Apoquel for Dogs: A New Medication for Your Dog’s Itchy Skin

Last Updated on 08/10/2021 by Veronica Jones

Apoquel for Dogs: A New Medication for Your Dog’s Itchy Skin

Springtime means new beginnings; new plants, baby animals, and insects buzzing. It can also mark the beginning of your dog’s incessant scratching due atopic or allergic dermatitis. If your poor dog suffers from seasonal allergies, food allergies, or other environmental allergies, it may be time to look into Apoquel.

Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs

If you’ve been around dogs, chances are one with atopic dermatitis or skin allergies has crossed your path. You’ll recognize it as seemingly endless itching and scratching, patchy hairloss, and a red, bumpy rash. Some dogs will also develop chronic ear infections. Atopic dermatitis can be brought on by many culprits such as fleas, certain food ingredients, and environmental substances like pollen, grasses, and dust mites.

Atopic dermatitis occurs when your dog comes in contact with one of these offending allergens. The allergen triggers a response in your dog’s body that causes the release of histamine and other immune system chemicals that bring about an inflammatory response. It’s this response that causes the itching, redness, and burning that your dog experiences. In other words, an allergic response is a body’s immune system overreacting to an allergen. Every dog is different in what, if any, allergens trouble them as well as the degree of the inflammatory response that follows.

What is Apoquel?

Apoquel, or oclacitinib, is different from other atopic dermatitis medications such as antihistamines and steroids. Apoquel for dogs works by blocking the actions of specific chemicals responsible for the inflammatory cascade that your dog’s skin experiences when contacted with an allergen. Compare this to the action of steroids that decrease your dog’s overall immune function in order to block the inflammatory response in the skin. Not only does this help stop the itching related to atopic and allergic dermatitis, it can also decrease your dog’s ability to fight common illnesses and infections. With Apoquel’s more targeted approach, your dog’s immune system will be minimally impacted.

The Benefits of Apoquel

Apoquel for dogs can help significantly decrease your dog’s itching due to atopic and allergic dermatitis in as little as four hours and can have the itch controlled within 24 hours. This means an almost immediate decrease in the digging, scratching and chewing and a less fitful night with just two doses.

Apoquel is safe and effective to get your dog through those spring and summer months or it can be used long term for those dogs who’s allergies aren’t tied to a season. Apoquel also has a short half life meaning it’s easy to start and stop this medication as needed. There’s no tapering or weaning off period that is necessary with steroids. This means you can effectively use Apoquel for dogs undergoing food allergy trials or to assess your flea control methods.

Apoquel can be used safely with many other common medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, flea and heartworm preventives, antibiotics, and allergen-specific immunotherapy. Apoquel won’t interfere with your dog’s vaccinations either.

Apoquel Dosage

Apoquel should be given twice daily until desired itch relief is reached or up to 14 days. After that it is given once daily to maintain a happy dog. Again, Apoquel can be stopped without any tapering period. The tablets come in three different strengths, 3.6mg, 5.4mg, and 16mg. The dose for your dog will be determined based on weight and falls between 0.18 and 0.27 mg/lb. As an example, dogs under 10 pounds would receive one half of a 3.6mg tab and dogs greater than 130 pounds would receive two 16mg tabs. Apoquel can be taken with or without a meal.

Side Effects of Apoquel

Since Apoquel is a more specific anti-itch medication than steroids, the side effects tend to be fewer than those experienced on other medications. Vomiting and diarrhea are the most common with lethargy and anorexia also possible. These side effects are most commonly seen during the first week after starting Apoquel and may be decreased by giving the medication with a meal.


Since allergies are due to your dog’s immune response, treatment of them will cause some suppression of your dog’s immune system. Because of this, Apoquel should not be used in dogs under one year of age. Dogs younger than 12 months have an underdeveloped immune system and maybe more at risk of developing serious infections if given Apoquel.

Pregnant and lactating bitches should also not be given Apoquel as these dogs naturally have a suppressed immune system and you want to avoid increasing that suppression. The medication may be passed to the puppies transplacentally or through the milk which can negatively affect their immature immune systems.

Dogs with or prone to serious infections should not receive Apoquel as it can decrease their natural ability to control these infections. Dogs that are at a high risk of illness such as those that frequent dog parks or boarding facilities or those that are unvaccinated should use caution when taking Apoquel as it, again, can increase their chances of becoming ill. Dogs with known cancers should not take Apoquel since it can interfere with immune function and make them more susceptible to illness or allow metastasis or tumor growth.

Remember that Apoquel isn’t for every dog so be sure to discuss this and other options with your veterinarian.

Leave a Comment