Apoquel (Oclacitinib Maleate) for Treating Allergies in Dogs

    Treating dogs with allergies can be difficult. Ideally, I like to test them to see what is causing their allergies and then remove those elements from their environment. If the allergen can’t be removed, I place the dog on desensitization therapy by injecting the dog with small amounts of the allergen. But not all dogs respond to this therapy. In addition, some people cannot afford this kind of treatment. For these dogs, steroids or cyclosporine have long been a mainstay for keeping them comfortable. Unfortunately, cyclosporine is very expensive and steroids are associated with unwanted side affects. Now, there is a new drug to help keep dogs with allergies comfortable. 

    Apoquel (Oclacitinib Maleate) by Zoetis is another therapy for itchy dogs. Apoquel stops itch by targeting the cytokines that cause inflammation and scratching. The most common side affects are vomiting and diarrhea. Apoquel does not cause excessive thirst and urination which are often associated with steroid therapy.  It should not be used in dogs less than a year of age or in dogs with concurrent infections. Besides treating flea allergies, contact allergies and atopic dermatitis, the drug is reported to also control food allergies. What excites me the most about this drug is that it can be given to dogs while they are being tested. It can also be used with NSAIDS used to treat osteoarthritis.  

    Unfortunately, Apoquel may cause problems in some dogs. According to Zoetis, this drug may increase a dog’s susceptibility to infections, pneumonia and Demodex mange. It may exacerbate certain types of cancer as well.  Please note this drug is not for use in breeding or lactating dogs. 

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Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.