Is Apoquel safe for dogs?
Original Question: My sister's dog has severe allergies starting in late July right through until the first frost. During that time the treatment has been steroids. Her vet recommended that next year we should try Apoquel as apparently they have had great success. What are the side effects of this drug? Also, has it been thoroughly tested? - Anonymous
Thanks for the question. Sorry to hear this, allergies are probably one of the most frustrating problems to deal with in our pets.
First, let me address the question about Apoquel. This is a new drug that has been available in the US for more than 2 years. It became available in Canada in March 2016. So the first thing I will tell you is that although it is new, it has been prescribed to at least tens of thousands of dogs and we know that it is relatively safe. Every pet can have an adverse reaction to every drug, but Apoquel has the reputation of being quite safe. How does Apoquel work? Its mechanism of action is different than any other allergy medication on the market. It works right at the skin level and inhibits the action of the specific entities (called cytokines) that cause inflammation, allergy and itching. It does this with great specificity, meaning that it is very targeted and has little effect elsewhere in the body. When I mention these things, I have to say that I don’t support or endorse any product or service because that is against my medical licensing, but this is just basic information about how this drug works.
The use of steroids to control allergic inflammation has always been effective but not without concern. It can affect many areas of the body and there can be side effects of steroids in dogs if it is given long-term at sufficient doses. For this reason, we try to limit their use as much as possible. So Apoquel is a great option and I recommend you try it as an alternative to steroids.
As well, I recommend you read our article that goes through the general concepts of pet allergy treatment and the different strategies to deal with them. By employing these tactics, you could reduce your reliance on medication.
Thanks for the question and good luck with this.
Dr. Clayton Greenway
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