Apoquel is a new medication specifically designed to control itching associated with allergic skin disease and for the control of atopic skin disease in dogs over 1 year old.
Apoquel very quickly lessens your dog's itch and the desire to scratch, allowing a reduction in the associated inflammation, redness or swelling of the skin.
You will probably notice your dog scratching, licking or chewing their skin more than usual. You may notice a different smell, hair loss, scurfy or reddened skin, darker pigmentation of the skin, shaking of the head, or brown staining on the feet of a light-coloured dog. If your dog can’t settle at night and is keeping you awake because he/she is scratching, they are definitely suffering.
The treatment will depend on what is causing the itch. Some itches are caused by parasites such as fleas or mites, and these need specific treatment, often repeated over a period of time, to kill the parasites and stop the itch. Your dog may have a bacteria or yeast infection. This needs to be diagnosed by your vet. They will often look under the microscope to see what is causing the itch, they may even let you look to see for yourself! The treatment then depends on what they find – this can range from medicated shampoos to topical solutions or antibiotics or anti-fungal treatments given by mouth or injection. If the itch is due to a food allergy, then you will be recommended the correct type of food for your dog, sometimes this takes time to figure out, and can be frustrating while you wait.
Many dogs (up to 20%), have allergies to things such as pollens and dust mites, just like people. This is called allergic dermatitis, a special group of dogs have something called atopic dermatitis. These dogs cannot be cured, but need to have their conditions managed with various treatments. You may be recommended anti-allergy injections, or anti-inflammatory tablets such as steroids and cyclosporins, or more specific treatments which target the itch such as Apoquel (tablets), or Cytopoint (a new monthly injection). It may be recommended that you go to a specialist dermatologist to get a more detailed diagnosis or more specific treatment. Some conditions can be cured, but many are just managed and the symptoms treated.
Apoquel is not a cure, so it is not stopping the disease from happening, it is just stopping the effects of the disease which usually appear as itch and inflammation. By decreasing the amount of itch and inflammation, you can decrease the progression of the disease, and greatly improve the quality of life for your dog. Your dog will probably still itch occasionally, but this should be greatly decreased. If you forget to give a tablet at the correct time, there will be no ill effects, it just means your dog will become itchy again. It is best just to give the tablet when you remember, and try to get back to the routine. If you are giving the tablet every day and your dog is still itchy, then phone your vet to discuss because sometimes this means there may be something else which needs treating such as a bacterial or yeast infection. Some conditions are short-term and only need a short course of treatment, or intermittent treatment, some conditions are life-long and ongoing and these dogs may need treating for most days for the rest of their life.
Apoquel is a very safe drug so has minimal side effects. It has been safely used on dogs continuously for many years. There are some conditions where it may not be recommended to give Apoquel, and this can be discussed with your vet. Your vet may recommend a routine blood test every so often to check that all is well and your dog is as healthy as possible. Apoquel does not normally cause the same side effects as seen with other more traditional treatments.
Apoquel has been safely used with many other medications with no ill effects. It is not advisable to give Apoquel with other oral or injectable medications for allergic skin disease, such as steroids longer term, but shampoos and topical treatments should be fine. Your dog can have most routine treatments such as vaccination while they are taking Apoquel. Check with your veterinarian to be certain.
Apoquel is an oral tablet. If your vet decides that Apoquel is the right treatment for your dog, they will calculate the correct dose for them. Apoquel is normally given twice a day for up to 14 days to quickly get on top of the problem, and then once daily ongoing for as long as your dog needs it. Depending on how itchy your dog is, you may only need to give the tablet once daily from the beginning. You may give it with or without food. When you are giving it once per day, it is best to give it when your dog is going to be the most itchy. Most people find giving the dose in the early evening is a good time, because then you and your dog can sleep peacefully throughout the night. Apoquel usually works very quickly, sometimes within an hour, to decrease the itch significantly.
Before and afters
Check out some case studies on how these brave dogs ditched
with Apoquel and for more see our Itch Stories page.
Archie suffered terrible itch and lost most of his hair. Thanks to Apoquel Archie has a brand new coat.
Occasional itching is a fact of life for dogs, but excessive itching isn’t. With allergic skin diseases, your dog will experience a vicious cycle of itching and scratching. It is very important to take the scratching seriously and stop your dog’s itch sensation rapidly because: 1. Itching is very irritating for your dog. 2. The longer they itch, the worse the skin condition becomes, and the harder it is to control. 3. It may result in secondary bacterial infections.
Frequently asked questions
What is Apoquel used for?
Apoquel can be used for dogs over 1 year of age to help lessen itch and inflammation due to allergic skin disease.
Is Apoquel a steroid?
Apoquel is not a steroid, cyclosporine or antihistamine. It is a new class of drug that has fewer of the side effects you may have seen with other therapies.
Can I use Apoquel for a short time to
treat a flare-up?
Yes. You can use APOQUEL for short term
treatment. Apoquel begins relieving the itch within 4 hours, and provides effective control within 24 hours.
Can Apoquel be given with food?
Apoquel may be given to your dog with or
Can I use Apoquel for a short time to
treat a flare-up?
You can continue to treat your dog with
Apoquel for as long as your veterinarian
deems appropriate. In studies,
dogs were treated with Apoquel for over 2 years and showed only minimal side effects.4
References: 1. Gonzales A, Bowman J, Fici G, Zhang M, Mann D, Mitton-Fry M. Oclacitinib (APOQUEL) is a novel. Janus kinase inhibitor with activity against cytokines involved in allergy. J Vet Pharmacol Ther. In press. 2. Data on file. Study report A161R-AU-12-096. 2013. Zoetis Inc. 3. Cosgrove SB, Wren JA, Cleaver DM, et al. Efficacy and safety of oclacitinib for the control of pruritus and associated skin lesions in dogs with canine allergic dermatitis. Vet Dermatol. 2013:24(5):479-e114. 4. Data on file. Study report 1962C-60-11-A75. 2013. Zoetis Inc. 5. CosgroveSB, Wren JA, Cleaver DM, et al. A blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of the efficacy and safety of the Janus kinase inhibitor oclacitinib (APOQUEL) in client-owned dogs with atopic dermatitis. Vet Dermatol.2013;24:587-597. doi:10.1111/vde.12088. 6. Sousa CA. Glucocorticoids in veterinary dermatology. In: Bonagura JD,Twedt DC, eds. Kirk’s Current Veterinary Therapy. 14th ed. St. Louis, MO: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:400-404.
Zoetis New Zealand Limited. Tel: 0800 963 847; www.zoetis.co.nz. SIMPARICA , APOQUEL & CYTOPOINT are registered trademarks of Zoetis. ACVM No’s. A10963, A11348, A11443, A11444 and A11445: RVM; Available only under Veterinary Authorisation. ACVM No. A11219.