Apoquel For Dogs: 8 Top Questions Answered By A Vet

One of the newest and most talked-about drugs in the veterinary market is Apoquel. Marketed as the newest treatment for allergies in dogs, this drug has become quite popular in our veterinary practice.

I’ve been a veterinarian for over 20 years and I think that Apoquel is one of the most important advances in veterinary medicine I’ve seen over my career. Having an effective and safe medicine to treat allergies in dogs is a big change from the past.

What Is Apoquel Anyway?

Apoquel is not a steroid or an anti-histamine. It is an immunomodulating drug that blocks specific chemical pathways in the skin that cause inflammation. Because of this highly specific method of action, it doesn’t affect the rest of the immune system.

As such, Apoquel has become a cornerstone of treating allergies in dogs.

Common symptoms of allergies in dogs include:

  • Itching and scratching
  • Chewing of the feet or other areas of the body
  • Chronic or recurrent ear issues such as shaking the head and ear infections
  • Rolling excessively on the floor or outside in the grass as if their back itches

What Are The Side Effects Of Apoquel?

I’ve prescribed Apoquel in my veterinary practice for the past 6 years and I find it to be a very safe drug. While any medicine can cause symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting, other side effects reported to the manufacturer have included anorexia, lethargy, and changes in bloodwork.

Is It Safe To Give Apoquel With Other Medications?

Apoquel should be safe to give with almost any other medications. However, dogs who are on any type of chemotherapy shouldn’t receive Apoquel without first consulting with the attending oncologist.

Apoquel has not been evaluated when given alongside other drugs that affect the immune system such as cyclosporine and steroids.

How Is Apoquel Different From Prednisone Or Benadryl?

Apoquel is a completely different type of drug than Prednisone (a steroid) or Benadryl (an anti-histamine). Apoquel targets specific receptors in the skin that can cause inflammation. Prednisone and Benadryl have much broader effects on the body as well as not being as effective as Apoquel at stopping the itch.

What Is The Difference Between Apoquel And Cytopoint?

Apoquel is an oral immunomodulating drug while Cytopoint is an injectable immunomodulating drug. They are not the same medication as they work in slightly different ways but have similar modes of action.

Cytopoint is an alternative for pet owners who don’t want (or are unable) to give their dog a daily medication. An injection of Cytopoint can last for 4-8 weeks.

Why Is Apoquel So Expensive?

Apoquel took many years and millions of dollars to research and produce. The manufacturer, Zoetis, has priced the drug so that every milligram size costs the same. However, the good news is that Zoetis does offer a rebate program to help offset the cost of Apoquel and other drugs that they make.

It will be a few more years before Apoquel can come out as a generic medication.

You can shop around and see if you can find it cheaper via an online pet pharmacy or a local one near you.

Here’s the thing, however. Apoquel may be expensive right now but it’s so effective in controlling allergies that it has reduced the number of veterinary visits that most dogs with allergies make over the course of a year. By keeping your dog on Apoquel, imagine the savings of not visiting the vet as often.

Does Apoquel Work For Food Allergies?

If food allergies are causing your dog to have itchy skin, Apoquel can definitely help to lessen or eliminate the symptoms while you start your dog on a diet trial. Determining whether or not food allergy is the cause, you can start your dog on a new (novel) diet then try and stop the Apoquel after a month.

If the itching returns then either that wasn’t the right diet or the issue isn’t a food allergy. Be sure to work with your veterinarian in trying to determine whether your dog has a food allergy or not.

Why Isn’t Apoquel Working For My Dog?

So what happens when this awesome drug doesn’t work for your particular dog? There are a multitude of possibilities:

  • Is it truly allergies? There can other reasons for an itching dog, so if your dog isn’t responding the way it should to Apoquel, contact your veterinarian.
  • Some dogs have concurrent skin infections that cause itchiness all by themselves.
  • Is the dosage okay? We start dogs out on Apoquel at twice a day for 2 weeks then drop that down to once daily. If your dog doesn’t get “loaded up” with that twice daily dosing initially, it may not work as well.
  • Some dogs have allergies that are so bad that they require multiple therapies – in these dogs, it’s not uncommon to see these dogs on both Cytopoint and Apoquel.

In Conclusion

Apoquel has truly revolutionized allergy treatment for dogs. I’ve been around for over 20 years so I remember the days of having dogs on steroids for the allergies long-term and all the health issues that caused. Apoquel is safe and effective and is something I prescribe regularly in my veterinary practice.