Apoquel for Cats - Dosage and Side Effects

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. December 27, 2022
Apoquel for Cats - Dosage and Side Effects

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Apoquel is the brand name of a veterinary drug called oclacitinib, which is commonly used to treat dermatological conditions such as dermatitis. Dermatitis is the most common sign of skin diseases in both cats and dogs and can be caused by various underlying diseases. In recent years, studies have been conducted to determine whether Apoquel might also work on cats to treat the same conditions.

The following AnimalWised article will tell you everything you need to know about the Apoquel in cats, its uses, dosages, side effects and contraindications.

You may also be interested in: Mirtazapine for Cats - Dosage and Side Effects

What is Apoquel and how does it work?

Apoquel is the brand name of a veterinary drug called oclacitinib. This drug is approved for the treatment of atopic dermatitis and allergy-related pruritus in dogs. However, it has also been used to relieve pruritus and dermatitis due to flea infestation. It is considered highly effective in dogs and has been shown to be safe, at least for short-term use.

Oclacitinib is neither a corticosteroid nor an antihistamine, but modulates the production of signaling molecules called cytokines in some cells. In other words, it causes the inhibition of pro-inflammatory and pruritogenic (itch-causing) cytokines. Cytokines involved in skin allergies bind to specific cell receptors and trigger a cascade of intracellular events that cause itching and inflammation. Cytokines are protein messages sent from one cell to another that stimulate the receptor cell to act.

Oclacitinib is well absorbed when taken orally. In most dogs, itching begins to subside within four hours and disappears completely within 24 hours.

While oclacitinib is a very effective and fast-acting antipruritic agent, the decision of when to use it depends on several factors. Atopic dermatitis is often a complex disease that requires a multifaceted approach. In many cases, symptomatic therapy with drugs such as oclacitinib alone is not sufficient to control the allergy in the long term.

Further studies are needed to confirm the effect of Oclacitinib in non-allergic diseases and to find out what other immune-mediated mechanisms may be involved.

You may also be interested in this other article where we talk about atopic dermatitis in cats, its causes, symptoms, and treatment.

Apoquel for Cats - Dosage and Side Effects - What is Apoquel and how does it work?

What is Apoquel for cats used for?

As we have already mentioned, Apoquel is a medication designed for use in dogs. However, the efficacy and safety of this drug is currently being studied in other animal species, particularly cats.

Apoquel has generally been shown to be effective in treating pruritus (itching) in cats with dermatologic conditions, but these studies are ongoing. In addition, Apoquel has been shown to be effective in controlling respiratory inflammation in cats with feline asthma.

This makes Apoquel an effective therapeutic option for the control of pruritus in certain feline skin disorders, such as:

  • Feline atopic dermatitis
  • Food allergies
  • Environmental allergies
  • Insect bite allergies
  • Inflammation associated with feline asthma

Apoquel has yet to be thoroughly studied in cats. Until further data are available, the drug should be used with caution and monitored closely. Now that we have learned how Apoquel is used in cats, let us find out what the dosage should be.

You may also be interested in this other article, where we explore the most common food allergies in cats.

Apoquel for Cats - Dosage and Side Effects - What is Apoquel for cats used for?

Dosage of Apoquel for cats

As Apoquel is a drug intended for dogs, the fact sheet focuses exclusively on Apoquel's doses and dosages in dogs. However, studies conducted on the use of Apoquel in cats have provided relevant information on the effective dose of this drug in cats.

One of the studies conducted that specifically examined the pharmacokinetics of Apoquel in cats documented that the rate of absorption and excretion of the drug is faster in cats than in dogs. Therefore, it may be advisable to use slightly higher doses and/or shorter dosing intervals in cats to achieve blood concentrations equivalent to the recommended dosing in dogs.

In particular, the following dosage was used in the studies conducted in cats:

  • Between 0.4 and 1.2 mg/kg body weight, 2 times a day, for 24–28 days.

However, these data should be used with caution and are only an approximation, as there is as yet no basic information on the safe and effective dose of Apoquel in cats. As usual, we recommend consulting your veterinarian to find out the most appropriate solution for your cat's situation.

You may also be interested in this other article, where we talk about feline solar dermatitis, its causes, symptoms, and treatment.

Side effects of Apoquel for cats

Due to its ability to inhibit certain proinflammatory enzymes that regulate inflammation and itching, Apoquel has a beneficial pharmacological effect. However, its action on other cytokines leads to the occurrence of a number of side effects that must be taken into account, as they can have a significant impact on the health of the treated animals.

In general, the most relevant side effects of oclatitinib (the active ingredient in Apoquel) are due to two reasons:

  • Impairs immune system function: it increases susceptibility to infections and promotes exacerbation of tumors or neoplasms.

  • Impairs hematopoiesis (synthesis of blood cells): This alters some blood cell counts and some biochemical parameters.

Specifically, the following adverse effects have been reported in association with the administration of Apoquel in cats:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased numbers of some blood cells
  • Change in certain biochemical parameters
  • Immunosuppression

This other article about cat warts might be of interest to you, since these skin lesions usually appear when the cat's immune system is weak.

Apoquel for Cats - Dosage and Side Effects - Side effects of Apoquel for cats

Contraindications of Apoquel for cats

As we have already explained, Apoquel could be an effective drug for the treatment of feline dermatitis or feline asthma. However, its use could be contraindicated in some situations, such as:

  • In pregnant and lactating cats: as the safety of this veterinary drug during pregnancy, lactation or reproduction has not been established.

  • Vaccinations: In dogs, there are studies reporting that puppies treated with oclacitinib appear to have a poorer serologic response to certain live vaccines.

  • Immunocompromised cats, cats with infectious diseases, or with malignant tumors: as the drug may impair immune system function and exacerbate these pathologic conditions.

Finally, Apoquel cannot be given to cats allergic to oclacitinib or any of its excipients.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Apoquel for Cats - Dosage and Side Effects, we recommend you visit our Medicine category.

  • Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products. Data sheet or summary of product characteristics: Apoquel 16 mg chewable tablets for dogs . Available at:
  • Mueller, RS, Nuttall, T., Prost, C., Schulz, B., & Bizikova, P. (2021). Treatment of the feline atopic syndrome - a systematic review. Veterinary dermatology, 32(1), 43–e8.

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