Is Apoquel Safe for Dogs?

Apoquel is an oral medication for allergies that is given to dogs once or twice a day. Like with any drug, there are always risks involved when using Apoquel. The controversy surrounding the use of Apoquel in dogs has caused many owners to ask if Apoquel can kill a dog.

Apoquel Killed My Dog

“My dog was put on Apoquel when it came out. He was a healthy, happy 9-year-old Shih Tzu, who had never had skin issues. He started shaking and vomiting 3 days after the first dose. I immediately took him off the drug and his vomiting stopped, but he continued to shake for about a week. I called the vet and reported this to them. That night he started having seizures that lasted for about 3 minutes.”

“My dog had skin issues. He was itchy and uncomfortable. We tried everything. Natural remedies, baths, diet changes, and even a couple of prescriptions from the vet. Nothing worked for long. So I took him to a vet. The vet prescribed Apoquel (oclacitinib maleate), which is promoted by Zoetis as ‘A new kind of itch relief.’ It was supposed to be better than other options for itch relief. My dog seemed to get better over the next few days. The itching stopped, he had more energy and his coat was looking really good again. Then he started having problems with infections in his ears, on his skin, and in his eyes. Antibiotics were no longer effective in controlling these infections, so the wounds didn’t heal properly and left open sores all over his body.”

Apoquel killed my dog?

Apoquel appears to have a much safer side effect profile than the steroid, cyclosporine, and other immunosuppressive drugs used in veterinary medicine. However, there are still some issues that dog owners need to be aware of before giving this drug to their best friend.

Apoquel has been linked to problems such as:

  • Toxicity
  • Contraindications
  • Side effects
  • Allergic reactions

The most common adverse reaction associated with APOQUEL is vomiting. Other less frequently reported adverse reactions include diarrhea, lethargy/depression, anorexia, and liver or kidney problem.

If your dog is taking APOQUEL and you observe any of these signs, inform your veterinarian as soon as possible. In some cases, signs may resolve on their own without the need for a change in treatment. However, if the side effects are serious (e.g., your dog is experiencing repeated vomiting or diarrhea), your veterinarian may need to discontinue APOQUEL and prescribe an alternative treatment option.

If your dog develops hives, swelling, or difficulty breathing after being given Apoquel or any other medication, call a vet immediately. This is an allergic reaction that can be very dangerous.

Apoquel has contraindications or negative interactions with other medications. If you give it to your dog, you might have to stop giving them other drugs that have been prescribed by your veterinarian. This can be problematic if your dog is taking a prescription for another condition, such as parasitic skin infestations or cancers.

What happens if you give a dog too much Apoquel?

An overdose of Apoquel may cause the following:

  • Alopecia (local)
  • Papilloma
  • Dermatitis
  • Erythema
  • Abrasions and scabbing/crusts
  • Interdigital “cysts”
  • Edema of the feet

While Apoquel is safe for most dogs, it can suppress the immune system or have other adverse effects in some individuals.

Because of this, Apoquel should be used only under the supervision of a veterinarian. You should always follow your vet’s instructions exactly and contact the office immediately if you have any concerns or questions about your dog’s health while using Apoquel.

Is there an alternative to Apoquel for dogs?

There are several other options when it comes to treating your dog’s allergies.

Allergy shots

This is the most effective treatment for allergies. It will help your dog over time by slowly introducing allergens to your dog’s system. You will need to take your dog to your vet every few weeks for a shot and eventually, his body will get used to the allergens and won’t develop an allergic reaction anymore.


Cytopoint was created by Zoetis and can be used in conjunction with Apoquel. Cytopoint works by blocking a certain protein in the dog’s body that triggers itching. This medication only needs to be given once every 4-8 weeks, whereas Apoquel needs to be given twice daily. It is also a newer medication and there have been no reported side effects, whereas Apoquel can cause some side effects like vomiting and diarrhea.


Atopica is an alternative drug that you may find helpful instead of Apoquel. It is a prescription immunosuppressant that helps to reduce inflammation from allergies by calming the immune system down. Some common side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, and decreased appetite.

Over-the-counter drugs

These are drugs that you can buy at the store without a prescription. They are not as effective as Apoquel but they do have fewer side effects. Benadryl is one of these drugs and it can be used to treat symptoms of allergies.

Apoquel reviews from dog owners

Apoquel reviews show it to be an effective treatment for dogs with allergies that cause itching. According to Zoetis, 90% of Apoquel users saw improvement in itching after one day of use, and 94% saw improvement within two weeks.

“We used Apoquel for our dog who had been scratching herself constantly to the point of bleeding. As soon as we started using it she stopped scratching and was back to her normal self. We have given her Apoquel for almost 2 months now and still no side effects. Thank you so much for making this medication available! We would have spent thousands of dollars on vet bills if we didn’t have access to it.”

“I have a 7-year-old Shih Tzu who is allergic to everything. He has been on Apoquel for 2 weeks now and I have noticed a vast improvement in his skin and itching. I have tried every medicine for allergies both oral & topical and this has worked the best so far. No side effects, but it is expensive if you don’t have pet insurance, which I do not. I would highly recommend this medicine to anyone with a pet that suffers from itching and scratching due to skin allergies.”

“This product really works well for my dog who scratches constantly due to allergies. It’s not cheap but worth the price to ease his discomfort! It’s also quick acting; within several hours he stopped scratching!”

“My vet recommended this drug and I am so glad she did. I was a little concerned about the side effects but after waiting 2 weeks to see if there were any problems I gave it a try. The first two days he seemed restless, not sure if it was a reaction or just him adjusting to being itchy but he calmed down on day 3 and has not had an itch since then. This has been going on for over 6 months now and his skin looks better than ever. He also seems to feel better too.”

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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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