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Apoquel for Dogs: Know The Side Effects

At some point, pet owners will likely find their dog scratching, itching, and gnawing at their coat as if their life depended on it.

Just like humans, dogs also suffer from allergies. These allergies can be in the form of seasonal allergies, a food allergy, or environmental allergies.

Dogs can also have allergic reactions to different medications or new supplements in their life. If something in the air is affecting you, it’s likely also affecting your dog.

A quick trip to the veterinarian will likely have you leaving with a prescription for a conventional medication called Apoquel.

Apoquel for Dogs

What is Apoquel for Dogs 

Apoquel is a conventional medication produced by the company Zoetis. Apoquel is the brand name for the drug known as Oclacitinib.

The goal of Apoquel for dogs is to provide a new way to alleviate canine pruritus. Pruritus is the itching and inflammation associated with a variety of allergy conditions.

Just like humans, allergies can greatly affect your dog's quality of life. Your dog can be allergic to things just like we can.

From a simple food allergy to contact and environmental allergens to atopic dermatitis, it's likely that your pup may find themselves in a fit of itchy sensation at one point or another.

Studies show that up to 10% of all dogs are affected by atopic dermatitis, making it one of the most common allergies found in dogs.

Atopic dermatitis in dogs is an inflammatory, chronic skin disease that is brought on by allergies. As you may be able to imagine, atopic dermatitis can be incredibly uncomfortable for your pup.

In fact, we don't have to remind you how awful dealing with allergies can be. They can greatly disrupt your day to day life and can have the same effect on Fido. Therefore, finding a solution is absolutely necessary.

Furthermore, allergies can range from:

  • Quick bouts of itching
  • Acute conditions
  • Chronic conditions
  • Recurring conditions

Keeping that in mind, it is important to find a solution that fits your dog's individual allergy needs.

Your vet will likely prescribe Apoquel to ease your dog's allergy symptoms. Apoquel is fast-acting and typically begins to work within 4 hours.

The medication can control allergy symptoms from 12-24 hours once it is administered. However, this means that the allergy medication will need to be given at a consistent rate and once we inform you about its potential adverse reactions, you'll likely want to proceed with caution.

Benefits of Apoquel for Dogs 

The most appealing part of Apoquel for dogs is how quickly it begins to work. It's hard not to like the idea of Fido being itch-free within a mere four hours.

Understanding How Apoquel Works 

Scientifically speaking, Apoquel is referred to as a selective Janus kinase inhibitor (or JAK). JAKs control the immune system's response to itchy sensations.

Therefore, it helps control scratching associated with canine atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, allergic dermatitis, flea-related allergies, and food allergies.

Signs that Fido Has Allergies 

Your dog may be suffering from allergies for a lot of reasons. Most commonly, dog allergies are caused by environmental allergens, food allergies, and conditions like canine atopic dermatitis.

Symptoms of allergies include:

  • Sneezing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Obsessive scratching
  • Balding areas (from excessive scratching and biting)
  • Paw chewing
  • Runny nose
  • Runny eyes (discharge from eyes)
  • Hotspots
  • Scabs and sores (from excessive scratching and biting)

Apoquel for Dogs

Dog Itching: What Else It Could Mean

If Fido has been itching and itching with no relief in sight, it is important to discuss the situation with your veterinarian.

While dog allergies are very common, it is also possible that your dog's itchiness might be an underlying symptom of a different issue.

Before treating your dog for allergies you'll want to make sure that that is the actual problem at hand which will likely require an accurate diagnosis from your vet.

Apoquel Dosage

Most often, the typical dose for Apoquel tablets is 0.4 – 0.6 mg/kg every 12 hours, twice a day. This dose is recommended for up to 14 days.

After the 14 day mark, your veterinarian will likely tell you to reduce the dose to once a day.

We want to note that administering Apoquel for longer than 14 days is not approved by the FDA, which is pretty concerning.

The reasoning behind the medication not being approved for long term use is due to the way it suppresses the immune system.

When you suppress the immune system you're essentially putting a band-aid on a broken leg. You are dealing with the symptoms of the problem without actually treating the problem.

When a drug suppresses the immune system it inadvertently makes the dog more susceptible to contracting other conditions.

Even scarier is the fact that you may be administering the potentially harmful drug in hopes that it alleviates your dog's discomfort, but it's totally possible that the medication won't work at all.

That's right. For some dogs, Apoquel just doesn't work. It's awful to think that you could be dangerously suppressing Fido's immune system ultimately for no reason.

Apoquel 16mg, 5.4mg, 3.6mg

The medication will ultimately be based on your dog's weight and is sold per tablet in strengths of 3.6 mg, 5.4 mg or 16 mg.

The Apoquel tablets should be given orally and the official website for Apoquel states that the medication can be given with or without food.

Apoquel Side Effects 

Here's where things get worrisome.

All conventional medications are accompanied by possible adverse reactions. With some medications, the potential side effects are relatively mild and for that reason, the conventional drug may be worth the risk.

However, with an immune-suppressing drug like Apoquel, the potential adverse reactions can be extremely dangerous.

As we previously mentioned, due to its immunosuppressive properties, Apoquel can make your dog more susceptible to infection, including demodicosis, and exacerbate neoplastic conditions.

Apoquel can also cause bone marrow suppression which may lead to additional, severe health conditions. Additional adverse reactions can include:

  • Vomiting (with or without blood)
  • Diarrhea (with or without blood)
  • Appetite loss
  • Lethargy
  • New cutaneous lumps
  • New subcutaneous lumps
  • Reduced leukocytes
  • Decreased globulins
  • Increased lipase and cholesterol
  • Pneumonia
  • UTIs
  • Skin infections
  • Ear infections
  • Histiocytomas
  • Increased aggression
  • Development of polydipsia

Apoquel for Dogs causes Aggression

Furthermore, an Apoquel overdose can lead to irreversible reactions including death. If your dog is showing any clinical signs of distress once taking Apoquel, it is imperative that seek medical intervention straight away.

Precautions of Allergy Medicine for Dogs 

Of course, the biggest precaution with Apoquel is the fact that it has immunosuppressive properties which ultimately weaken the immune system and its ability to protect the body.

Furthermore, the following dogs should never take allergy medications as it can cause irreversible reactions:

  • Breeding dogs
  • Pregnant dogs
  • Lactating dogs

Additionally, the manufacturer of Apoquel has limited the drug for use only in dogs over 12 months old. Why is that, you may ask?

Well, when the company conducted a “margin of safety” study on dogs that were 6 months old, they saw that the 6-month old dogs developed bacterial pneumonia and demodectic mange infections.

That's right. A drug that is supposed to alleviate skin-related ailments was, in fact, causing other skin conditions to develop.

Additional Dog Allergy Medications

While Apoquel is a commonly prescribed drug for the treatment of allergies and dogs, it’s not the only one that pet owners may find.

We want to make sure that our readers are aware of additional dog allergy medications, and recognize that no conventional drug comes without its share of potential adverse reactions.

Some may be less severe than others, but regardless, they all exist. Before we get into home remedies, let's take a look at some of the other drugs that are commonly marketed as allergy relief for Fido, but may result in anything but.

Zyrtec for Dogs

You likely heard of Zyrtec. The conventional medication is a second-generation antihistamine that is often prescribed for human use.

While it is not approved by the FDA for animals, more and more vets are prescribing the drug. Zyrtec is prescribed to reduce itching and other clinical signs of allergic reactions.

These allergic reactions are typically associated with allergic contact dermatitis and atopic dermatitis. Both forms of dermatitis will trigger allergic reactions such as inflammation, hives, itching, and swelling.

While Zyrtec usually doesn’t present side effects that are too worrisome, here’s where the trouble lies. Studies show that antihistamines only work in approximately 30% of dogs. Unfortunately, up to 25% of those dogs will experience negative adverse effects.

Furthermore, as we previously mentioned, antihistamines are not a cure. They simply treat symptoms. This goes back to the band-aid effect we discussed.

Furthermore, Zyrtec can cause additional issues for dogs with kidney problems and liver problems. While your dog may no longer have symptoms of allergies, Zyrtec may exacerbate other issues much worse than itchy skin.

Hydroxyzine for Dogs 

Hydroxyzine is yet another antihistamine that has not been FDA approved, and yet, many veterinarians prescribe the drug to ease allergies in dogs.

Please know that we are certainly not trying to take away from all of the incredible scientific growth that Western medicine has given us. Without conventional medications, who knows where we would be today.

Furthermore, we are not trying to take away from the knowledge that veterinarians have in their field. However, we do find it concerning that so many prescriptions are for medications that are not formulated for dogs or approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

We want our readers to be aware of these medications and know that while they may work for some dogs, for other dogs the side effects can be horrific.

Hydroxyzine for dogs may effectively treat allergic reactions in some dogs, but can also cause the following adverse reactions:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Change in behavior
  • Excitability
  • Seizures
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased thirst or urination
  • Trouble urinating

Comparable to so many conventional medications on the market, Hydroxyzine for dogs has not been studied thoroughly enough to be able to clear it for use in pregnant, lactating, or breeding dogs.

Also, dogs with a slew of pre-existing conditions should not take the drug.

Apoquel for dogs

Apoquel Alternatives 

Now, we know that that was a lot to take in. You may be reading this thinking, “Well I don’t wanna use Apoquel, but my dog is still itching.”

Don’t worry, there are quite a few home remedies that you can try first. We’re happy to tell you that these alternatives don’t come with the laundry list of potential reactions.

In fact, the alternatives that we’re about to discuss some with virtually zero side effects.

Other Ways to Ease Allergies

Wait, there are even more ways to ease Fido's allergies that don't come with a slew of side effects? You bet. Read on for more!

Regular Baths 

If you and your dog frequently walk the neighborhood, go to dog parks, or simply enjoy the outdoors, then it’s inevitable that Fido will track allergens into your home.

While washing your dog's paws and giving them a brush down when getting home will certainly help, it’s much more effective to bathe them regularly.

Regular baths will significantly reduce symptoms associated with allergies. Of course, we don’t expect for pet owners to be able to give their dog a bath after every walk, and please don’t try to, it’s not good for their coats.

A regular bathing schedule along with wiping down there coat and feet from time to time will do the trick. Certain companies make wipes specifically for dogs. If you’re unable to find these wipes you can also use a baby wipe.

Regular Bathing instead of Apoquel for Dogs

Flea Protection 

It may surprise dog owners to learn that just a single bite from a flea has the ability to cause an allergic reaction that will leave your dog knowing at their skin as if their life depended on it.

To prevent reactions like this, we recommend having your dog on flea medication. We highly recommend trying a natural flea allergy remedy as conventional flea medication has a slew of potential adverse reactions for your pup.

We also recommend a powder called diatomaceous earth. Dog owners can sprinkle the powder in the cracks of their home as well as on the dog's coat. This will not only ward off fleas but also other creepy crawlers that you don’t want in the house.


Your dog’s diet is incredibly important. You can help them in so many ways, but it can also be the reason why they may be suffering.

Dogs suffer from food allergies just like you and me. We recommend feeding your dog a species appropriate raw food diet.

Sometimes a simple change up and your dog's food can make a world of difference for their allergies.

If diet is the source of your dog's allergies, it can often be tricky to find out exactly what they are allergic to. Some dogs have an intolerance to beef while others may have a sensitivity to poultry.

Unfortunately, the only way that pet owners can truly figure out what food source their dog is allergic to is through a process of elimination. This can take quite a while and not be the cheapest thing that you and your dog ever do together. But let us tell you, it is worth it.

Probiotic Supplements 

Speaking of your dog's diet, studies show that dogs with a healthy gut will often have much fewer issues when it comes to allergies. You may want to consider adding a probiotic supplement to your dog's diet.

We want to mention that you have to use probiotics for a few weeks before you will notice a difference. Give probiotics a chance, it will likely help your furry companion.

CBD for Dogs

CBD oil is phenomenal for dogs prone to allergies. Studies show that CBD oil supports skin health - especially pups with sensitive skin - as well as helps maintain normal moisture content.

Since allergies are so common in our furbabies, we created CBD-infused coconut oil for dogs and cats!
Talk about a double whammy! Our coconut oil is definitely a fan-favorite. Check out what one customer had to say below.

Colie Andux says...

"...thanks to HonestPaws CBD-infused coconut oil she is a lot calmer and more at ease with being alone! ... She also suffers from awful skin allergies, she has since she was a little pup, and scratches her ears almost until they bleed. I rub the coconut oil directly on her ears and I can immediately sense it brings her relief. The coconut oil is such a good price and value I don’t think we will ever be without it!" 

Apoquel For Dogs: The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, we know that your dog means the world to you. You would do whatever it took to make sure that they are living the best life possible, free of itching, scratching, and all pain.

While Apoquel certainly brands itself on being a quick fix cure for your dog’s irritating allergies, we want pet owners to be fully aware of the potential dangers of the conventional drug. The side effects of Apoquel are not only awful but some may be irreversible.

We encourage our readers, whenever possible, to research natural alternatives for their dogs. We are lucky to be living in a world where we have information at the tips of our fingers.

Before giving your dog any medication or supplement, do your homework. Know what you are giving your dog and how it might affect them. Trust us, your dog will thank you for it. We sincerely hope your pup feels better soon!

Sources › Integumentary System › Atopic Dermatitis

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