses of prednisone and/or azathioprine. The objectives were to quantify SIg levels and lymphocyte subpopulations, including Thy-1+, CD4+, CD8+ and B cells, in normal dogs both before and after the administration of prednisone and/or azathioprine at 2 mg/kg, PO, each. Eighteen beagles were divided into 3 groups of 6 dogs each. Blood samples for radial immunodiffusion assay of IgG, IgM and IgA, complete blood count (CBC)and flow cytometry were collected prior to the administration of any drugs and again after 14 d of azathioprine, prednisone or azathioprine and prednisone. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were isolated using density centrifugation and were incubated with monoclonal antibodies reacting with CD4+, CD8+, Thy-1+ and membrane immunoglobulin. Lymphocyte subsets were quantified using flow cytometry. Azathioprine-treated dogs had no significant changes in SIg levels or lymphocyte subpopulations. Prednisone-treated dogs had significant (P < 0.05) decreases in all SIg levels, all lymphocyte subpopulations and erythrocyte numbers, and had an increase in neutrophil counts. Prednisone and azathioprine-treated dogs had significant (P < 0.05) decreases in serum IgG levels and Thy-1+ and CD8+ lymphocyte subpopulations, with an increase in the CD4:CD8. These dogs also had a significant decrease in erythrocyte number and a significant increase in the monocyte count. These findings suggest that azathioprine and prednisone in combination or prednisone alone may be useful for the treatment of T cell-mediated diseases since decreased circulating T cell levels were demonstrated following treatment. The combination of drugs or azathioprine alone may not be appropriate for treatment of acute or autoantibody-mediated immune disease, because SIg levels were minimally affected by treatment.

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