Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Is Apoquel Safe for your Itchy Dog?


Your pet has allergies as many do, and your veterinarian recommended Apoquel. Since this is a lifelong condition how comfortable do you feel keeping your pet on this year round?

Is this medication worth the treatment? Does it really have the fast response that people say and is it really safe for our pets?

When Apoquel came on the market Veterinarians were so excited to finally be able to relieve pets of the symptoms they were having. Dogs that their skin was raw every day and could not get under control to the dog that had the itchy skin just during the spring. The medication works and works well typically within 24 hours. The relief and the stories were (and still are) amazing.

Before Apoquel, steroids were the go-to medication for allergies. The problem with this is the side effects were excessive and included increased drinking, increased urination, increased hunger and increased susceptibility to liver issues and diabetes. While this worked it was not a good long term management. The good thing about it, it is cheap and works for allergies.

So what is Apoquel?

Apoquel is a Janus Kinase (JAK) Inhibitor. This means that it inhibits JAKs from working at full force.

What do JAKs do?

They are a component of your pet’s immune system. They help your body fight off infection better.

So is this medication actually worth having your dog take if it suppresses something that fights off infection?

There are two answers to this question.

The first is yes if your dog is having severe allergies that no other medication is helping. Since allergies are from an overactive immune system, this will inhibit part of it. In turn, you will see results.

The other answer is no. This medication may not be needed for the animal that has a slightly increased licking of their paws in the spring. There are other medications and ways to help your pet during that time as long as they work. 

The good thing about this medication is your pet can easily start and stop it. If your dog has severe allergies in the spring, then yes use it for the 1-2 months that they need it.

When should you use caution with Apoquel?

Animals under 1 year shouldn’t technically receive Apoquel. Why? Since this inhibits part of the immune system they are more prone to Demodex (external parasites) and if they are sick have a higher risk of pneumonia.

The other situation where it is recommended not to use Apoquel is when a dog has cancer. Your dog’s body is trying to fight cancer and giving them something that suppresses the immune system can make it progress faster.

Should anything be monitored while on Apoquel?

Yearly blood work is always recommended when your pet is on any medication but checking your dog’s white blood cell count and red blood cell count is very important when on Apoquel.

A little about allergies.

The majority of allergies in dogs are environmental. Food allergies are not as common as many people believe. If you believe your pet has a food allergy the best was to rule it out is to place them on is a hydrolyzed protein diet. After two months of a diet like that, if it is food related allergies they should be better and no medication should typically be needed.

For environmental allergies, it is very difficult to avoid them, just like in humans. While previously we have had medications at our disposal that worked, the side effects were not always worth it. Now with Apoquel, the animals that need it can finally get the relief they need.

Do you think your dog can benefit from Apoquel or are you concerned about it? Talk to your Veterinarian as they have the best information for your pet.

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