What Is Apoquel for Dogs? Explained!

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Author: Jeanette Hampton

You must be wondering “What is Apoquel for dogs?” It is a medicine designed to help our dogs when they have itchy skin and inflammation. It’s like a superhero medicine💊 that comes to the rescue when dogs feel uncomfortable.

What Is Apoquel for Dogs

Here in this guide, we will learn what Apoquel is and how it is important for our dogs. So without further ado let’s dive in and discover the relief of Apoquel for dogs.🐶

What Is Apoquel for Dogs?

Apoquel is the brand name for the drug oclacitinib. It is classified as an immunosuppressive medicine and is prescribed by vets to treat itching and inflammation in dogs.🐶

The itching and inflammation that Apoquel targets is called pruritus in medical language. Pruritus is a common skin condition in dogs that causes intense itching, scratching, licking, and skin damage. It can be caused by a variety of underlying factors like allergies, insect bites,🦟 infections, and immune disorders[1].

“Apoquel works by blocking certain immune system enzymes called Janus kinases. These enzymes are involved in causing itching and inflammation. By blocking these enzymes, Apoquel stops the itching and inflammation. This helps break the itch-scratch cycle so a dog’s skin can heal”, confirms Rania Gollakner from VCA Hospitals.

dog rolling on the grass due to itching
The main reason vets🧑‍⚕️ prescribe Apoquel is to give dogs relief from severe itching and skin inflammation that other treatments haven't fully controlled. It provides comfort when dogs are constantly scratching, licking, and irritated from skin conditions that cause itching.

How Does Apoquel Work?

Apoquel contains special ingredients that tell the dog’s body to slow down on its “itchy” response. You see, when dogs have itchy skin, it’s often because their immune system is being a bit too overprotective.

It releases certain substances that make the skin super itchy and swollen. Apoquel steps in and tells the dog’s body to stop making those substances.

It’s like saying, “Hey, calm down, we don’t need all this itching and swelling!” By doing that, it helps the dog feel more comfortable because the itchiness and redness start to go away.

So, Apoquel is like a superhero who talks to the dog’s body and says, “Chill out, no more itchiness!”

Common Uses of Apoquel for Dog

Apoquel is a helpful medicine for dogs because it tackles some common troubles they face, like allergies and atopic dermatitis.

  • Allergies: Dogs can be allergic to things in the air, like pollen, or to ingredients in their food. When they have allergies, they might start itching and scratching like crazy. Apoquel comes to the rescue by calming down this itchiness, so dogs can relax and feel better.❤️‍🩹
What Is Apoquel for Dogs
  • Atopic Dermatitis: This is a fancy way of saying skin irritation caused by allergies. Dogs with atopic dermatitis often have itchy and red skin. Apoquel works like magic here too. It tells the dog’s body to stop making the skin so itchy and red, providing relief.


Now, let’s talk about how to give Apoquel to dogs:

Your vet will decide the right amount of Apoquel based on your dog’s size and condition. They’ll give you specific instructions. Usually, you give Apoquel to your dog with food to help it work better.

It’s important to stick to the schedule📅 your vet gives you. Don’t skip doses, and don’t give your dog more than the vet advises.

Benefits of Apoquel

Apoquel stands out as a valuable option for managing itching and inflammation in dogs. Here’s why it’s often chosen over some other treatments:

  • Speedy Relief: One of the top advantages of Apoquel is how quickly it works.⌛ Within just a few hours, dogs often start to feel relief from itching and discomfort. This speedy action can make a big difference, especially when a dog is really itchy and uncomfortable.
  • Reduced Side Effects: Compared to certain alternative medications, Apoquel tends to have fewer side effects. Some other treatments may lead to drowsiness or upset stomach in dogs, but Apoquel is known for causing fewer of these unwanted effects.
dog scratching on the grass due to itching
  • Convenience: Apoquel is available in tablet form, which is usually easy to give to dogs. This can be more convenient than some treatments that require ointments or special shampoos.🧴
  • Long-term Use: Dogs with chronic itching issues may need long-term treatment. Apoquel can be used for extended periods under the guidance of a vet, providing a consistent solution to the problem.

Potential Side Effects

While Apoquel is usually well-tolerated by dogs, like any medication, it can sometimes bring about side effects. These can vary📊 in harshness:

  • Mild Side Effects: Some dogs may experience an upset tummy, leading to occasional vomiting. Loose or more frequent stools can occur in a few cases. Your dog might seem a bit more tired than usual, but this is usually temporary.
  • Severe Side Effects: Apoquel can weaken the immune system, making your dog slightly more vulnerable to infections. If your dog shows signs of illness, contact your vet.🧑‍⚕️ In very rare cases, some tumours may develop.

It’s important to remember that the majority of dogs tolerate Apoquel well without experiencing any side effects. But if you notice any sudden changes please reach out to your vet.

Safety Considerations

Apoquel may not be suitable for dogs with certain health issues, especially those with serious infections or cancer. It’s like giving a particular food to someone with allergies, it might not be a good idea!💡

So, your vet will check to make sure Apoquel is safe for your dog’s specific health situation. It’s super crucial to have your vet involved when your dog is taking Apoquel. If any problems pop up, your vet can help you figure out what to do next.

dog with the vet

Alternatives to Apoquel

Apoquel is a helpful option, but there are other ways to deal with dog allergies and itching, depending on your dog’s specific needs. Here are some alternatives:

  • Allergy Shots: These are special vaccines that can help build your dog’s tolerance to allergens over time. They’re a good choice✅ if your dog has specific allergies and they don’t respond well to other treatments.
  • Antihistamines: These are a bit like the allergy medicines people take. They can reduce itching and sneezing in dogs[2]. Your vet can recommend the right one for your dog.
  • Steroids: These are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can quickly relieve itching and discomfort. However, they are typically used as a last alternative due to potential side effects.
  • Dietary Changes: Sometimes, changing your dog’s diet can help if they have food allergies.🥣 Your vet can guide you on this.
  • Topical Treatments: Shampoos, creams, and sprays can soothe your dog’s skin and reduce itching, especially if the problem is in a specific area.

When Apoquel Might Not Be the First Choice:

If your dog has certain health conditions, like serious infections or cancer, your vet might consider other treatments. Some dogs might not respond well to Apoquel, so your vet may try alternative options. For long-term use,⌛ your vet may explore options with fewer potential side effects.


Is Apoquel Safe for My Dog?

There are no known effects of Apoquel on organs such as the kidneys and liver. Some dogs have been treated with Apoquel for more than five years without any problems, and we do not expect there will be long-term problems. Dogs taking Apoquel may have a slightly higher risk of developing bladder infections.

What Is Apoquel for Dogs?

Apoquel is an allergy medication that treats itching and inflammation in dogs by targeting an important itch signal in a dog’s body, helping to stop it before it starts. Apoquel starts working within 4 hours and helps stop itching within 24 hours.

What Is a Natural Alternative to Apoquel?

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These essential fatty acids in fish and flaxseed oils can help reduce inflammation and promote healthy skin and fur. They are a safe, natural alternative, though they may not be as immediately effective as Apoquel.


So, what is Apoquel for dogs? Apoquel is like a superhero medicine for our furry friends, helping them when they have itchy and inflamed skin. It can make a huge difference in their lives. Remember, it’s super important to have your vet’s guidance🧑‍⚕️ when using Apoquel.

They are like the experts who can make sure it’s the right fit for your dog and give you the right instructions.📄 Apoquel is like a secret weapon against itching and inflammation. It can greatly improve the quality of life for dogs, making them happier and more comfortable.

So, if your dog is dealing with these issues, don’t hesitate to ask your vet about Apoquel. They’ll help you give your furry friend the best care possible!💖🐶


  1. Moriello, K. A. (2023, October 5). Pruritus in animals. Merck Veterinary Manual.
  2. Antihistamines for Skin Allergies in Dogs – Fairhaven Veterinary Hospital | Complete Care For Your Pets. (2023, July 10). Fairhaven Veterinary Hospital
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Jeanette Hampton
Jeanette Hampton is a content writer at WWD and an expert on all things pets. She’s been writing pet blogs for over 5 years and knows everything there is to know about dogs. Jeanette enjoys writing about pet-related topics because she enjoys helping people learn more about their furry friends.

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