Apoquel for dogs



Active ingredient




What is Apoquel?

Apoquel is a brand name for the drug oclacitinib, produced by Zoetis. It’s an anti-itch medication used to stop dogs with allergies from feeling itchy. Not only does this provide symptomatic relief, it halts the itch-scratch cycle, allowing the dog’s skin to heal.

What does Apoquel do?

Apoquel is an anti-itch medication that works by stopping a signal molecule called Janus kinase. This molecule is normally released as part of a dog ‘feeling’ the itch. When dogs meet an allergen a complex signaling process is begun, which ends with a nerve firing impulses to the brain to say there’s an itch. Janus kinase is a small part of this signaling.

In allergic dogs, it’s important to stop the itch-scratch cycle, as the more these dogs itch the worse their skin barrier is likely to become. Using Apoquel prevents the itch nerves from firing messages to the brain, therefore stopping dogs from feeling the itch.

What is Apoquel used for?

Apoquel is specially designed to tackle itchiness (pruritis) that happens with allergies in dogs (canine atopic dermatitis).
It might sometimes be used to help with other causes of itchiness, but this use is off-license (also known as off-label) which means the dose and use is at the vet’s discretion.

What are the side effects of Apoquel in dogs?

Apoquel is a very effective drug in many cases and has been a lifeline for miserable itchy pets. But, as with any medication, there may be side effects.

Because Apoquel changes the way the immune system works, dogs on Apoquel might be more likely to get infections. There’s also some evidence that they’re more likely to get warts and cancer, especially skin lumps.

Other side effects noted with Apoquel use include:

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Fatty lumps and skin lumps
  • Skin infections
  • Ear infections
  • Urine infections
  • Lymph node problems
  • Aggression
  • Seizures

These side effects are usually mild and temporary. But if they linger or your dog seems off, it’s always a good idea to check in with your veterinarian. They can guide you on what to do and ensure your furry friend stays happy and healthy.

Because of these side effects, it’s a good idea to have your dog checked by a vet regularly when they’re on Apoquel. Many vets will make this a condition of their continued prescription.

Which pets is Apoquel not suitable for?

Your vet will prescribe Apoquel after careful consideration of the risks and potential benefits to your dog. In general, Apoquel may not be suitable for:

  • Cats, or pets other than dogs
  • Dogs under 12 months of age or less than 3kg bodyweight.
  • Pregnant or lactating dogs
  • Dogs intended for breeding
  • Dogs who won’t take tablets. However, there is a chewable version that’s designed to be palatable, like a treat.
  • Dogs who are allergic to any of the ingredients.

How to give Apoquel to dogs safely

  • Follow vet instructions: Always use Apoquel exactly as your vet has prescribed. This includes the right dose and frequency. Never adjust the dose on your own, even if your dog seems to be feeling better or worse. If you aren’t sure of the dose prescribed, please call your vet to confirm.
  • Give with or after food: It’s safest to give Apoquel on a full stomach. You can either put it on your pet’s food or syringe it directly into their mouth after they’ve eaten.
  • Check with your vet if giving anything else: Your vet should be aware of other drugs your pet is on, but it’s always worth double-checking in case there’s been a miscommunication somewhere. If your dog is on supplements or non-prescription treatments you should also tell your vet when they prescribe Apoquel, as they may not be suitable to be given together.
  • Storage and Handling: Store Apoquel according to the instructions on the label, usually in a cool and dry place. Make sure it’s out of reach of children and other pets. Protect from moisture. Unused half tablets can be stored in the blister pack and should be given at the next dose.
  • Report any accidental overdose to your vet immediately: If you have mistakenly given too much Apoquel to your dog, report it to your vet as soon as you realise the error. They will let you know what to do next.

Apoquel FAQs

How quickly does Apoquel start working for my dog’s itching?

Apoquel generally starts working within 2-4 hours, and there will normally be an improvement in a dog’s symptoms within 24 hours.

How long can my dog stay on Apoquel?

Apoquel is suitable to be given long term, even for the rest of a dog’s life. It’s sensible to monitor long-term use of Apoquel and keep an eye out for side effects.

Can Apoquel be given with other medications?

Apoquel has been used alongside most other medications without concerns. However, you should always report any medications to the vet prescribing Apoquel, in case there’s a problem.

Are there any special considerations for using Apoquel in puppies?

Apoquel is not designed for puppies and dogs under a year old. Dogs of this age are unlikely to be suffering with allergies (atopic dermatitis), which is the condition that Apoquel is designed to treat. In addition, their immune system won’t be fully developed yet, and it’s unclear what effect Apoquel would have at this age. Lastly, there’s some evidence that the immune response to vaccination is less good in dogs on Apoquel, which is more of a concern for young dogs.

What should I do if I miss a dose of Apoquel?

If you miss a dose of Apoquel, you should give it as soon as you remember, and then give the next dose 24 hours later.

Can I get Apoquel for dogs without a vet prescription?

Apoquel is a prescription-only medicine (POM-V) in the UK, which means it must be prescribed by a vet. It is illegal to get Apoquel for dogs without a vet prescription.

Your vet will need to make a clinical assessment of your dog to prescribe Apoquel, after which you can buy Apoquel from them or ask for a written prescription to buy Apoquel online or from another pharmacy. Your vet can charge a ‘reasonable amount’ for this written prescription.

Is there an Apoquel for cats?

Apoquel is only licensed in dogs, and there is no licensed ‘Apoquel for cats’. However, vets can use medications ‘off-license’ (aka off-label) when necessary by following the prescribing cascade. Most cats with allergies are managed on other medications. If a veterinary dermatologist prescribes Apoquel, the cat will need extra monitoring, as cats seem to have more side effects from Apoquel than dogs do.

How much does Apoquel cost?

Apoquel tablets come in three strengths, and the larger tablets cost more than the smaller ones.

Apoquel tablets cost from £1-3 each, depending where you source them and the size of the tablet. Remember, if you buy your Apoquel tablets online you’ll need to get a written prescription from your vet, costing £10-40.

Therefore, a month’s supply of Apoquel in the UK costs from £30 to £100.

Apoquel for Dogs Alternatives

If your dog can’t have Apoquel, you might need something else to aid their itchiness.

There are currently no alternative forms of Apoquel, such as Apoquel liquid.

Other drugs can help with itchiness and allergies. Your vet can discuss Apoquel alternatives with you to help you find the most appropriate option for your pet. You might want to consider:

  • Prednisolone / Prednisone (such as Prednicare)
  • Cyclosprine (such as Atopica, which is a liquid)
  • Lokivetmab (Cytopoint), which is given by injection every 4-6 weeks
  • Allergen immunotherapy

Allergies are difficult to treat – keep communicating your thoughts to your vet, who will help guide you. For more information about your options, our course on Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs is almost complete – follow us on Facebook or Instagram to find out when it goes live!

Apoquel Datasheet

All drugs have a manufacturer’s datasheet, which gives information about the drug’s use and possible side effects. There is usually one in your Apoquel box, but if you have lost it you can click on the button below to be taken on an online version.

Courses related to Apoquel

Our atopic dermatitis course isn’t quite finished! We’re making it the most comprehensive guide out there, and that takes time. Follow us on Facebook to find out when it goes live!

Please note that the information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only. Although it has been written by a vet, we cannot consider the individual nature of your pet’s problems so it does not constitute veterinary advice. If you have questions about your pet’s medication or their health you should contact a vet, who will be able to help.