Apoquel for Dogs - Uses, Dosage and Side Effects

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. December 14, 2023
Apoquel for Dogs - Uses, Dosage and Side Effects

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Apoquel is a drug used to treat the symptoms which appear during cases of atopic dermatitis. This is a prolonged inflammation of the skin which causes redness, itching and purulent discharge in advanced cases. These symptoms can be very upsetting for the dog and put them at risk of complications such as secondary bacterial infection. This will cause the lesions to worsen and the dermatitis to spread, something which can be very harmful to the dog. Managing these symptoms and helping to prevent their return needs to be actioned immediately. This is where drugs like Apoquel come in.

At AnimalWised, we find out all about Apoquel for dogs. Specifically, we look at its uses, dosage and side effects of this drug, as well as anything else you may need to know if it has been prescribed for your dog.

You may also be interested in: Apoquel for Cats - Dosage and Side Effects
  1. What is Apoquel for dogs?
  2. Apoquel dosage for dogs
  3. Uses of Apoquel for dogs
  4. Side effects of apoquel in dogs
  5. Does Apoquel make dogs sleepy?
  6. Contraindications of apoquel in dogs

What is Apoquel for dogs?

The active ingredient in Apoquel is oclacitinib, a drug used in veterinary medicine that acts as a Janus kinase inhibitor (JAK). This means it alters or stops the effect of Janus kinase enzymes which are involved in the dog's immune response. By specifically acting on this variety of cytokines, side effects of inhibiting cytokines involved in physiological processes such as innate immunity or hematopoiesis are avoided. It is for this reason Apoquel is one of the drugs of choice in atopic dermatitis.

Atopic dermatitis is a skin pathology in dogs that is characterized by the manifestation of symmetrical erythematous and pruritic lesions distributed in the armpits, groin, abdomen, periocular area, ear pinna and other areas. If the veterinarian suspects our dog suffers from atopic dermatitis, they must exclude other possible causes of itching and skin inflammation such as ectoparasites, food allergies or many other causes of dog skin diseases.

It is most common for dogs to start developing atopic dermatitis at less than 3 years of age. It is generally linked to their immune response, being related to a hypersensitivity to environmental allergens. It has been observed that dogs with atopic dermatitis may have their skin barrier altered, meaning it is easier for allergens to affect their skin tissue.

Learn more with our article on the different types of dermatitis in dogs.

Apoquel for Dogs - Uses, Dosage and Side Effects - What is Apoquel for dogs?

Apoquel dosage for dogs

The effect of Apoquel in dogs is rapid. Results may be observed as little as four hours after its administration. The first 14 days of use usually requires a double dose of Apoquel, being lowered after this time. The exact effective dosage will depend on the individual dog and be determined by your veterinarian. It is usually administered daily with the total daily dose being divided into morning and evening administrations.

Generally speaking, the initial dose of Apoquel for dogs is 0.8 to 0.12 mg oclacitinib per kilogram of weight. The maintenance dose is 0.4 to 0.6 mg oclacitinib per kg. It will be the veterinarian who will indicate the most appropriate dose for each case. We should never self-medicate our dog without the specialist's approval.

Offering an inappropriate dose not only can sometimes have serious consequences, but it is also possible that we are giving the wrong drug. The administration of Apoquel for dogs can be with or without food.

Uses of Apoquel for dogs

The use of Apoquel for dogs is mostly limited to the treatment of atopic dermatitis. However, it can also be used as an acute treatment of itching in another pruritic diseases. This includes those generated by parasites in which it is essential to treat the cause simultaneously.

Apoquel alone should not be the only treatment used for atopic dermatitis, it should be complemented with:

  • Other pharmacological agents that treat the symptoms. These include corticosteroids, cyclosporine and others. Learn more about the types of corticosteroids that are available for dogs.

  • Medicated shampoo and other topical products help maintain hygiene and care for the epidermal barrier. Bathing with specific shampoos can eliminate the allergen load and at the same time restore the integrity of the skin. Topical gels or ointments can be used to treat localized areas.

  • Immunotherapy is also used to treat the cause. It is the administration of specific vaccines that are applied after performing serological and dermal tests or a new injectable drug called lokivetmab, which is a monoclonal antibody.

  • The dog's immune system needs to be supported through diet and, potentially, nutritional supplements (such as essential fatty acids for dogs).

Apoquel can be used both as part of acute and chronic treatment for various conditions. This will take into account that atopic dermatitis in dogs is chronic and the control of its symptoms must be lifelong.

Apoquel for Dogs - Uses, Dosage and Side Effects - Uses of Apoquel for dogs

Side effects of apoquel in dogs

Safety studies indicate that Apoquel does not have the side effects produced by other drugs such as corticosteroids or cyclosporine for dogs. Furthermore, it does not interfere with other drugs such as vaccines, NSAIDs, antiparasitic drugs, insulin and others.

When modulating the immune system, we must monitor inflammatory or neoplastic conditions and/or infections in our dogs, since they can be exacerbated. Since it is often used a chronic treatment, periodic review tests are recommended. Since it is a relatively new drug, its long-term effects are not well known.

Does Apoquel make dogs sleepy?

While side effects of Apoquel for dogs are generally minimal, each dog may react differently. It is not generally known to cause a dog to become sleepy or drowsy. However, it is possible your dog might experience some mild lethargy when taking the drug. This could simply be due to the medication taking action and allowing your dog the opportunity to recover.

Serious lethargy or apathy is not a known side effect of Apoquel in dogs. If you see your canine is experiencing these symptoms, you should speak to a veterinarian immediately for advice.

Contraindications of apoquel in dogs

Although Apoquel for dogs does not have many known side effects, it is necessary to highlight that there are a series of cases in which its administration is not advisable. If the dog has any type of allergic reaction or hypersensitivity to the active ingredient, it is essential to withdraw the treatment and go to the veterinarian. This is especially the case if the dog goes into anaphylactic shock.

It is not advisable to give Apoquel to pregnant or lactating dogs. Neither is it advisable to give to puppies less than one year old without the consent of the veterinarian.

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 Dogs - Uses, Dosage and Side Effects, we recommend you visit our Medicine category.

  • Zoetis. Information about your dog's treatment. Retrieved from:
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Apoquel for Dogs - Uses, Dosage and Side Effects