Apoquel for Dogs: What to Know

Apoquel for Dogs: What to Know

  • Kirsten Thornhill - 03.06.2020

At one point or another, paw parents will most likely find their doggos itching, chewing, gnawing, and scratching as if it’s life or death. 

Just like us humans, canines also suffer from allergies. Dog allergies, being a broad term, includes environmental allergies, flea and tick allergies, as well as food allergies. In regards to environmental allergies, if you’re affected by something in the air, your pup is probably affected too. 

Dogs can have allergic reactions to new supplements, treats, or medications too. 


An urgent trip to the veterinarian for allergies may have you and fido leaving with a conventional medicine called Apoquel.   


What is Apoquel for Dogs?

Apoquel is a traditional medication created by the company Zoetis. Apoquel is the brand name for the drug oclacitinib. 

Apoquel provides a new way of alleviating canine itching and irritation. Pruritus is the most commonly seen symptom of dog allergies. 

Just like us humans, allergies can greatly affect your dog’s daily living. You pup may be allergic to things, just like us. 

Anything ranging from environmental allergies to food allergies to atopic dermatitis, it’s likely that your dog may find themselves itchy as heck sooner or later. 

Studies have shown that up to 10% of dogs can be affected by atopic dermatitis - making it one of the most common dog allergies. 



What is atopic dermatitis, you ask? Well, it’s a chronic, inflammatory skin disease that can be triggered or associated with allergies. As you can guess, atopic dermatitis can be super uncomfortable and irritable for your doggo. 

We know we don’t have to remind you of just how awful allergies are, as they can greatly alter your everyday life (& your pup’s too). Thus, finding an alleviation or solution for these darn allergies is totally necessary and needed!

Allergies can range from quick periods of itching and gnawing to an awful recurring condition throughout a doggo’s life. 

Do note, it is extremely important to find a solution that tailors to your dog’s personalized allergy needs. Remember, allergies in dogs, just like us humans, can’t be cured, only managed over time. 



Your vet may prescribe Apoquel after performing a physical exam on your pup as well as asking you detailed questions about their history of itchiness. Apoquel is fast-acting and can kick in as quick as 4 hours, helping ease your dog’s allergy signs and symptoms. 

Once Apoquel has been administered, it can control your dog’s allergy symptoms for 12 - 24 hours. On the flip side, this means Apoquel needs to be given on a consistent and timely basis. Also, Apoquel potential side effects may leave you feeling worrisome and extra cautious about using this medication (more on this soon). 


What Are the Benefits of Apoquel For Dogs?

The best part of Apoquel for dogs? It’s quick to start working! It’s hard not to like the idea of your fur child receiving itch-relief clarity within a fast 4 hours. 


How Does Apoquel Work?

Apoquel is a selective jansus kinase inhibitor (JAK), if you want to get scientific here. JAKs help control the immune system’s response to itchy sensations. 



Thus, Apoquel works to help control the scratching associated with canine contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, allergic dermatitis, flea and tick allergic dermatitis, and food allergies. Whoa.

How Do I Know If My Dog Has Allergies?

Why you pup may be suffering from allergies? Well there are a lot of potential reasons or causes as to why. Most commonly, dog allergies are caused by food allergies, atopic dermatitis, and environmental allergens. 

Allergy symptoms may include:

  • Sneezing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hotspots
  • Runny nose
  • Scabs and sores
  • Bald areas
  • Discharge from eyes

Why is My Dog so Itchy?

If your pup has been itching and itching non-stop with no signs of relief in sight, it’s crucial to discuss the situation and scenario with your vet.

Yes dog allergies are common, but it’s also possible that your pup’s constant itching is a sign of an underlying symptom for a whole other issue.



Before treating your four-legged fur baby, make sure that their allergies are the root of the problem. Confirming this with your vet requires an accurate diagnosis. Often times, many diseases or conditions have to be ruled out before your vet can accurately diagnose your dog with allergies.


What is the Correct Apoquel Dosage?

The typical dose for Apoquel is 0.4 - 0.6 mg/kg tablets every 12 hours, up to twice a day for 2 weeks. 

After the 14-day mark, your vet may recommend that you reduce the dose to only once daily.

Note - Apoquel is not FDA approved for administration longer than a 2 week period. It is not approved for long-term use because of how much it suppresses the immune system. This is a serious side effect and concern of using Apoquel.

By suppressing the immune system, this will suppress the itching allergic reaction, which is a good thing when treating dog allergies! But, suppressing your dog’s immune system may also decrease their ability to fight off other foreign invaders or bacteria. Thus, making your pup more susceptible to developing infections.


What’s also worrisome is that Apoquel doesn’t work for every dog with allergies. You may give your pup Apoquel in hopes that it will quickly start alleviating your pup’s discomfort, but it’s totally realistic that it just won’t work. 

For some doggos, Apoquel just doesn’t work at all. 

Apoquel’s dosage is based on your dog’s weight. The drug is sold per tablet in 16 mg, 5.4 mg, or 2.6 mg strengths. 

Give this orally to your pup. Apoquel’s official website states that it is okay to give your dog this medication with or without food. 


The Potential Side Effects of Apoquel

As a conventional medicine, Apoquel comes with potential side effects, of course. Some medications have mild potential adverse reactions, others, have more severe potential adverse reactions. 

With an immune-suppressing conventional drug like Apoquel, the potential side effects can get very dangerous. 

Apoquel can cause bone marrow suppression, leading to additional health conditions. Other adverse reactions include:


  • Lethargy
  • Pneumonia
  • UTI
  • Appetite loss
  • Ear infections
  • Skin infections
  • Increased aggression
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Histiocytomas
  • Increased cholesterol
  • Reduced leukocytes
  • Polydipsia


The most common adverse reactions of Apoquel are diarrhea and vomiting. 


Other Dog Allergy Medications

Apoquel is commonly prescribed for dog allergies, but it’s not the only one out there as an option. 

Some conventional medications may be more severe with side effects than others, but regardless, the side effects for any conventional medication does exist. 



This is an antihistamine that has not yet been approved by the FDA for animals, but is commonly prescribed by vets to ease allergy symptoms in dogs. 

Don’t freak, veterinarians are permitted to use human drugs for extra-label in animals, according to the Animal Drug Use Clarification Act. 

Hydroxyzine for dogs may help treat their allergies, but can cause the following:

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


This conventional medication is a second-generation antihistamine, often prescribed for human use. 

Although it is not FDA approved for animals yet, many vets are prescribing Zyrtec. Zyrtec can help reduce itching and other signs of allergic reactions. 

Zyrtec does not usually present any worrisome side effects, but there’s more. Studies have shown that antihistamines work in only 30% of dogs. Up to 25% of those dogs will experience potential side effects.


Alternative Ways to Ease Allergies

Wait, there are alternative ways without a laundry list of side effects?! Tell me more!

1. Having A Regular Bathing Schedule

Washing your pup’s paws and giving them a brush down after walking around the neighborhood, leaving the dog park, or just enjoying the outdoors will certainly help, but it’s much more efficient to bathe them on the regular. This will help your pup from dragging outside allergens into your home. 

Regular baths significantly reduce allergy-related symptoms.

Bathing regularly helps to physically rid allergens from your pup’s body. 


2. Diet

Diet is key - for you, for me, and for your pup! We recommend feeding your dog a raw food diet - there are so many food allergies out there that dogs suffer with. Work alongside your vet or vet nutritionist to ensure that a raw food diet can meet your pup’s personalized nutrition needs.


3. Probiotic Supplements

Studies suggest that dogs with a healthy gut will have significantly fewer issues when it comes to allergic reactions and allergies in general. 

Giving probiotics a chance will likely help our furry friend. 


CBD for Dogs

CBD oil is great for dogs who are prone to seasonal allergies (and for us humans too)! Studies show that CBD oil supports skin and joint health and helps maintain normal skin moisture. 

Because we know allergies are so common in our fur children, we created CBD oil for dogs and cats! Click here.


Apoquel: Final Thoughts

When all is said and done, we know and understand that your pup means everything to you. You would do whatever it takes to make sure that your fur baby is living a healthy and happy life. Not to mention, a healthy and happy life free of itching, gnawing, and scratching. 

Apoquel may be a quick fix for your dog’s allergies, but we do want you to be aware of its potential adverse reactions, which can be seriously dangerous. 

Before giving your pup any medication, please do your homework. Please know what you are giving them and how it may affect them. Trust us, your doggo will thank you for it in the long run!

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