In September 2022, the FDA issued an important update regarding Apoquel, a widely used medication for treating allergies in dogs. This update has significant implications for pet owners and veterinarians.
What is Apoquel?
Apoquel is a prescription medication designed to alleviate itching and inflammation in dogs suffering from allergies. It’s known for its effectiveness but, like all medications, comes with potential risks.
The FDA’s Recent Update: A Closer Look
🔍 Key Changes in Labeling
|Aspect of Apoquel
|Risk of Infections
|⚠️ Increased Risk Noted
|Impact on Pre-existing Conditions
|🚩 Worsens Parasitic Skin Infestations & Cancers
|Immune System Effects
|🔽 Potential Immune Suppression
Why the Change?
The FDA’s decision was based on post-marketing reports indicating adverse events in dogs treated with Apoquel. These included:
- Infections: Bacterial, fungal, and viral, such as pyoderma, pneumonia, and sepsis.
- Parasitic Infestations: Particularly demodicosis, a skin mite issue.
- Cancer Risks: Increased instances of mast cell tumors and lymphoma.
- Immune Disorders: Conditions like immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (IMT) and immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA).
What Veterinarians and Pet Owners Should Know
👩⚕️ Veterinarian Responsibilities
- Discuss Apoquel’s risks and benefits thoroughly with pet owners.
- Evaluate each dog’s individual risk factors before prescribing.
🐕 Pet Owner Awareness
- Be aware of your dog’s medical history, especially concerning infections, cancer, and immune health.
- Monitor your dog closely for any adverse reactions while on Apoquel.
Apoquel: Not for Every Dog
- Dogs with a history of serious infections or cancer.
- Dogs with a weakened immune system.
Using Apoquel with Caution
In dogs with a history of allergies, Apoquel should be administered cautiously due to potential allergic reactions.
Remember: Apoquel is for Dogs Only!
This medication is strictly for canine use and should never be used by humans.
Key Takeaways for Dog Owners
Stay Informed: Understand the risks associated with Apoquel.
Consult Your Vet: Always discuss potential medications with your veterinarian.
Monitor Your Pet: Keep an eye on your dog for any changes in health while on Apoquel.
FAQs About Apoquel and the FDA Update
Q1: How does Apoquel work in dogs?
A1: Apoquel operates by targeting and inhibiting specific cytokines, which are proteins involved in the body’s inflammatory response. Specifically, it blocks the JAK1 and JAK3 signaling pathways, which play a key role in allergic itch and inflammation in dogs. This targeted action helps reduce itching and discomfort without the broader immune suppression seen with some other treatments.
Q2: What are the signs that my dog might be experiencing adverse effects from Apoquel?
A2: Adverse effects can vary but typically include signs of infection (like lethargy, fever, or unusual discharge), worsening skin conditions, or behavioral changes. It’s crucial to monitor for any unusual symptoms, such as increased scratching despite medication, respiratory issues, or changes in appetite or bowel movements, and consult your vet immediately if these arise.
Q3: Are certain breeds more susceptible to the risks associated with Apoquel?
A3: There’s no definitive research indicating breed-specific risks with Apoquel. However, dogs with a history of immune-mediated diseases, severe infections, or cancer may be at increased risk, regardless of breed. It’s essential to discuss your dog’s breed, history, and overall health with your vet to assess potential risks.
Q4: Can Apoquel be used alongside other medications?
A4: Apoquel can be used with many other medications, including vaccines, antibiotics, and parasiticides. However, it’s vital to inform your vet about all medications and supplements your dog is taking, as certain combinations may require careful monitoring or dosage adjustments.
Q5: Is there an alternative to Apoquel for dogs with allergies?
A5: Yes, there are alternatives. These include other types of oral medications, topical treatments, and even specific diets formulated for dogs with allergies. The choice of alternative depends on the severity and type of your dog’s allergies, as well as their overall health profile. Some dogs may benefit from a combination of lifestyle changes and medical treatments.
Q6: How long does it take for Apoquel to show results?
A6: Apoquel typically begins to reduce itching within 4 hours of the first dose, with significant improvement often seen within 24 hours. However, the response can vary depending on the individual dog and the severity of their condition.
Q7: Can puppies take Apoquel?
A7: Apoquel is approved for use in dogs 12 months of age and older. It’s not recommended for puppies younger than this due to their developing immune systems and the lack of extensive studies in this age group.
Q8: How should Apoquel be stored?
A8: Apoquel should be stored at room temperature, away from direct sunlight and moisture. It’s important to keep it in its original packaging and out of reach of children and pets to prevent accidental ingestion.
Q9: Can Apoquel be used long-term?
A9: Apoquel can be used for both short-term relief and long-term management of allergic itch in dogs. However, long-term use requires regular veterinary check-ups to monitor the dog’s health and adjust the treatment as necessary.
Q10: What should I do if I miss giving my dog a dose of Apoquel?
A10: If you miss a dose, give it as soon as you remember. However, if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and resume the regular schedule. Do not double up doses to make up for the missed one.
Q11: Does Apoquel affect a dog’s mood or behavior?
A11: While Apoquel primarily targets physical symptoms like itching and inflammation, any relief from these discomforts can positively impact a dog’s mood and behavior. However, there are no direct psychoactive properties in Apoquel. If you notice significant behavioral changes, it’s important to consult your vet, as these could be reactions to the medication or underlying health issues.
Q12: Can Apoquel be used in breeding dogs?
A12: The use of Apoquel in breeding dogs is not widely recommended. There is limited research on its effects on reproduction or during pregnancy and lactation. If you have a breeding dog, it’s crucial to discuss safer alternatives with your veterinarian.
Q13: Are there dietary considerations when using Apoquel?
A13: There are no specific dietary restrictions associated with Apoquel. However, maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet is essential for overall health and can support the immune system. For dogs with allergies, a hypoallergenic or limited-ingredient diet might be beneficial and should be discussed with a vet.
Q14: How does long-term use of Apoquel impact a dog’s immune system?
A14: Long-term use of Apoquel can potentially suppress parts of the immune system, making dogs more susceptible to infections and possibly impacting their ability to fight off diseases. Regular veterinary check-ups are crucial to monitor the dog’s immune function and overall health.
Q15: What should I do if my dog shows severe side effects from Apoquel?
A15: If your dog exhibits severe or concerning side effects such as persistent vomiting, severe diarrhea, skin lesions, or unusual lethargy, contact your veterinarian immediately. In such cases, discontinuation of the medication and prompt veterinary care are essential to ensure your dog’s safety.
Q16: Is there a risk of overdose with Apoquel?
A16: Yes, as with any medication, there is a risk of overdose with Apoquel. Signs of overdose may include increased severity of the side effects. It’s important to adhere strictly to the dosage prescribed by your veterinarian and to keep the medication out of reach of pets to prevent accidental ingestion.
Q17: Can Apoquel be used in conjunction with allergy testing?
A17: Yes, Apoquel can be used during allergy testing and may even help stabilize a dog’s condition for more accurate testing. However, it’s important to inform the veterinarian conducting the allergy tests that your dog is on Apoquel, as this may influence the testing process or interpretation of results.
Q18: Are there any specific environmental changes recommended for dogs on Apoquel?
A18: While Apoquel addresses the symptoms of allergies, minimizing exposure to allergens is also beneficial. This can include regular cleaning to reduce dust and dander, using hypoallergenic bedding, and avoiding known allergens in the dog’s environment.
Q19: How does Apoquel compare to steroids in treating allergies in dogs?
A19: Apoquel and steroids both treat allergy symptoms in dogs, but they work differently. Steroids have a broader anti-inflammatory effect but can have more significant side effects, especially with long-term use. Apoquel is more targeted in its action and is often preferred for long-term management due to its safety profile.
Q20: Can Apoquel be stopped abruptly, or does it require tapering off?
A20: Apoquel can generally be stopped without a gradual taper. However, it’s important to follow your veterinarian’s advice on discontinuing any medication. Abruptly stopping Apoquel may lead to a return of allergy symptoms, so a transition plan might be necessary depending on the dog’s condition.