Apoquel vs. Claritin for Dogs

Allergies in dogs can be a frustrating ordeal for pet owners. Symptoms such as itchiness, redness, and discomfort can be distressing to witness. As a result, many pet owners find themselves wondering which medication is the most effective and safe option for their furry friend. Among the common options available, Apoquel and Claritin stand out.

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FAQs About Apoquel and Claritin for Dogs

Understanding Allergies in Dogs

Before diving into the specifics of each drug, it’s essential to understand what causes allergies in dogs. Allergies occur when a dog’s immune system overreacts to everyday substances. The resultant inflammatory response can lead to itching, redness, and other symptoms.

Apoquel: The Targeted Allergy Medication

What is Apoquel?

Apoquel is an oral medication designed specifically for dogs to treat itching associated with allergic and atopic dermatitis. It works by targeting specific cytokine molecules, inhibiting the itch sensation almost immediately.


Fast-acting relief.

Specifically designed for dogs.

Effective for various allergies.


It’s an immunosuppressant, which means it can reduce the dog’s ability to combat certain infections.

Might be more expensive than over-the-counter antihistamines.

Claritin: The Over-the-Counter Antihistamine

What is Claritin?

Claritin (loratadine) is an over-the-counter antihistamine used to treat allergies in humans. Veterinarians sometimes prescribe it off-label for dogs.


Easily available.

Non-drowsy formula.


Antihistamines address histamine reactions, which are only a small part of a dog’s allergy problems.

Dosage must be accurate, and not all dogs will respond equally.

Comparing Apoquel and Claritin

Efficacy: While both drugs can offer relief, Apoquel often provides faster and more targeted relief due to its specialized design for dogs. However, some dogs might respond well to Claritin, especially if their allergies are milder.

Safety: Both drugs are generally safe when administered correctly. Apoquel, being an immunosuppressant, might pose a risk for extended usage. Claritin’s main concern is ensuring the correct dosage and ensuring the product doesn’t contain additional ingredients harmful to dogs, like pseudoephedrine.

Cost: Claritin, being an over-the-counter medication, might be cheaper than Apoquel. However, the effectiveness and number of doses required can influence the overall expense.

The Vet’s Recommendation

It’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian before making a decision. They can provide insights into your dog’s specific condition, severity of allergies, and other health considerations. While Apoquel is often preferred for its fast action and specialized design, Claritin can be an alternative for dogs with milder symptoms or for those on a tight budget.

In Conclusion

Apoquel and Claritin both offer avenues of relief for dogs suffering from allergies. While Apoquel is specifically designed for dogs and provides targeted relief, Claritin is an accessible over-the-counter option. It’s essential to weigh the pros and cons, cost considerations, and, most importantly, consult with your vet to determine the best course of action for your canine companion.

FAQs About Apoquel and Claritin for Dogs

1. Can I switch between Apoquel and Claritin based on availability?

Answer: While both medications address allergy symptoms, they function differently. Apoquel directly targets molecules that cause itching, whereas Claritin is an antihistamine. It’s essential to maintain consistency with medication unless advised otherwise by a vet. Switching between them without guidance might confuse the treatment plan and be less effective in managing symptoms.

2. Are there any long-term side effects of using Apoquel for my dog?

Answer: Some dogs on long-term Apoquel have experienced side effects like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and in rare cases, susceptibility to infections due to its immunosuppressant nature. Always monitor your dog’s health and report any unusual signs to your veterinarian.

3. How do I determine the correct dosage of Claritin for my dog?

Answer: Dosage is crucial, especially for over-the-counter human medications. The general guideline is 0.5 mg of Claritin per pound of the dog’s weight once a day. However, it’s essential to consult your veterinarian before administering any dosage to ensure safety and effectiveness.

4. What are the signs that my dog might be allergic to a medication?

Answer: Allergic reactions can manifest as hives, swelling (often around the face), difficulty breathing, vomiting, or diarrhea. If you observe any of these symptoms after administering medication, seek veterinary care immediately.

5. If neither Apoquel nor Claritin is effective, what are my other options?

Answer: Other than Apoquel and Claritin, there are alternative treatments like Cytopoint, a newer injectable medication, or natural remedies, dietary changes, and topical treatments. It’s essential to discuss with a veterinarian who can provide guidance based on your dog’s specific needs.

6. Are there natural remedies I can consider for dog allergies?

Answer: Yes, natural remedies like oatmeal baths, coconut oil, and certain herbal supplements might offer relief for some dogs. However, their effectiveness varies, and they might be more suitable for milder symptoms. Always discuss any natural treatments with your vet to ensure they’re safe and suitable for your dog.

7. Can I administer human antihistamines other than Claritin to my dog?

Answer: There are other human antihistamines that veterinarians might recommend, such as Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) or Zyrtec (Cetirizine). However, it’s vital to consult your vet about dosages and to ensure you’re using a version without added ingredients that could be toxic to dogs.

8. How soon can I expect to see improvement in my dog after starting medication?

Answer: Apoquel often shows noticeable improvement within 4-24 hours of the first dose. Claritin might take a bit longer, and its effectiveness can vary among dogs. If you don’t observe any improvement after several days, consult your vet to reassess the treatment plan.

9. Is it safe to give my dog other supplements or medications alongside Apoquel or Claritin?

Answer: Always inform your vet about any other medications, supplements, or treatments your dog is receiving. Some drugs can interact or interfere with each other, so it’s essential to ensure compatibility for your pet’s safety.

10. Are allergies seasonal, or can my dog suffer from them year-round?

Answer: Dogs can suffer from both seasonal and year-round allergies. Seasonal allergies often relate to pollen, grasses, or molds, while non-seasonal allergies can be triggered by dust mites, certain foods, or other environmental factors. Identifying the cause can help tailor an effective treatment plan.

11. How do I differentiate between food allergies and environmental allergies in my dog?

Answer: Differentiating can be challenging, but certain signs might provide clues. Food allergies often manifest as skin issues, chronic ear infections, or gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea. Environmental allergies typically cause symptoms at specific times of the year. For a definitive diagnosis, your vet might suggest an elimination diet or specific allergy testing.

12. Are there breeds more prone to allergies than others?

Answer: While any dog can develop allergies, some breeds, like Golden Retrievers, Bulldogs, and Terriers, have a higher predisposition. Knowing your breed’s tendencies can help in early detection and management.

13. Can my dog build resistance to Apoquel or Claritin over time?

Answer: Some dogs might experience reduced efficacy with long-term use, but this isn’t universally observed. Regular check-ins with your vet can help adjust treatment plans as needed.

14. What should I do if I miss giving a dose to my dog?

Answer: If you miss a dose, administer 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.

15. How do topical treatments compare to oral medications for allergies?

Answer: Topical treatments, such as creams or sprays, provide localized relief and can be beneficial for specific problem areas. Oral medications address systemic symptoms and are often more comprehensive in their approach. The best treatment often depends on the severity and location of your dog’s symptoms.

16. Is there a risk of overdose with Apoquel or Claritin?

Answer: Overdosing is possible and can be harmful. Signs might include vomiting, lethargy, or more severe reactions. If you suspect an overdose, seek veterinary care immediately.

17. Can I combine treatments, such as giving both Claritin and a natural remedy simultaneously?

Answer: While combining treatments might seem like a way to maximize relief, it’s crucial to avoid potential drug or remedy interactions. Always discuss combination treatments with your vet before implementing them.

18. What lifestyle changes can I implement to support my dog’s allergy treatment?

Answer: Regularly cleaning your home, using hypoallergenic dog beds, providing a balanced diet, and using air purifiers can reduce allergen exposure. Regular baths can also help in removing allergens from your dog’s skin and coat.

19. Are there any specific foods that can help alleviate allergy symptoms in dogs?

Answer: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oils, have natural anti-inflammatory properties and can help alleviate some allergy symptoms. However, it’s essential to ensure the right dosage and source for your dog’s size and needs.

20. If my dog has been on Apoquel for an extended period, is it safe to stop abruptly?

Answer: It’s always best to consult your veterinarian about any changes to medication routines. Abrupt cessation might cause a resurgence in allergy symptoms or other unintended effects. Your vet can provide guidance on safely reducing or transitioning off a medication.

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