Dog News

Apoquel for your Dog

by Lilly

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Apoquel for your Dog

Apoquel is a newer type of medication for dogs produced by Zoetis and was approved by the FDA in 2013. Its also known as oclacitinib. Its main benefit is its anti-itching properties. Allergies are hard on both humans and pets but it’s especially difficult to see your pet suffer from something so irritating and bothersome. Their itching, licking, scratching, or similar allergic reaction can lead to some unpleasant side effects and secondary skin issues that are painful and uncomfortable. Apoquel’s strength lies in its ability to not only put a stop to itchy dogs but do it within hours of taking their first dose. This is achieved through its disruption of the inflammation and itch pathway caused by such ailments as canine atopic dermatitis, pruritus, ear infections, and other skin allergies and infections on your dog’s body. Apoquel impedes the Janus kinase (JAK) 1 enzyme (a protein) that starts the itching and inflammation in your dog when an allergen is introduced. The medication is not meant to treat the allergy or dermatitis itself. It can block the symptom and stop the discomfort but not reduce the allergen interaction. However, Apoquel does grant time though to do proper allergy testing so the allergen can be found and then addressed for a cure versus simply masking the uncomfortable itchy symptoms. The importance of Apoquel is significant as allergic reactions in pets are some of those most common ailments that affect our dogs. It offers a solid treatment that is needed to alleviate the aggravating symptoms while searching for the cause of the reactions. Apoquel addresses issues such as:

  • Itching
  • Skin irritation/flea allergy
  • Environmental allergies
  • Itchy eyes
  • Inflammation
  • Loss of hair due to constant scratching
  • Other allergy symptoms

As with any product you give to your dog, make sure you check with your pup’s veterinary dermatologist before using it. In this case, a prescription is needed as the medication is treating a defined medical illness. This medical issue, Atopic Dermatitis, can be short-term or long-term and come and go for your pooch so having your dog’s doctor involved in both dosage and medical management is important.

Why Would my Dog need Apoquel?


Your dog’s veterinarian may suggest Apoquel to treat skin issues that have reached a point of disrupting your dog’s comfort and quality of life. We all know how troubling it is to have an itch that won’t go away or that is scratched until it is sore. This drug is used to buy time while your pet’s symptoms are analyzed and irritants removed. It is a go-between that will keep them comfortable until a suitable long-term solution is found. As always, check with your dog’s veterinarian to be sure.

When Should My Dog Not Take Apoquel?

If your dog is less than a year old, Apoquel is not ideal for your pup. Safety studies have shown that there are incidences of warts, cysts, and abnormal or swollen lymph nodes that occur in young dogs with Apoquel. It also changed white and red blood cell counts, making them both lower. Studies also show issues in dogs under six months old as some have developed bacterial pneumonia and a type of demodectic mange. It is not for dogs which:

  • Are less than 12 months old
  • Have pre-existing parasitic skin infections
  • Have pre-existing cancer
  • Are using corticosteroids or cyclosporine
  • Are breeding dogs
  • Are pregnant
  • Are lactating

How Does My Dog Take Apoquel?


The Apoquel dosage for a dog is based on more than one factor and will be determined by your dog’s veterinarian. They will asses the size of your pup and the condition for which they are being treated. The discussion also needs to include health history, diet, and other medications or naturopathic supplements they might be on. Apoquel comes in pill form and is measured in milligrams. Oral dosages can be given with or without food as there seems to be no issue with it affecting the stomach. These doses are given twice a day for 14 days and then once per day after that for maintenance, if needed. There is no tapering-off period needed as it is not like other medications that will have adverse effects when halted abruptly. It has few, if any, issues with drug and food interactions so far but have not been tested for complications in dogs that are taking other medications to treat skin conditions. Medicines, such as glucocorticoids, cyclosporines, and other systemic immunosuppressive agents may cause issues so its best to make sure there are oversight and discussion of Apoquel’s use.

Apoquel Side Effects in Dogs

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According to the manufacturer Zoetis, Apoquel is safer than steroids that are often prescribed for the relief of itch in our pets. It has fewer side effects and easier dosing schedules. It can be used in both the short- and long-term. They base their backing on two clinical trials with one study, in particular, showing that 67% of the dogs with allergic dermatitis were successfully treated. The pups that stayed on it an additional week got even better. In the second trial, the numbers were similar with 66% of the dogs being less itchy. Both positive research outcomes. However, they point out that this drug may make your dog more susceptible to infection and mange so owners need to watch for these issues. They should also so watch for:

  • Lack of energy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Skin irritation and/or infection
  • Eat irritation and/or infection

As a pet owner, it’s important not only to know side effects but when to talk to a vet about issues you see arising and are concerned about. You do not want to be trading one medical issue for another. A veterinary checkup after a couple of weeks is the only true to make sure your dog is on the right track as they heal.


Apoquel is a fairly new and relatively safe medication that is making a difference in dogs who struggle with allergies or irritated skin. As with the introduction of any supplement or medication, it’s important to keep your veterinarian in the loop to make sure it’s safe and helpful to your pup. Once your dog has tried it and seems to be comfortable, you will be able to assess the underlying issues to their allergic reactions and take steps to get them on the road to health and healing.