Side Effects of Apoquel for Dogs

Picture of a dog on black background

Apoquel is the commercial name of a drug produced by the company Zoetis, whose main pharmaceutical substance is oclacitinib. The goal of the medication is alleviating canine pruritus, a symptom of many allergies, especially atopic dermatitis.

As is the case with any other type of medication, there are both positive effects and possible adverse reactions that can be caused by Apoquel, and we’ll discuss both in this article. We’ll emphasize the side effects of Apoquel for dogs, however, as that is the topic of today’s post.

What Does Apoquel Do?

Apoquel is marketed as a wonder drug in that it can improve your dog’s pruritus in as little time as 4 hours to 24 hours. As per the claims of the manufacturing brand, it is safe to use on dogs that are older than 12 months of age and can be utilized in the long term for maintenance therapy. It can also be used along with other types of medications such as parasite killers, allergen-specific drugs, antibiotics, and a variety of others.

Most importantly, Apoquel is not a steroid drug, which means that the dog receiving the treatment is not exposed to diabetes and does not manifest the classic side effects of steroids, excessive urination and increased thirst and hunger.


It’s quite likely that the side effects of Apoquel, which are most commonly vomiting and diarrhea, are more obvious in situations where the dosage of the drug that was given to the dog was too high. Typically, dogs should receive between 0.4 and 0.6 mg per kg of body weight every 12 hours, so twice a day. This is the dose recommended for up to 14 days.

If the treatment is initiated along with other medications, your dog’s condition could improve up to the 14th-day mark to the point that Apoquel is no longer necessary. Administering Apoquel for a time span longer than 14 days is not something that the FDA has approved, so that could be a concern.

General Advice

Suppressing your dog’s immune system for a longer amount of time is never healthy, no matter what anyone might try to tell you. Typically, anti-inflammatories and drugs that inhibit the dog’s allergic response are not treatments per se. They are merely administered so as to alleviate the symptoms of the disease while the patient receives actual treatment for the medical condition.

For example, during the 14 days that your dog is allowed to take Apoquel, the vet could perform a number of tests that could lead to a clear diagnostic, in which case the dog could be put on the right type of medication. Atopic dermatitis is different as it can sometimes be idiopathic, but in such a situation, another type of solution must be found, and it should never be some drug that affects your dog’s health status, immune system, could cause infections, or lead to a variety of disorders.

What Are the Side Effects of Apoquel for Dogs?

While most conventional drugs have adverse reactions, those of some can be mild while those of others can be worrying. The main problem with Apoquel is that it is an immunosuppressive drug, which means that it can have side effects that can be dangerous. Naturally, the pharmaceutical company that produces it only mentions vomiting and diarrhea, but the truth is that the drug has a variety of other reactions.

Apoquel can make your dog more susceptible to various infections and more importantly, it can exacerbate neoplastic conditions. It can also cause bone marrow suppression which, in turn, can lead to severe health conditions.

Aside from the typical adverse reactions also noted by the pharmaceutical brand that produces it, meaning vomiting and diarrhea, your dog could experience lethargy, appetite loss, new subcutaneous or cutaneous lumps, pneumonia, UTIs, ear infections, skin infections, increased aggression or the development of polydipsia. At a biochemical level, your dog’s number of leukocytes might be reduced, and the number of globulins might be decreased, too. On the other hand, the patient’s cholesterol and lipase will increase.

If your dog is showing any signs of distress whatsoever, do not hesitate to take him or her to the vet as soon as possible. Some side effects can be so severe that they can lead to the death of the patient, so keep that in mind.

What Dogs Should Never Take Apoquel?

Generally, no canine patient that has a weakened immune system should be administered this drug. Whether it’s Apoquel or some other type of medication, it is never a good idea to give allergy drugs to lactating female dogs, pregnant dogs, or breeding dogs. As per the manufacturer’s recommendations, you also shouldn’t give this medication to dogs that are younger than 12 months of age. Apoquel is not a good choice for dogs that have diabetes, are seniors or suffer from several other medical issues aside from the dermatitis.

What about Alternatives?

If you do not want to have your dog experience any of these side effects and the pruritus isn’t that bad (and therefore, you have patience and some time to treat it), you can opt for a product like CBD for dogs. CBD has an excellent anti-inflammatory effect, especially in canine patients that do not have severe dermatitis. It also has a variety of other favorable effects from easing symptoms of arthritis to boosting the immune system.

It can also ease symptoms of stress disorders and anxiety and more importantly, it can also alleviate inflammation symptoms. Besides, most products in this category are completely natural, and as you can expect, they have little to no side effects.

You can also ease allergies by having your dog take regular baths. You do not necessarily have to use a shampoo, although there are plenty of shampoos formulated specifically to alleviate allergy symptoms. Some brands produce wipes if you don’t want to bathe your dog that often.

Preventing dermatitis can sometimes be as easy as keeping your dog flea-free. Fleas can cause an allergic reaction, and some dogs are just more sensitive than others. You can give your dog flea protection ever since he was a pup so long as you use natural products.

Last, but not least, the dog’s diet is extremely important. Dogs can have food allergies just like humans. Try to switch your dog to a raw diet, at least for some time. Some dogs can have a sensitivity to poultry while others can have a sensitivity to beef. The point is that you should experiment and see what’s good for your dog. Naturally, you shouldn’t feed your dog the cheapest commercial food because it’s likely to be filled with artificial colors, preservatives, and a variety of chemicals that your dog definitely doesn’t need and that could trigger an allergic response.

Probiotics have a variety of benefits from regulating your dog’s digestion to improving your dog’s skin condition. And finally, healthy omega 3s from fish oil, for example, are a great addition if you want your dog’s coat and skin to be in top shape.



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