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Allergies can cause a number of responses in dogs, whether it’s increased itching, or noticeable hives and swelling. Identifying your furry friend’s discomfort and getting them to the vet is the first step, but with a variety of dog allergy medications on the market, the onslaught of information can be overwhelming. If your dog suffers from atopic dermatitis as a result of these allergies a veterinarian may prescribe either Cytopoint or Apoquel® to combat these symptoms.1 As a dog owner, it may be important to you to understand the difference between them and exactly what they do.

Keep reading to discover the symptoms of an allergic reaction, exactly what Cytopoint and Apoquel are, as well as discussing which treatment might work best for your dog.

Signs of Allergies in Dogs

Symptoms of an allergic reaction in your pooch can vary depending on the cause of the allergic reaction and the severity. Here are some of the most common signs that your dog is suffering from an allergic reaction:2

  • Itchiness
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, ears, lips, or eyelids
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy ears
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Constant licking of the paws and/or genital area
  • Recurring paw infections
  • Hair loss

Although these are common symptoms of allergies in your dog, they can also be symptoms of numerous other health conditions. Rather than self-diagnosing, it is important to get a diagnosis from a veterinarian before treating any symptom. Speak to a vet today with Dutch.

How to Treat Your Dog’s Allergies

Your vet can help you to determine the best remedy for your individual pup’s needs, as what works for one dog might not work for another, so it’s best to have a professional’s advice. Some factors include whether or not your dog has pre-existing medical conditions, the severity of the symptoms and even the size of your pet. However, more often than not, the correct treatment is determined from the cause of the allergic reaction, which is determined through allergy testing or an elimination diet.2

If your pup’s allergic reaction is being caused by something they have eaten, it may so happen that the vet suggests you go on an elimination diet. This involves carefully crafting your dog’s diet to include food with no-known allergens, choosing only one protein and one carbohydrate for them to eat during meal times. Then to determine the cause of the allergic reaction, you slowly reintroduce other foods back into their everyday meals one at a time, keeping track of your dog’s symptoms.

Another line of action the vet may suggest could be allergy testing with either a small blood test or an intradermal skin test.2 It is important to discuss with your veterinarian to decide which method is best for determining your dog’s allergy. If your dog is suffering from allergies relating to the environment and their surroundings, then they may be prescribed Cytopoint or Apoquel by the vet. As allergies are a lifelong problem that cannot be “cured”. Instead, the goal of allergy therapy is to prevent the itchiness and other symptoms.3

What is Cytopoint?

Cytopoint is an injectable medication given by your veterinarian for treating dogs with skin conditions due to environmental allergies - a condition commonly known as atopic dermatitis.4 To help to reduce scratching, allowing your dog’s skin to heal, Cytopoint is a biological therapy that contains engineered antibodies very similar to your dog’s natural antibodies, designed to neutralize the main proteins in your dog’s body that causes itching.4 This medicine is administered through a small injection under your dog’s skin and typically the effects last between four to eight weeks. The injection will need to be readministered as and when advised by your vet.

Because Cytopoint is an antibody protein and not a drug, Cytopoint is safe for use on dogs of any age and can be used alongside some other medications. In a study conducted by the UW Veterinary Care center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, researchers estimated that Cytopoint helps in about 75% of atopic dermatitis cases, providing long-lasting itch relief.4

Cytopoint Side Effects

Cytopoint is a relatively new treatment and so far there have been reports of lethargy between 24-48 hours after the first initial dose.1 Every dog is different, so it is important to note that the side effects cannot be generalized. There is also speculation that in cases of severe skin conditions, Cytopoint may contribute to an imbalance in the inhabitants (dysbiosis), but some clinicians have argued that the allergy by itself is a disease of dysbiosis. In rare circumstances there have also been reactions to an inactive ingredient used.

Effectiveness of Apoquel

What is Apoquel?

Apoquel is an anti-itch, anti-inflammatory medicine that you give your dog orally every day.5 Veterinarians may prescribe this as a short-term solution for allergy flare-ups, or as a long-term solution for allergy management.6 The effects start almost immediately, with dogs feeling the anti-itch effects after only four hours of ingestion5 and it can work really well for dogs.3

Often, Apoquel can be given with or without food and is initially prescribed twice daily, then weaned to once daily. Depending on when your pet is the most itchy, your vet will determine whether it’s best to provide the medicine in the morning or at night. It is very important to consult with your veterinarian before combining it with other medications and to alert your vet of any pre-existing health conditions your dog may have.

Apoquel is a unique medication that works by inhibiting the itching and inflammatory signal Janus kinase which in turn reduces itching at a cellular level.6 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 Side Effects

Some of the temporary side effects for your poor pooch may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anorexia
  • Decreased energy (lethargy)
  • Increased thirst

Contact your veterinarian if side effects persist or worsen.5

While there are no known long-term effects to any organs from the Apoquel medication, like any medications, some other serious side effects can occur. These include:6

  • 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)
  • Aggression
  • Low white blood cell count

In order to decrease the chances of these, it is important both you and your vet keep a close eye on your little furry friend, especially for the following symptoms: 6

  • Trouble breathing
  • Decreased energy or listlessness
  • Any skin or haircoat changes
  • New masses or changes to existing ones
  • Fever
  • Changes in urination (including accidents, frequency of urination, and bloody urine)

Do not give your dog more than the recommended dose. In case of accidental Apoquel overdose, immediately contact your veterinarian or ASPCA’s Poison Control center at (888) 426-4435. Common symptoms of overdose may include vomiting, diarrhea, cysts between the toes, skin inflammation, papillomas (warts), pneumonia, enlarged lymph nodes, and decreased blood cell production.6

Cytopoint vs. Apoquel: Which is Better?

There is an obvious difference in form: the Cytopoint injection vs the Apoquel oral tablet. In this sense, Cytopoint requires less maintenance in the everyday, but the Apoquel treatment makes it easier for vets to assess the success of the treatment.1 With Apoquel , the medicine can be out of the dog’s system in a few days, unlike Cytopoint, where the effects that can last anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks. Therefore, there is an increased flexibility in dosing with Apoquel and it can easily be started and stopped if required.1 There are some other benefits to Apoquel vs. Cytopoint which include expense. Apoquel is often a much cheaper option. Additionally, Apoquel has a broader spectrum for anti-inflammatory activity, so may be suggested for managing skin and ear infections over Cytopoint.7

However, Apoquel cannot be administered to smaller dogs, where the dosage cannot be accurately and precisely measured, if the dog is younger than one year old and if there is difficulty pilling.1 In these cases the Cytopoint injection may be more commonly suggested by the vet as the Cytopoint injection can be administered to dogs of any age.7 It can also be more easily combined with other medications without any recorded side effects to organs and it may be effective in the cases where Apoquel® is not, as it cannot be combined with any cortisone-type medications or Atopica®.7

The short answer is this - both have their advantages. Ultimately your vet will decide which medication best suits your pet’s needs. Both work quickly to relieve itching inflammation and pain from allergies, whether it’s Cytopoint vs. Apoquel and both have benefits for dogs. If your dog is still itching after receiving either one of these treatments, the vet may suggest the alternative to see which works best for your individual pooch.

Apoquel vs. Cytopoint: FAQs

Can my dog take Apoquel indefinitely?

As allergies are often a life-long problem that your dog will have to be medicated for, yes Apoquel can be taken in long-term treatment. Your veterinarian can help you to decide the most effective dose for your dog.

Is Cytopoint safe long-term?

Yes, Cytopoint takes four to eight weeks for the effects to stop wearing off anyway and then the injection can be readministered by your veterinarian as and when they deem appropriate or necessary. The side effects of Cytopoint are particularly low, with the most common cause to coming off Cytopoint is that it has not been overly effective on that particular dog.4

Can Cytopoint and Apoquel be taken together?

Cytopoint and Apoquel can be used concurrently if your veterinarian deems it necessary, but are generally not administered at the exact same time.1

Dog and owner sitting on bed, owner on laptop preparing for a virtual vet appointment

Final Notes

If your dog is displaying symptoms of an allergic reaction, ensure you get your pup some veterinary care to have them diagnosed correctly. Use this article to help you make an informed decision when discussing options for allergic reaction relief with your vet - whether it’s the top-up injection of Cytopoint or the oral tablet medicine Apoquel. If you live closer to a vet clinic, you may want to try Cytopoint, but if getting to a clinic is a bit of a hassle for you, Apoquel may be the better option. Either way, the vet can guide you on which course of action is best to take and you can explore the pros and cons of both together. It is likely that your vet will explore the results of both forms on your furry friend to discern which is best.

Treat allergies from home and have medication delivered directly to your door with services from Dutch. 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

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References

  1. “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/

  2. “Dog Allergies, How to Help Your Pooch Feel Better” Dutch, 13 Nov. 2021, https://www.dutch.com/blogs/dogs/dog-allergies

  3. Fatcheric, Eileen. “Groundbreaking Dog Allergy Medicine: Apoquel and Cytopoint” Whole Dog Journal 29 Oct. 2021 https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/health/groundbreaking-allergy-medicine-for-dogs-apoquel-and-cytopoint/

  4. “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

  5. “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

  6. Ven Gels, Amy. “Apoquel® (oclacitinib)” Petmd.com, 8 July 2022, https://www.petmd.com/pet-medication/apoquel 

  7. Heinrich, Nicole A. “How to Choose Between Apoquel® and Cytopoint®” McKeever Dermatology Clinicshttps://www.mckeevervetderm.com/uploads/1/3/1/0/131020546/how-to-choose-between-apoquel-and-cytopoint.pdf

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

What is a visit with Dutch like?

When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

After your video call, the vet will send you a message with a custom treatment plan to help your pet feel better, including a link to buy any recommended prescription or over-the-counter medications. Place your order and we’ll ship it free.

How much will it cost for Dutch to treat my pet?

The Dutch membership starts at $7/mo for unlimited access to the vet. No more long waits for appointments or surprise bills.

In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.