Apoquel for Dogs: Uses, Dosage, & Side Effects

Apoquel is an FDA-approved medication used to provide relief for dogs suffering from itching and inflammation associated with allergic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis. It is the brand name for oclacitinib, a selective Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor that effectively targets and blocks the pathways responsible for itching and inflammation. Apoquel is a prescription medication suitable for dogs older than 12 months of age and weighing more than 6.6 pounds (3 kilograms).

Here’s what you should know about Apoquel’s uses, dosage, and side effects for dogs.


Uses of Apoquel for dogs

Apoquel is primarily used to manage and treat allergic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis in dogs. These conditions often cause intense itching, leading to excessive scratching, skin lesions, and even secondary infections. Dogs suffering from allergies to fleas, food, or environmental allergens can also benefit from Apoquel’s quick-acting relief. Unlike steroids, which have a wide array of systemic effects, Apoquel specifically targets pathways related to itch and inflammation, thus offering a more focused approach to treatment.

The medication usually begins to relieve symptoms within four hours of administration and effectively controls itching within 24 hours. It is an ideal option for both short-term relief during flare-ups and long-term management of chronic skin conditions. Apoquel is occasionally recommended for managing autoimmune and inflammatory health issues in dogs. This includes conditions such as cutaneous lupus erythematosus, pemphigus vulgaris, perianal fistula, ear tip dermatosis, and ischemic dermatopathy.

Dosage of Apoquel for dogs

The following is a guideline for the typical use of the drug in dogs and must not replace your veterinarian’s advice for your individual pet.

Generally, Apoquel is administered orally twice a day for up to 14 days for acute flare-ups. After this, the dosage may be adjusted to once daily for long-term management. The medication comes in oral tablet and chewable tablet forms in different strengths — 3.6 mg, 5.4 mg, and 16 mg — to accommodate various sizes and breeds of dogs. The standard recommended dosage is 0.18 to 0.27 mg per pound (0.4 to 0.6 mg/kg) of body weight. However, the correct dosage of Apoquel can vary based on your dog’s weight and the nature of their condition. It is essential that you consult your veterinarian for the correct dosage to ensure safety and effectiveness.

You can administer Apoquel with or without food, although some dogs may experience an upset stomach when the medication is taken without food. Moreover, remember to wash your hands immediately after handling the medication.

Apoquel can serve as a standalone treatment or as part of a comprehensive allergy management plan often including omega fatty acid supplements, topical and shampoo therapies, and flea and tick preventatives, to enhance your dog’s skin health.

If you miss giving a dose of Apoquel to your dog, it’s important to consult your veterinarian for advice. They will typically recommend administering the missed dose as soon as you remember unless it’s close to the time for the next scheduled dose. In that case, they may advise you to skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing routine. It’s crucial not to give an extra or double dose.

Side effects of Apoquel for dogs

English Bulldog puppy scratching, in need of Apoquel prescription.
(Photo Credit: Carol Yepes | Getty Images)

While Apoquel is generally well-tolerated, as with any medication, there can be side effects. Some of the side effects may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia or loss of appetite
  • New skin lumps or growths
  • Increased susceptibility to infections

These side effects are not necessarily common but require prompt attention if they occur. More severe reactions, though rare, could indicate an allergy to the medication or a more significant underlying issue. Moreover, long-term use of Apoquel for dogs has been associated with an increased risk of developing neoplasia or new growths. As such, regular veterinary check-ups are essential to monitor the health and well-being of your dog during treatment.

Apoquel is not recommended for use in dogs with serious infections or those who are breeding, pregnant, or nursing. The drug has immune-suppressing properties. In particular, this effect might hinder a sick pet’s ability to combat infections. Moreover, it could potentially heighten the risk of developing cancer. Additionally, combining Apoquel with certain medications could pose health risks for your pet. Therefore, make sure to inform your veterinarian about all medications your dog is taking, including vitamins and supplements, as well as any existing medical conditions.

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