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If your pooch suffers from allergies, you may have heard of Apoquel®, a vet-prescribed form of relief for your pet’s itching and irritation. Although there is a range of other allergy medicines on the market, Apoquel has become a favorite with vets thanks to its fast working relief.1 Allergy reactions vary from severe reactions such as hives and swelling or they can be less abrasive symptoms such as itching and irritated skin. Identifying these symptoms early on and getting your dog evaluated by a veterinarian is key in calming your pup’s symptoms.
Read on to discover exactly what Apoquel is, how it is prescribed, the side effects and how you administer this treatment. This can help you to make an informed decision as to whether this medication may be a good fit for your dog.
- What Is Apoquel?
- Apoquel Side Effects
- Is Apoquel Safe For Dogs?
- Apoquel Dosage For Dogs
- How To Administer Apoquel
- Alternatives To Apoquel
- Final Notes
What Is Apoquel For Dogs?
Apoquel (oclacitinib tablets) is a form of oral medication that can be prescribed by a licensed vet and has been prescribed to over 10 million dogs.1 These tablets are a form of fast-acting, effective itch control and can be given with or without food.1 The dosage will be specified after a check up with your veterinarian. Whether you’re trying to counteract atopic dermatitis or other allergies, it is likely that a vet will consider prescribing Apoquel to soothe your dog’s symptoms.
Apoquel works by inhibiting the function of a variety of pruritogenic and proinflammatory cytokines, including JAK1- and JAK3-dependent cytokines involved in dog allergies.1 Apoquel is most commonly prescribed to combat allergy symptoms in dogs and a dose of this fast-acting, anti-allergy medicine can cure your pup’s itching in as few as 4-24 hours.2 This can be used long-term providing there are routine check-ups with your veterinarian to ensure there are no severe side effects occurring and that the medicine is continuing to work for your dog.
Apoquel is a prescribed medication used to treat itching by inhibiting the itching and inflammatory signal Janus kinase (JAK), therefore reducing itching at a cellular level.3 As a result, your dog scratches less frequently, allowing the skin to heal and repair, while simultaneously working to reduce any skin inflammation also caused from the allergies. Apoquel is not meant for dogs with severe reactions as it modulates the immune system.4 Some of the allergic reactions could include flea allergies, food allergies, contact allergies and atopic dermatitis. 1
Apoquel Side Effects
For the most part, owners have generally reported no noticeable side effects.5 However, side effects can include:
- Decreased energy (lethargy)
- Increased thirst3
If any of these side effects persevere and are not resolved quickly, on their own, contact your veterinarian. Unique in its mechanisms, Apoquel prevents JAK’s from communicating to each other, weakening the dogs immune system.2 JAK’s are used for a number of things, for instance, JAK1 is provides constant surveillance within your dog’s body, destroying parasites, fungi, bacteria, viruses and abnormal cells that have become cancerous.2 JAK2 is an important role in the production of bone marrow stem cells and JAK3 helps to ensure your dog’s antibody system and its killer-cell system work properly.2
More serious side effects can include:
- Serious infections (including pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and skin infections)
- Demodicosis (a skin disease caused by Demodex mites)
- Skin masses, including cysts between the toes and skin cancer
- Cancer (new tumors or worsening of existing ones)
- Low white blood cell count3
In order to diagnose these illnesses early-on, it is important to watch for changes in your dog's behavior and well-being. This can include trouble breathing, decreased energy or listlessness, any skin or haircoat changes, new masses or changes to existing ones, fevers or changes in urination.3 If you notice any of these changes occur, book an appointment with your veterinarian immediately.
Is Apoquel Safe For Dogs?
Although every dog responds to medication differently, Apoquel is typically well-tolerated amongst dogs and is recommended by vets for it’s positive effects on pooches that suffer from allergies.5 Although Apoquel has side effects, the medication is considered safe for your dog to take, when prescribed by a vet. If the side effects are too adverse, a benefit of this oral medication is that it can be out of the dog’s system in a few days, unlike other forms of allergy-relief like injections, which will be harder to flush out of your dog’s system.6
The medication is limited for dogs over 12 months, meaning this medication is not safe for use on puppies. 2 It is also not appropriate for dogs who are breastfeeding, lactating or pregnant.4 However, this drug can be used in conjunction with many medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antibiotics, parasiticides, antifungals and allergen-specific immunotherapy.1
Overdose symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, cysts between the toes, skin inflammation, papilloma's (warts), pneumonia, enlarged lymph nodes, and decreased blood cell production.3 If you notice any of those symptoms, contact your veterinarian or call the Pet Poison Helpline at (855) 764-7661 immediately.
Apoquel Dosage For Dogs
Often, vets will prescribe Apoquel twice daily for up to 14 days, and then administered once daily for maintenance therapy.4 However, your vet can best recommend the correct dosage of Apoquel for your individual pet’s needs.
How To Administer Apoquel
Alternative allergy medication such as Cytopoint is administered through an injection, making Apoquel an easier, cheaper option for people with busy lives.7 Whether given with or without food, this tablet should be consumed orally by your dog.
Alternatives To Apoquel
You may be thinking - what can I give my dog for itching instead of Apoquel? Well, there are other alternative allergy medications that your vet may prescribe your pup to help treat their allergies. Other oral medications could be antihistamines, like Benadryl and Zyrtec. Like Apoquel, these medicines work to manage inflammation and itchiness. However, it is important that these medications are recommended by your veterinarian, along with the correct dosage for your individual pup - every dog is different and your vet will know best. Additionally, not all allergy medication is approved for veterinary use, so it is very important to check with your vet before giving your furry friend any.
Another alternative medication for managing itchiness is steroids. Steroids can come in either an oral or topical form. Topical steroids offer relief from itchiness and inflammation through other minimal side effects and are often applied directly to the skin. Vets may prescribe this form of medication if your pet should not risk the side effects of some oral medicines.
There is also canine atopic dermatitis immunotherapy to treat atopic dermatitis and the inflamed, itchy skin that comes with it. This treatment (commonly known as ASIT) aims to increase your dog’s tolerance to environmental allergens by inducing the development of anti-inflammatory cytokines.8 This method boosts their immune system to try and help target the itching problem but can take up to 6 months to become effective.
Allergy relief is usually a case of trial and error, in which your veterinarian will see how your dog progresses with the different treatments. This can be due to variations in breeds, the size of the dog, the severity of the allergy, the cause of the allergic reaction, and more. Keeping an eye on your pup and taking them for routine checkups at your veterinarian will ensure that you find the most effective, fast-acting relief for your furry companion’s symptoms.
Our licensed vets can provide customized treatment plans that help you get to the root of the issue and recommend products that will help relieve your pup of their discomfort. Talk to a Dutch vet today to discuss whether Apoquel could be the right treatment for your dog’s allergy symptoms.
“Apoquel” Zoetis https://www2.zoetisus.com/products/dogs/apoquel
Khalsa VMD, Deva. “Apoquel For Dogs: Side Effects and Safety” Dogs Naturally https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/wouldnt-give-dog-new-allergy-drug/
Ven Gels, Amy. “Apoquel® (oclacitinib)” Petmd.com, 8 July 2022, https://www.petmd.com/pet-medication/apoquel
“Apoquel” Drugs.com https://www.drugs.com/vet/apoquel.html
“Apoquel Questions and Answers” UW Veterinary Care, University of Wisconsin-Madison, April 2018 https://uwveterinarycare.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Apoquel-2018.pdf
“Cytopoint vs Apoquel for Itchy Pups”, Mount Pleasant Veterinary Groups, 16 Dec. 2020 https://www.mountpleasant.com.sg/education/dog-health-and-behaviour/cytopoint-vs-apoquel-for-itchy-pups/
“Cytopoint Questions and Answers” UW Veterinary Care, University of Wisconsin-Madison, April 2018, https://uwveterinarycare.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Cytopoint-2018.pdf
“Canine Atopic Dermatitis - Integumentary System.” Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Oct. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/integumentary-system/atopic-dermatitis/canine-atopic-dermatitis