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The Secrets about Apoquel for Dogs

How many times have you found your dogs itching themselves vigorously? Your dog may even be frenziedly gnawing at his skin. This can be a heartbreaking sight for any dog owner. You want your dog to have all the health in the world, but those pesky allergies may prevent it from happening.

Just like regular humans, dogs can suffer from allergies as well. These may be as small as a simple rash or may be as severe as an anaphylactic shock. Some allergies are food allergies while others may be due to dust and dirt. In fact, you’ll find that some dogs are allergic to certain medicines as well.

Their allergies do not only affect only. They can affect you as well. Although you may not be a victim of the allergy, your dog’s constant itching can often result in many visits to the vet. Your dog may whine a lot as well and may not be able to sleep properly in the night.

So, what do you do? Most vets prescribe the drug Apoquel for dogs suffering from allergies of any kind. This is a conventional medication that can help suppress the symptoms of allergies within 4 to 24 hours. However, does it have a dark side? You’ll have to read ahead to find out!

What Is Apoquel for Dogs?

A company called Zoetis manufactures the drug ‘oclacitinib’ under the brand name Apoquel. It is basically a conventional medicine that is used to treat allergies in dogs. Allergies may be affecting the quality of your dog’s life. Imagine having to scratch your skin constantly due to an itch that can never be satisfied.

The itching and inflammation of the skin due to various skin allergies is called Canine Pruritus. The drug works to eliminate this condition so your dog can enjoy a healthy and happy life.

There may be various reasons why your dog may be itching. This can include atopic dermatitis which is a common skin condition among dogs. In fact, more than 10% of dogs suffer from this condition. It is a chronic inflammation of the skin due to allergies. Other reasons may be environmental or food allergies.

It is important that you suppress the symptoms of these allergies and Apoquel is the perfect way to do so. It acts fast. In fact, the manufacturers claim that the drug can work and ease the symptoms within 24 hours of administration. You may even see the effects within the first 4 hours of administering the drug.

However, the medication isn’t without any side effects. You’ll find that the medication has various serious side effects which can be fatal, but more on that later. You also have to be quite consistent with the medication which might be difficult for any pet owner once he learns about the side effects.

Understanding Allergies

Before you move on to understanding the drug, it is important that you learn about allergies first. Allergies are basically an irritating response by your immune system due to various external factors. Most forms of conventional medicines, rather than trying to control the immune system, try to suppress the symptoms.

“Suppressing” is a term used for eliminating the symptoms without getting rid of the condition that caused it. For example, your dog may be allergic to dust. You can try reducing your dog’s contact with dust. However, his immune system is likely to react anyway. Conventional medicine gets rid of symptoms such as itchy or inflamed skin. It does not mean that your dog will not be allergic anymore.

This is also the reason why most suppression medicines need to be taken constantly as they do not eliminate the problem completely.

Allergies can be of various kinds and forms such as:

  • Acute conditions
  • Quick bouts
  • Chronic conditions
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    Recurring conditions

Each dog may react in a unique manner to allergies. Some may develop rashes and inflammation while others may itch without any visible patches on the skin. Thus, it is important that you find a solution that can target your dog’s specific allergies.

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Does My Dog Have Allergies?

There may be various reasons as to why your dog is suffering from allergies. While it may be harder to diagnose the cause of allergies, it is much easier to diagnose that your dog is suffering from an allergic reaction.

Most common and easily identifiable symptoms of allergies include:

  • Sneezing
  • Paw chewing
  • Diarrhea
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    Runny eyes
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    Obsessive scratching
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    Scabs and sores that may result from excessive scratching and biting
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    Balding areas due to your dog scratching and biting vigorously
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    Runny nose

Why Itchiness May Occur

We’ve already established that inflammation and obsessive scratching are common signs of allergies. However, there are certain types of allergies which can cause itchiness. These are:

  • Flea allergies
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Food allergies
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    Atopic Dermatitis
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    Demodectic mange

While it may be easy to label the itching as a result of an allergy, there are numerous other conditions that can cause itchiness. If your dog’s allergies do not subside after treatment, it is important that you consult the vet. As common as allergies are, it is still completely possible that the itchiness is due to a different issue.

It is thus, imperative that you find out and accurately diagnose the problem before treating your dog with Apoquel—especially since the side effects of the drug are so severe.

Benefits of Apoquel for Dogs 

There are various benefits that the drugs provide for the dog. These are:

  • Apoquel easily suppresses all symptoms of allergies especially itching and inflammation
  • It has a short half-life. This means you can stop and restart the course any time you like
  • The drug makes it easier for you to diagnose the problem
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    It is safe for the long-term as well as short-term use
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    The initial relief starts taking place within 4 hours of administering the drug
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    You’ll find that it provides complete relief within 24 hours
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    There is minimal effect on your dog’s immune system
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    Tablets are easily digestible so you won’t have to worry too much about stomach problems
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    The best part is that it can work with a variety of different medications so you can keep treating other problems

How Does This Medicine Work?

Most experts classify Apoquel as a selective Janus Kinase Inhibitor (JAK). Janus Kinase is what’s responsible for your body’s reaction to foreign elements. When your immune system produces an exaggerated response, it is the JAK that controls the itching. All in all, JAKs perform the following functions in the body:

  • Helps prevent any tumors
  • Controls the development and growth of the body
  • Forms white and red blood cells
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    Provides immunity to the body through B and T cells
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    Controls the itching response to foreign elements

Apoquel effectively inhibits the JAKs. Thus, the itching sensation that may be brought on by an onslaught of different allergic conditionsis eliminated. However, you can see how important JAKs are to the body’s immune system. So, it may result in various side effects.

Is Apoquel Safe for My Dog?

The only way to determine if Apoquel is safe for your dog is to consult with a vet. Have an open discussion with your vet about the kind of allergic reaction your dog has and what symptoms he shows. Also, inform the vet about any previous conditions or current medications that your dog may have. This helps in determining whether Apoquel would be an appropriate treatment for your dog.

Your vet also determines the appropriate dosage for your dog depending on the age, size,and weight of the dog. However, in certain conditions, you should not take Apoquel. These are:

  • If your dog is pregnant, lactating or breeding, you should avoid the medication
  • Also, do not use the medicine if your dog has a compromised immune system
  • Do not use the medicine on dogs who have cancer or other infections
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    Dogs that are less than 12 months in age should avoid the drug as well
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    It is better not to take the medication if your dog is already on corticosteroids and cyclosporine as it hasn’t been tested properly with these drugs


The typical dosage for Apoquel for dogs is 0.4–0.6 mg for every kilogram of body weight. This dose is to be given every 12 hours. However, this is only applicable for the first 14 days. After the first 14 days, your vet might recommend you to reduce the dose to once every 24 hours. Also note, that using Apoquel for more than 14 days is not FDA approved.

As we already mentioned, it can inhibit JAK which is responsible for a healthy immune system. Prolonged use of the drug can suppress your dog’s immune system and compromise it. As a result, he may be more impervious to various diseases. Also, infections or cancerous tumors may get worse.

This is why the FDA asks you not to use it for the long-term. However, there is a way around it. The half-life of the drug is very short. As a result, it does not stay within your dog’s system for a long time. Thus, you can leave the medicine for a few days and then restart the course without worrying about overdoses.

Also, note that there is a huge possibility that the medicine will not work. Each dog has a unique body with a unique system. Thus, it is not necessary that something that works for one dog may work for another. So, there’s a fat chance that you could be compromising on your canine’s immune system for no reason.

This is also the case with underdosing your dog. If you do not give your dog enough medicine so as to make a difference, the medicine might not give you any results. You can note the results of the medication for the first week of administration. If you still find the symptoms, then the medication may not work.

It will either work or it won’t—it’s as simple as that. It’s your job to quickly notice any differences or lack thereof. Stop administering the drug if your dog does not show any signs of improvement.

Forms of Apoquel

Apoquel is available in the form of three tablets which are:

  • 16 mg tablets
  • 5.4 mg tablets
  • 3.6 mg tablet

Your vet will recommend you to buy according to your dog’s weight. For example, if you own a very heavy dog, then the 16 mg tablets might be better as they require fewer doses. On the other hand, if you own a smaller dog such as a beagle then the 3.6 mg tablet might suffice.

The medicine is available in stores and in Apoquel stores. The drug does not mess with your digestion, so you can easily give it to your dog without food. However, giving it with food might mask the tablet and your dog might not make much of a fuss.

Apoquel for Dogs

Side Effects of Apoquelfor Dogs

While the Apoquel may seem like the perfect medicine, it has a dark side. As with all medicines, it has various side effects that can adversely affect the health of your pooch. Some of the side effects are mild while others are extremely dangerous.

The main reason being that the drug effectively suppresses your dog’s immune system which is responsible for keeping him healthy. When the drug suppresses your dog’s immune system, it makes him more susceptible to infections. It can aggravate neoplastic conditions as well as bone marrow suppression.

This is why vets strongly recommend against using the drug for dogs who already have an infection or have tumors. The drug can worsen the infection or the tumor, resulting in worse health conditions. For such dogs, you might be better off with topical soothing ointments or natural remedies.

Some of the most common and easily identifiable side effects of the drugs include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased globulins
  • Increased lipase and cholesterol
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    Decreased leukocytes
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    New cutaneous or subcutaneous lumps
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Some other rare side effects of the drugs include:

  • Ear and skin infections
  • UTIs
  • Pneumonia
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    Bloody diarrhea
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Some side effects are even rarer such as:

  • Increased aggression & anxiety
  • Polydipsia or extreme thirst
  • Increased appetite

You’ll find that many of these side effects disappear if you control the dosage or stop administering the drug immediately. If you know a thing or two about medicines, then you might be aware that these side effects are similar to those of steroids. Steroids are also anti-inflammatory drugs.

Apoquel Overdose

In the most extreme case, an Apoquel overdose can result in death. However, the most common signs of an overdose are the various side effects associated with the drugs. In the case of an overdose, the side effects may be elevated and severe. If you find your dog is showing clear signs of distress or acting in an unusual way, you should call your vet immediately.

Some extreme side effects may include:

  • Severe diarrhea with blood
  • Extreme aggression
  • Aggressive infections

Can I Use It With Other Drugs?

One of the main advantages of using Apoquel is that you can use it with other drugs such as:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Meloxicam
  • Vaccines
  • Other allergy shots

Why Does Age Matter?

The manufacturers of the drug have limited its use to dogs that are over 12 months old. JAKs are responsible for the growth and development of the body. If you administer Apoquel to a pup who is younger, there are chances his body may retard growth and development.

When the manufacturer conducted a study with six-month-old dogs, they had to discontinue it. This is due to the fact that many pups contracted pneumonia and infections due to a compromised immune system. For 12-month-old dogs, the manufacturers noted a number of symptoms that may have been caused by the drug such as:

  • Feet edema
  • Warts
  • Cysts with dermatitis symptoms such as abrasions, alopecia, and scabbing
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    Reduction in white and red blood cells
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    Lymphadenopathy (abnormal or swollen lymph nodes) in peripheral nodes

Thus, the drug is not for younger pups who are still developing.

Final Verdict

All in all, Apoquel can be the perfect solution to help relieve symptoms of allergies within dogs. However, it has various side effects. It is imperative that you prevent any of these side effects from rearing their heads. A good strategy is to rigorously follow the dosage plan that your vet has recommended.

Also, remember to discontinue the course after 14 days, even if there are signs of improvement. You can always continue it after a break. If you feel the side effects are too severe, then you can try some other methods to control the itching.

So, are you willing to take the risk for an itch-free life? What’s better for your pup?

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