Apoquel: Long-Term Use in Dogs

Dog owners have been increasingly turning to Apoquel for relief from their canine companions’ allergies. As the demand for Apoquel rises, questions regarding its long-term safety and efficacy also surge.

What is Apoquel?

Apoquel, or its generic name oclacitinib, is a drug prescribed for dogs suffering from allergies. Manufactured by Zoetis, Apoquel works to control itching (pruritus) resulting from allergic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis in dogs.

Apoquel’s Mechanism of Action

Apoquel functions by targeting and inhibiting specific enzymes involved in the production of allergic response chemicals in a dog’s body. By doing so, it offers a quick relief from itching without resorting to steroids, which might come with side effects.

Is Long-Term Use Safe?

Clinical Perspectives:

After a decade on the market, Apoquel continues to be a leading treatment for canine atopic dermatitis. This suggests that its prolonged efficacy is noteworthy.

However, like all medications, it is crucial to understand that while Apoquel is beneficial, it’s not devoid of potential side effects.

Pet Owner Experiences:

Many pet owners have found Apoquel effective. Anecdotal accounts, especially on platforms like Reddit’s r/dogs, highlight dogs being on this drug for years with positive outcomes. These reports often stress the importance of periodic vet checks and blood work.

Potential Side Effects and Concerns

  1. Infections: Some studies have pointed out that Apoquel can result in a higher propensity for infections.
  2. Cancer: There have been concerns about the potential increased risk of cancer with Apoquel. However, more research is required to validate these claims.
  3. Other side effects: Some dogs may experience vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or anorexia.

Regular Monitoring: A Must

For dogs on Apoquel, especially in the long-term, veterinarians often recommend bi-annual or annual blood work. This is to ensure the dog’s overall health and catch any potential side effects early on.

Alternatives to Apoquel

For dog owners wary of Apoquel’s long-term use, there are alternatives:

  1. Cyclosporine: Another medication used for allergies in dogs.
  2. Immunotherapy: A long-term solution where dogs are given small doses of allergens to build resistance over time.
  3. Natural Remedies: Some pet owners have found success using natural anti-inflammatories like fish oil or turmeric.


Apoquel is a game-changer for many dogs suffering from relentless itching due to allergies. While its long-term use is generally deemed safe, it is of utmost importance to have regular vet check-ups and blood tests. This ensures any potential issues are detected early. As always, dog owners should work closely with their vets to make the best health decisions for their furry companions.

FAQs About Apoquel

1. How quickly does Apoquel take effect?

Apoquel typically starts reducing itching within 4 hours for most dogs, with maximum effect seen within 24 hours. This rapid response makes it a preferred choice among many veterinarians and pet owners for immediate relief.

2. Can puppies take Apoquel?

Apoquel is approved for dogs 12 months of age and older. It hasn’t been tested extensively in puppies under 12 months, and therefore, its safety in younger dogs remains undetermined. Always consult with a veterinarian before administering any medication to puppies.

3. Can Apoquel be used alongside other medications?

Yes, in most cases. Apoquel has been shown to be safe for use with many other common medications, including NSAIDs (like carprofen) and vaccines. However, interactions between medications can vary, so always inform your veterinarian about any other drugs your dog is currently taking.

4. Are there any dietary considerations while on Apoquel?

There aren’t specific dietary restrictions associated with Apoquel. However, it’s beneficial to maintain a balanced diet for your dog, especially if allergies are food-related. Some veterinarians recommend hypoallergenic or limited-ingredient diets to complement the treatment.

5. How is Apoquel administered?

Apoquel is an oral tablet and can be given with or without food. The standard dosing starts with twice daily administration for up to 14 days, followed by once daily. Dosing can vary based on your dog’s specific needs and the veterinarian’s recommendations.

6. What if I miss giving my dog a dose?

If you forget a dose, administer it as soon as you remember. If it’s close to the time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and resume the regular dosing schedule. Do not double up on doses.

7. How should Apoquel be stored?

Apoquel should be stored at controlled room temperature, away from moisture and direct sunlight. Always keep it out of reach of children and pets to prevent accidental ingestion.

8. Can Apoquel be used for cats?

Apoquel is specifically formulated for dogs. While there are anecdotal reports of off-label use in cats, it’s crucial to approach such decisions with caution and veterinary guidance. There hasn’t been extensive research on Apoquel’s effects on felines.

9. What happens if I want to discontinue Apoquel?

If you’re considering stopping Apoquel, it’s recommended to consult with your veterinarian. They can provide guidance on tapering the dose and offer alternative treatment options if needed.

10. Are there any signs that my dog might be reacting adversely to Apoquel?

While rare, some dogs might exhibit side effects like persistent vomiting, diarrhea, new lumps or growths, or changes in behavior. If any of these symptoms are observed, it’s essential to seek veterinary attention immediately.

11. Can Apoquel cause weight gain in dogs?

While Apoquel primarily targets itchiness and inflammation, it doesn’t have a direct link to weight gain. However, reduced itching might make a dog more comfortable and less active, which, if not balanced with proper diet, could lead to weight changes. Monitor your dog’s weight and activity levels and discuss any concerns with your veterinarian.

12. Does Apoquel affect the immune system?

Apoquel works by targeting specific cytokines that trigger itch and inflammation, without affecting the entire immune response. However, extended use may result in a more generalized immunosuppression, which is why regular vet check-ups and occasional blood tests are recommended for long-term Apoquel users.

13. Is there an alternative to Apoquel for itch relief?

There are several alternatives to Apoquel for treating itchiness in dogs, including steroids, cyclosporine, and biologic injections like Cytopoint. Each option has its pros and cons, and what works best will depend on the individual dog’s condition and needs.

14. How does Apoquel compare to antihistamines?

Unlike Apoquel, antihistamines target histamine release, which is just one of many itch-causing pathways. While they can be useful for some dogs, antihistamines often don’t address the itch’s root cause as effectively as Apoquel. They might also cause drowsiness in some dogs.

15. Can I use Apoquel for acute flare-ups of allergies?

Yes, Apoquel can be used for both chronic and acute flare-ups. It’s particularly useful for its rapid onset of action, often providing relief within hours.

16. Can Apoquel be used long-term?

Apoquel is designed for both short-term and long-term use. For dogs with chronic conditions requiring extended treatment, veterinarians often recommend periodic blood tests to ensure no adverse systemic effects develop over time.

17. Does Apoquel treat the allergy or just the symptoms?

Apoquel primarily addresses the symptoms, especially itching and inflammation. It doesn’t cure the underlying allergy. Managing the root cause of the allergy, such as environmental triggers or food allergens, is crucial for comprehensive care.

18. Is Apoquel safe for breeding dogs?

The safety of Apoquel has not been tested in breeding dogs, pregnant bitches, or lactating bitches. If your dog falls into one of these categories, a detailed discussion with a veterinarian is essential before starting the medication.

19. Will my dog need blood tests if on Apoquel?

For dogs on long-term Apoquel therapy, periodic blood tests might be recommended. These tests monitor organ function and ensure that the medication isn’t causing any unnoticed systemic issues.

20. If my dog has liver or kidney disease, can they take Apoquel?

If your dog has an existing liver or kidney condition, it’s vital to discuss this with your veterinarian before starting Apoquel. Regular monitoring and blood tests might be necessary to ensure the medication doesn’t exacerbate the condition.

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