Apoquel for Cats: Side Effects Explored

Apoquel, or its scientific name Oclacitinib, has gained attention in the veterinary community as a potential treatment for various skin conditions in pets. While primarily approved for dogs, it’s increasingly being used in cats. If you’re considering this treatment for your feline friend, it’s essential to understand its potential side effects.

What is Apoquel?

Apoquel is an oral tablet that belongs to the Janus kinase inhibitor class of drugs. It works by suppressing specific enzymes responsible for itching and inflammation. Originally developed for dogs with allergic and atopic dermatitis, its off-label use has been observed in cats to control non-flea and non-food-induced allergic reactions.

Common Side Effects in Cats

Gastrointestinal Issues

Based on user reports and studies, some cats may experience gastrointestinal issues, including:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite

While these symptoms are often transient, it’s crucial to monitor your cat and consult a veterinarian if they persist.

Behavioral Changes

Some cats might show subtle behavioral changes, including:

  • Lethargy
  • Excessive grooming
  • Overgrooming specific areas leading to hair loss

It’s worth noting that while Apoquel might alleviate itching, overgrooming could be a sign of residual discomfort.

Rare Side Effects

While less common, there have been isolated reports of:

  • Softening of the fur
  • Increased susceptibility to infections due to suppressed immune responses

It’s essential to have regular check-ups when your cat is on Apoquel to ensure no underlying issues are being masked by the medication.

Long-Term Concerns

As with any medication, there are concerns about long-term use. Some pet owners and professionals have raised concerns about:

  • Potential for tumors
  • Immune system issues

However, more research is needed to conclusively link Apoquel to these severe side effects in cats.

Things to Consider

Off-Label Use: Using Apoquel in cats is considered off-label. This means that while veterinarians might prescribe it based on their judgment, it’s not officially approved for feline use.

Monitor Your Cat: Always keep an eye on your cat when introducing any new medication. Regular vet visits are crucial.

Alternative Treatments: If you’re concerned about potential side effects, discuss alternatives like steroids or cyclosporine with your vet.


Apoquel can offer relief for cats suffering from relentless itching and related skin conditions. However, like any medication, it comes with potential side effects. As a responsible cat owner, it’s crucial to weigh the benefits against potential risks, be aware of any changes in your cat, and maintain open communication with your vet. Remember, every cat is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. The well-being of your furry friend is always a top priority.

FAQs about Apoquel for Cats

1. Why is Apoquel prescribed to cats if it’s approved for dogs?

Veterinarians might prescribe medications “off-label,” which means using them in a way not originally intended or for a different species. This practice is based on a vet’s clinical judgment, research, and anecdotal evidence. Given Apoquel’s success in alleviating itchiness in dogs, it has been tried with cats to address similar symptoms.

2. How soon can I expect results after administering Apoquel to my cat?

Many cat owners report a noticeable reduction in itching and related symptoms within a few days of starting the medication. However, the response can vary between cats. It’s advisable to monitor your cat and consult with your veterinarian if you don’t notice any improvements within a week.

3. Are there any interactions of Apoquel with other medications?

While there isn’t a comprehensive list of drug interactions specifically for feline use, it’s essential to inform your veterinarian about any other medications or supplements your cat is currently taking. This ensures they can make an informed decision and monitor for potential interactions.

4. Can I stop giving Apoquel once the symptoms have improved?

No. If your vet has prescribed a course of Apoquel, it’s essential to complete it unless advised otherwise. Stopping the medication abruptly might cause a resurgence of symptoms. Always follow your veterinarian’s directions regarding the duration and dosage of treatment.

5. What should I do if my cat shows severe side effects?

If your cat exhibits any distressing symptoms or reactions, stop administering the medication and contact your veterinarian immediately. It’s always better to be safe and ensure your pet’s health is not at risk.

6. Can kittens be given Apoquel?

Generally, Apoquel is prescribed for adult cats. If considering it for a kitten or a very young cat, it’s crucial to have an in-depth discussion with your veterinarian, weighing potential risks and benefits.

7. Is there a possibility of an overdose? What are its signs?

Like all medications, there’s a risk of overdose with Apoquel. Symptoms might include severe vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or unusual behaviors. If you suspect an overdose, seek emergency veterinary care immediately.

8. Can Apoquel be given with food?

Apoquel can be given with or without food. However, administering it with food might reduce the chances of gastrointestinal side effects.

9. Are there natural alternatives to Apoquel?

Yes, some natural remedies might help alleviate skin conditions or allergies in cats. These include omega-3 fatty acids, aloe vera gel, or oatmeal baths. Always consult your vet before trying any alternative treatments to ensure they’re safe and suitable for your cat’s specific condition.

10. How should I store Apoquel tablets?

Store Apoquel tablets in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Ensure the container is tightly sealed and kept out of reach of children and other pets.

11. How does Apoquel differ from traditional antihistamines?

Apoquel functions as a Janus kinase inhibitor, which specifically targets the enzymes responsible for inflammation and itchiness. In contrast, traditional antihistamines block histamine, a substance that causes allergic reactions. While both can reduce itchiness, Apoquel often offers quicker and more targeted relief for skin-related symptoms in pets.

12. Will Apoquel cure my cat’s skin condition permanently?

Apoquel is a symptom relief medication. It manages and reduces the signs of allergies and itchiness but does not necessarily address the root cause. To achieve long-term resolution, it’s crucial to identify and address the underlying trigger or allergen causing the reaction.

13. Can Apoquel be used in tandem with flea treatments?

Yes, Apoquel can typically be used alongside flea treatments. In fact, ruling out flea allergies is essential before prescribing Apoquel, so ensuring your cat remains flea-free is crucial. Nevertheless, always inform your vet about all treatments your cat is receiving.

14. Does Apoquel affect a cat’s liver or kidney functions?

While Apoquel is processed by the liver, there’s no conclusive evidence indicating that it causes liver or kidney damage in cats. However, for cats with pre-existing liver or kidney conditions, careful monitoring and regular blood tests might be recommended while they’re on the medication.

15. What if my cat misses a dose?

If your cat misses an Apoquel dose, give it as soon as you remember. However, if it’s close to the time for the next dose, skip the missed one and continue with the regular schedule. Avoid giving double doses.

16. Are there cats that shouldn’t be given Apoquel?

Cats with compromised immune systems, pregnant or nursing cats, or those with certain medical conditions might not be ideal candidates for Apoquel. It’s vital to provide a complete health history to your vet before starting the medication.

17. Can Apoquel affect my cat’s behavior or mood?

While rare, some cats might experience changes in behavior or mood. Monitor your pet for signs of increased aggression, depression, or other behavioral shifts, and consult your vet if any concerns arise.

18. How do I transition my cat off Apoquel if needed?

Always consult your veterinarian before making changes to your cat’s medication routine. They will provide guidance on tapering off the dose safely to avoid potential flare-ups or withdrawal symptoms.

19. Are there any dietary restrictions or recommendations while my cat is on Apoquel?

There are no specific dietary restrictions with Apoquel. However, if your cat’s itchiness or skin condition is suspected to be food-related, your vet may recommend a hypoallergenic or limited-ingredient diet alongside the medication.

20. What’s the consensus among veterinarians about Apoquel for cats?

While Apoquel has shown promising results in dogs, its use in cats is off-label. Many vets have found it beneficial for feline patients, but as with all treatments, it’s applied on a case-by-case basis, considering the cat’s overall health and the severity of symptoms.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top