Only a dog owner can understand how unnerving and disconcerting it is to see your loving dog continuously straining to lick or chew a spot on his body and rolling on the carpet in order to relieve the burning sensations. Itchiness is a very common problem in all animals, and dogs are no exception. Luckily, Medical Science has developed many treatments to solve itchiness. The most commonly used drug is Apoquel, which provides immediate relief from itching caused by allergies. Apoquel for dog is the most widely prescribed drug by veterinarians for the treatment of allergies, and it has fewer side effects as compared to steroids and atopic.
However, all dog owners have this question in their mind, “Is Apoquel really safe for my Dog?” The answer to this question is actually too difficult to be summarized in a straight “yes” or “no”. There are benefits of apoquel and there are side effects too. Some dogs benefit from apoquel while some become an addict.
In the upcoming sections, we’ll be looking at everything about apoquel, and we’ll try to understand its working, tests for allergies, apoquel benefits, apoquel side effects, and how can we prevent allergies in future. After that, we’ll move on to look at some of the excellent alternatives for apoquel.
A Brief History of Allergy Drugs
Researchers have been looking to find a cure for allergies in dogs for ages and the first treatment which showed some positive results was the Prednisone, a type of steroid. Prednisone was helpful in suppressing inflammation by reducing redness, swelling, body heat, and pain. This way it solved not just allergies, but many other problems in dogs.
However, Veterinarians were skeptical of steroids in dogs from the very beginning. The reason why steroids worked so well was that they could suppress the immune system of the dogs.
They already had so many side effects such as a) too much, urinating, b) increased drinking and eating, and c) excessive loss of fur.
The Steroid was not a solution because it was solving allergies only to give dogs even more problems. And even if a dog resisted major side effects, then allergies would appear as soon as the dosage was stopped.
Also, after a certain time, these steroids stopped working. The dosage, be it minor or be it major, would do nothing to relieve the allergy or itch. This was the time when the next solution appeared in the form of Atopic.
Atopic is an immune-modulating drug called Cyclosporine. It was effective in treating those dogs whose allergies were unresponsive to steroids. However, since Atopic also worked by suppressing the immune system, the veterinarians were reluctant to use it. And the side effects proved to be even more dangerous than steroids because they started giving dogs cancer.
The next treatment i.e. Apoquel took an approach different from suppressing the immune system. Unlike steroids, dogs didn’t need to drink it in excess, and the side effects were also not significant.
Veterinarians preferred it over steroids and atopic. However, the problem with apoquel is that once a dog starts taking it, he has to take it forever, and if stopped, the allergies come alive once again.
What is Apoquel?
Itching is one of the most common problems that many dogs suffer from. Most types of itching arise because of allergies, while infection and parasites are also considered as major causes of itchiness.
Apoquel works for the itchiness caused by an allergy. There are three common types of allergies such as food allergies, flea allergies, and inhalant allergy (other name: “atopic dermatitis”). They can occur as a response to foods, pollens or fleas.
The treatment of allergies mainly includes inflammation stopping drugs such as antihistamine, prednisone, corticosteroids, medicated shampoos, parasite control, topical sprays, fatty acids etc.
Apoquel is very different from steroid and antihistamines. It is categorized as a drug known as Janus Kinase Inhibitors. These inhibitors relieve inflammation and itching by targeting the signal pathway. Apoquel has been approved for medicinal use. It has been designed to identify the source leading to allergy and thus providing relief without showing any significant side effect.
Apoquel has been proved to be effective in all types of allergies, and it can be used in both long-term chronic itching and short-term flea attacks.
Generally, the dogs are given apoquel dose two times a day for fourteen days, and after that, the dosage is reduced to one time per day. It is not fit for cats and those dogs that are less than a year old.
How Does Apoquel work?
Before understanding how apoquel works, let’s understand how inflammation takes place in our and our dogs’ bodies.
In our body, a signaling compound known as Kinase is found. It is important for establishing communication between the cells and organizing the various functions in our body.
During the 1980s, new types of Kinase were discovered, and they were named as JAK or Janus Kinase. These Kinases are important for performing a number of complex chemical reactions in our cells. They act as the repair mechanism for the body by activating the stem cells. The stem cells are found in every part of our bodies, such as muscles, blood, and brain. They keep dividing endlessly to replenish the dead cells. The new daughter cells are either new stem cells or cells with a specific function. They also provide immunity by creating antibodies. While doing all these functions, they regulate the inflammation system in our bodies. Sometimes, the inflammation process gets out of order and results in itchiness.
Apoquel works by destroying these Janus Kinases. It does stop inflammation this way, but it also affects the immune system. Moreover, this treatment is addictive, and dogs have to be given apoquel for all their life. If stopped, the allergies return again.
Why Am I asking about Apoquel Safety Issue for My Dog?
When your loving dog is suffering from severe itchiness, you are also the one who suffers with him/her. The never-ending itchiness keeps making your dog scratch his/her body, lick the paw, rub the face, and rolling on the ground.
Sometimes the burning sensation grows so much that even a little nap becomes impossible. In such a condition, it’s natural for you to desperately look for anything that will relieve your dog. Some people or other dog owners who have had the same experience in the past may tell you about Apoquel and that it can be very effective for your dog.
They are not wrong, and Apoquel has been proved to be working for dogs that are more than a year old. It relieves itching in just four to six hours and maintains the effect for twelve to twenty-four hours.
But you also hear about the side effects and some of which are so scary that you may tend to refute the usage of Apoquel at once. However, not all dogs receive all the side effects. And this is why it is important for you to talk to a veterinarian and ask him everything from usage and benefits to the side effects of apoquel on your dog before declaring it to be a wrong or right solution.
Are There Any Tests That I have to do to My Dog for Making Sure it’s an Allergy?
Allergies are a major cause of itchiness in dogs. The three common types of allergies which result in itching are a) Atopic, b) Flea allergy, and c) Food allergy.
The mere onset of itching does not confirm the allergy, but there are some symptoms which you can check to make sure if it’s allergy or not.
- Atopic Allergies: If your dog has been scratching its armpits, the area between the legs and abdomen, face and ears, and if you see that the skin has become sore and red, then this can be the sign of Atopic allergy. Normally, atopic allergies are seasonal, but since dogs are incapable of understanding that scratching will only make it worse, you should seek a veterinarian.
- Flea Allergies: Fleas are present everywhere in our environment, and it’s normal for dogs to get affected by them. If you find small flea dirt in the areas where your dog keeps scratching, then it can be the flea allergy.
- Food Allergy: Food allergy mostly occurs because of beef, milk and chicken. However, to make sure, you need to watch the dieting pattern of your dog.
How Can I do My Dog Allergy Test from Home?
While you can detect Atopic and Flea allergies to a great extent just by visible redness and soreness in your dog’s skin, food allergy can be detected only by observing the dog’s diets and by experimenting with it.
Beef, chicken and milk are the most common foods which many dogs get allergic to. Actually, these diets trigger the inflammation, which results in itching, and this happens not only in dogs but humans as well.
A Phenolic called Gallic Acid (found in more than 70% diets) is also considered as a major allergy-causing component present in our foods.
You can start by removing the above-mentioned diets one by one and giving your dog something else. Carrying this activity for a few days will give you an insight into whether the condition improved or worsened. Keep an eye on the dog so that he doesn’t get the prohibited food from somewhere else.
However, make sure that you’re not giving your dog the same diet over and over because it will result in an immune reaction. You should keep experimenting until you’ve found at least three diets that don’t give food allergy to your dog, and then you can repeat the diets on alternate days. Alternating the diets is important because this will save your dog from growing allergic to the new meals.
However, if this manual home test doesn’t work, then you can take help of the Nutriscan Food Sensitivity Test. You can order a Nutriscan Kit for dogs from the website and send the sample of the saliva of your dog. This test is effective in detecting almost all the food sensitivities.
Is It a Prescribed or OTC Medicine?
Apoquel is a prescription medicine, not OTC medicine. It is sold with the generic name of Oclatinib. You can buy apoquel for your dog only when you have a written prescription from a veterinarian.
It is sold per tablet and not per packet. This medicine is not for human use, and it shouldn’t be given to cats as well. The use of apoquel on dogs of age below one year should be avoided. Also, it is not supposed to be given to lactating or pregnant and breeding dogs.
Since apoquel may give rise to so many side effects, you can choose other alternative OTC medicines.
What if My Vet Suggests Apoquel While It Has Side Effects?
Before you give Apoquel to your dog, you must get a consultation with a veterinarian. You should tell the vet about the parts which you dog keeps scratching and about the prior medication you have tried. Based on the symptoms, the veterinarian will carry out some tests to determine the allergy.
Not only this, but he will also determine the well-being of your dog and try to see if there’s something else that’s causing the itching. As per the test results, he will prescribe the treatment.
If the prescribed treatment is Apoquel, then don’t get worried at once. It’s true that Apoquel has side effects, but most of them occur only at the overdose of apoquel. Also, not all dogs get all the side effects.
Your veterinarian must have prescribed a dosage which is safe and capable of relieving the itching problem of your dog. You must follow the prescribed dosage without missing or without giving the overdose.
Also, you should be alert of your dog’s condition when he is on apoquel. If you observe an improvement, then stick to the prescribed dosage, but if you don’t feel any difference or if your dog develops some other problem, then seek the medical attention quickly.
However, if you’re not sure about apoquel usage from the very outset, then you should consult another veterinarian for your assurance.
How do I Prepare My Dog for Apoquel?
Before giving apoquel to your dog, make sure to confirm it’s the allergy which is causing the itching. If it’s not an allergy, then there’s no point in using apoquel.
The dosage of apoquel varies over time. For the first 14 days, you should give apoquel dosage to your dog two times a day. The quantity should be 0.4-0.6mg/kg. After 14 days, you should give the same dose, but only 1 time a day. Keep in mind that two-time dosage for a long time has not been approved by the FDA and thus it is not recommended. Never try to give an overdose of apoquel because it may increase the side effects.
Also, follow the dosage schedule strictly. If you don’t give the proper apoquel dosage to your dog, then chances are that you won’t see the desired results.
While your dog is on the apoquel treatment, you should observe the condition and continue the dose only when you see the improvement. If the condition remains the same even after a few days of apoquel dosage, then you should discontinue it and seek the medical help as soon as possible.
Is Apoquel Really Safe for My Dog?
Apoquel works fast in relieving the itching problem in dogs. It has been approved for both long-term and short-term usage. One of the reasons why veterinarians prefer apoquel over steroids and atopic is that apoquel has far fewer side effects. Another advantage of apoquel is that it can be given without stopping the usage of other medicines such as antibiotics, parasiticides, and vaccines.
However, apoquel is considered as an immune-suppressing drug, not conventional medicine. Conventional medicines have very mild side effects, while the immune-suppressing medicines can rupture the immune system of dogs. Apoquel makes the dogs more vulnerable to other infections, and it can even suppress the bone marrow. The greatest problem, however, is the fact that apoquel makes the dog an addict.
Pros of Giving Apoquel to Your Dog
- It has been approved for both long-term and short term use.
- The relief action can be observed in only four hours after the dose is given.
- The side effects are far less as compared to steroids and atopic.
- It is available in easy digesting tablets. It can be given with or without food.
- It relieves the dog from pruritus in less than twenty-four hours.
- While giving apoquel, you don’t need to stop giving other medicines to your dog. Apoquel works well with antibiotics, parasiticides, and vaccines.
- It can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
- It causes a reduction in leukocytes.
- It can disturb the appetite of your dog.
- It increases cholesterol and lipase.
- Many dogs develop anorexia after long term use of apoquel.
- It decreases the amount of globulin.
- In many cases, it can also result in other skin and ear infection.
- It also affects the behavior of your dog.
How Do I Prevent Allergies in the Future?
The health of your dog is very important, and you certainly don’t want your loving dog to get troubled by allergies again. Fortunately, this is not a very difficult task if you just follow the following easy tips to keep away the following allergies:
- Comb your dog regularly with a flea comb, especially when the pest season is around.
- Keep your dog clean. Regularly bathe him/her with lukewarm water. This will not only soothe your dog but also kill the fleas.
- Use Safe pest-repellent sprays.
- Don’t give your dog the same food over and over. If you do that, then he/she will surely develop an allergy to that food. Keep alternating his/her food.
- Give your dog a balanced diet. You can use either homemade or artificial food, but make sure it has the right amount of protein and dietary fibers.
- Keep your pet’s indoor environment clean.
- Do not use toxic cleaning products.
- Do not over-medicate or over-vaccinate your dog.
- If you feel like the allergy is coming from an outside source, then try foot soaking because most of the allergies come from your dog’s feet.
- Make sure your dog drinks only purified water.
Is There An Alternative to Apoquel for Dogs?
Many veterinarians shy away from Apoquel usage because, in most of the cases, it’s impossible to stop the dogs from becoming an addict of Apoquel. It stops the itching by compromising the immune reaction of the dogs and not by eliminating the root cause. And this is why as soon as Apoquel dosage is stopped, the allergies resurface again. Fortunately, there are following alternatives which you can give your dog instead of Apoquel. They are as effective as Apoquel but without any potential side effects.
- Vet’s Best Shed and Itch Healthy Coat
- Vet’s Best Hot Spot Spray
- Zesty Paws Allergy Immune Bites
- Prosense Itch and Allergy Solution
- Vet’s Best Seasonal Allergy Support
- Zesty Paws Coconut Oil
- Alpha Pet Zone Ultimate Pet Healer
If you are looking for an ultimate alternative of Apoquel which solves all the allergy problems in your dog, then Zesty Paws Immune Allergy Immune Bites is the best solution. Unlike Apoquel, it helps in protecting the dogs from seasonal skin allergies by balancing the immune system rather than suppressing it. It is made with Wild Alaskan Solomon Oil which is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and DHA. They improve the immune system in dogs and make them stronger against allergy-causing hot spots and itchiness.
They also contain EpiCor which provides the dogs with fibers, proteins, vitamins, antioxidants, and all the other nutrients which have been proved to improve the dogs’ natural defenses against pests and diseases.
Unhealthy digestion also promotes the allergy-causing factors, and this is why Zesty Paws Allergy Immune bites contain Colostrums, a natural nourishing ingredient that enhances digestion and immune functioning.
Other components of these Immune Bites are the Probiotic and Prebiotic complex with 250 million CFU of healthy microorganisms, Apple vinegar, and Licorice Extract for coating against allergies.
Pros of Zesty Paws Immune Bites
- It enhances the immune and digestive system of dogs so they can fight against food, skin and seasonal allergies.
- The unique blend of antioxidants, nutrients and Probiotics strengthens the digestive system of dogs.
- Omega-3 fatty acids improve skin conditions and boost immunity.
- Epicor provides fibers, proteins, vitamins and antioxidants which make the skin healthy and allergy-repellent.
- It is available in multiple flavors such as Hemp-cheese, Lamb and Peanut Butter.
- The overdose of these immune bites can be very harmful.
- There are cases where dogs were reported to develop diarrhea and vomiting after the intake of these Immune Bites.
- It cannot be given to pregnant and breeding dogs.
- It can affect the daily routine and eating patterns of the dog.
The greatest plus point of Vet’s Best Hot Spot Spray is that it is made up of only plant-based ingredients and so you don’t need to worry about the toxic effect of chemicals.
It helps by providing immediate relief in red skin, itchy skin, hot spots, and skin irritation.
The unique combination of natural ingredients such as Aloe Vera, tea tree oil and Chamomile results in effective and quick action.
Aloe Vera is rich in vitamin A, B, C, D, E and amino acids. It maintains the quality of the skin and provides a protective coat against the itching. It also contains a carbohydrate called Acemannan which prevents the skin from getting dry.
Tea tree oil helps in fighting seasonal allergies by improving the immune system and boosting the quality of the skin.
Chamomile contains antioxidants, which help in protecting against environmental pollution and attacks of free radicals.
It is hundred percent steroid-free and does not contain Hydrocortisone.
- It is a powerful spray and provides instant relief from itchiness and dry skin.
- It contains only plant-based ingredients and no chemicals.
- It doesn’t contain alcohol and uses a no-sting formula.
- It doesn’t affect the tick control and topical flea resistance.
- It is completely steroid-free.
- It can be given to all dogs more than a year old.
- It can be very harmful if it comes in contact with eyes.
- It shouldn’t be used for pregnant and nursing dogs.
- Ingestion can be very dangerous as tea tree oil is considered a toxin.
Vet’s Best Healthy Shed and Coat helps your dog by eliminating the problems of dry and itchy skin completely.
It is made up of hundred per cent natural ingredients such as yellow dock roots, MSM, quercetin, Omega-3 acids, Omega-6 acids, and Nettle leaves.
Omega-3 fatty acids: These fatty acids are considered as the fundamental building block of healthy skin tissues. They keep the skin hydrated and increase the shedding of dead and damaged skin cells. They act like an additional coat which combats external disturbances.
Yellow Dock roots: Antioxidants is what this natural herb is rich in. Antioxidants help in maintaining the quality of skin and provide a coat against harmful external agents and attacks of free radicals. They also improve the immune system in dogs.
MSM: It proves to be very effective in seasonal allergies by maintaining the right histamine levels in the skin of the dogs.
Nettle Leaf: It is a plant with green leaves and purple flowers, and in addition to combating seasonal allergies, it helps in maintaining the moisture content in the skin.
Pros of Vet’s Best Healthy Shed and Coat
- It is fit for all types of mature dogs.
- It helps in creating a coat against harmful external agents and maintaining the moisture level in the skin.
- It reduces red skin and hot spots.
- It is very effective in relieving seasonal allergies.
- The tablets are tasty and easily chewable. These are also very easy to break.
- You can give the tablet to your dog by either mixing in its food or wrapping with some delicious dish.
- The effects may take considerable time to appear.
- Some dogs may refuse to take it.
- It is not fit for pregnant and lactating dogs.
- Overdose can be very harmful.
As the name suggests, Vet’s Best Seasonal Allergy Relief is very effective in combating seasonal allergies which cause excessive itching of dogs.
Perilla Leaf: This Himalayan herb not only adds aroma and taste in dishes but is also rich in antioxidants, which help the dogs in resisting environmental pollution.
Quercetin: It is also very rich in antioxidants and increases the histamine levels in dogs so they can fight against seasonal allergies. It also protects the dogs from the attacks of free radicals and boosts their immune system.
Nettle Extracts: This green-leaved plant improves the immune system of dogs. It maintains adequate moisture in the skin and provides a coating against seasonal allergies.
Citrus Boiflavonoid Complex: Citrus fruits are rich in Vitamin C which increases metabolism and thus improves digestion. It is also a rich source of antioxidants that improve respiratory health in dogs and gives them the power to resist environmental stress. It fights free radicals and improves the quality of blood cells.
Pros of Vet’s Best Seasonal Allergy Relief
- It can be given to all dogs that are over one year of age.
- It provides a lot of antioxidants in the body which improve immunity and help the dogs fight seasonal allergy.
- It helps in maintaining the right histamine level and thus protecting the quality of the skin.
- The tablets are tasty and easy to chew.
- For varying doses, you can easily break the tablets.
- You can mix the tablet in your dog’s food or wrap it in cheese or any similar dish.
- It is not very effective in food allergies.
- Some dogs are reported with the problems of vomiting and diarrhea.
- The results may take some time to appear.
- It is not for breeding and pregnant dogs.
Prosense Itch and Allergy Solution for pets provide relief to your dog’s itching problems. An Excessive level of histamine is known to trigger allergy and inflammation in animals, and Prosense Itch and Allergy Solution acts by blocking the histamine.
It is beneficial in reducing your dog’s allergy sensitivity problems such as continuous itching, sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes.
This solution can deal with the entire allergy causing sources such as dander, fabrics, pollens and fleas, and limit their actions so that your dog can feel comfortable.
For dogs weighing more than 15lbs, you can give them half tablet of Prosense Itch and Allergy Solution two times a day. For maximum results, you can bathe your dog with Prosense Hydrocortisone Shampoo which contains Aloe Vera and is completely alcohol-free.
- It blocks excessive histamine level, which is known to trigger allergies.
- It works very quickly in reducing itching, sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes.
- It can deal with all types of allergens.
- It comes in easy to use bottles.
- If you are already giving your dog some medicine containing diphenhydramine, then don’t give Posense Itch and Allergy Solution.
- The results may take time to appear.
- Rival and cheaper brands are available in the market.
Coconut oil is famous for its digestion-boosting properties and it also helps in brain development. It improves the immune system in dogs along with maintaining the freshness of their breath.
Zesty Paws Coconut Oil is made of hundred per cent organic extract which are fit for both internal consumption and external application on the skin.
It acts as an Anti-itch topical solution. The coconut oil reduces irritation causing red spots and itchiness resulting from flea bites. It also reduces the dryness level of the skin by keeping the skin hydrated and dandruff-free.
It enhances the shine and strength by providing nourishment to the dog coats which can become matted, dull and dry over time. It keeps the fur soft and reduces their shedding.
It contains MCT fatty acids which not only improves the quality of the skin, but also boosts the digestion.
Pros of Zesty Paws Coconut Oil for Dogs
- It is made up of only natural ingredients so that you don’t have to worry about toxic chemicals.
- Coconut oil provides all the vital vitamins and MCT fatty acids to keep the skin and the digestion healthy.
- It moisturizes the skin while nourishing the dog coats.
- It reduces itchiness and relieves the hot spots.
- It can be given to all types of dogs.
- An overdose of this lotion can be very harmful.
- There are cases where dogs’ conditions worsened after using this medicine.
Alpha Pet Zone coconut oil is one of the best repair and relief ointments for solving the problem of damaged and dry skin and for keeping the skin adequately moisturized.
It is made up of natural substances and proves to be an ideal solution for itchiness caused by fleas and mites.
It soothes the dog’s skin by killing the fungus, yeasts, and other itchiness causing germs. It also reduces dandruff and you don’t need any extra dander spray.
The coconut oil provides antioxidants, vital vitamins, and MCT fatty acids that not only boost the immune system in dogs but also enhance their cognitive abilities.
You can apply the lotion on the rashes and hot spots of your dog or you can feed him with the food.
It is also effective in fighting infections, bad breaths, abrasions, and flaky dryness. It provides a pleasant tropical scent and helps keeps your dogs look and smell great.
Pros of Alpha Pet Zone Pet Healer
- It provides better results as compared to other antibiotics and ointments.
- It kills mites, yeasts, fungus, etc from the roots and thus eliminates the allergy completely.
- It maintains a fresh smell of your dog.
- It boosts the immune system and cognitive ability of your dog.
- It reduces dandruff and keeps the skin hydrated.
- It is made of hundred percent organic substances.
- Since it also acts as a conditioner, you don’t need any extra dander spray.
- It is fit for cats as well.
- Overdose can be very dangerous.
- It shouldn’t be given to pregnant and lactating dogs.
The best way to deal with allergies is to follow discipline. Of course, your loving dog cannot understand this, but you can. Make sure that whatever treatment you follow, give your dog only the prescribed dose, neither less nor more. And if in case you suspect you’ve given an overdose, then seek the medical help immediately.
We hope that with this detailed article, we’ve helped you understand a lot about allergies in dogs and how can we treat them. While the benefits of apoquel come at the cost of side effects, there are other options too which you can choose from after consulting a veterinarian.