Oclacitinib, also known by the brand name Apoquel, is a drug used to treat allergies in dogs, specifically canine atopic dermatitis, by reducing itching. Apoquel, in contrast to certain other canine allergy medications, is neither an antihistamine nor a steroid (like prednisone) (like diphenhydramine). Instead, Apoquel is a first-of-its-kind veterinary drug that selectively inhibits the Janus kinase. Zoetis produces Apoquel.
Enzymes known as janus kinase (JAK) collaborate with proteins known as cytokines to signal the body’s cells and promote vital bodily processes such as inflammation, pruritus, and the formation of blood cells and platelets (itchiness). With only a minor negative impact on the immune system and blood cell formation, apoquel specifically suppresses the cytokines responsible for allergic reactions.
Due to its generally lesser adverse effects as compared to those of steroids and immunosuppressive medications like prednisone and cyclosporine, apoquel is frequently prescribed by veterinarians for the treatment of allergies in dogs. It can begin reducing irritation in as short as four to twenty-four hours.
It’s important to discuss Apoquel with your vet to see if it’s a viable alternative if your dog is itchy.
What constitutes Apoquel for dogs’ primary ingredient?
The Janus Kinase inhibitor APOQUELTM (oclacitinib maleate) is made artificially. The active component of APOQUEL tablets is N-methyl pyrimidin-4-ylamino) cyclohexyl] methanesulfonamide (2Z)-2-butenedioate, according to its chemical name.
Are Benadryl and Apoquel the same thing?
It is well known that Benadryl prevents histamines from impairing your dog’s body. Benadryl also has anti-anxiety properties. combats allergies, some of which are brought on by bug stings and bites.
It can, however, be applied to prevent persistent allergic reactions. Benadryl’s results in this instance are unclear or inconsistent.
In contrast, Apoquel has an original active component called oclacitinib. This component, in particular for the itchy sensation, serves to stop and prevent the inflammatory reaction.
The key distinction between Apoquel and other dog allergy treatments like Benadryl is that it is clearly an Immunomodulator as opposed to an antihistamine. And it functions primarily as a selective JAK (Janus kinase) inhibitor. The enzymes that cause your pet’s itching are typically the target of this medicine.
Is your dog biting or scratching more frequently than usual? Ideally, this can be a disturbing sight, especially if you are aware that your animal companion is battling an allergic skin condition.
The results of all this clawing and biting are far worse: inflamed skin, dog hair all over the house, and leaking pores (among other effects). In addition to breaking your heart as you watch your dog suffer, it is also no longer enjoyable for your dog.
Dogs who suffer from allergies not only find it frustrating, but it can be difficult to diagnose and treat them. And regardless of the disease your dog has, itching usually makes it worse.
Therefore, if your dog has pruritus, an excruciating itching condition, get ready to lose sleep because you will undoubtedly have to put up with a lot of wriggling and crying throughout the night.
Addressing Environmental Allergens
Dermatitis is always a symptom of a more serious problem rather than a condition in and of itself, as I previously stated. Your dog’s itching is significantly more likely to be cured if the cause of the problem is identified and treated rather than just the symptom.
And since environmental allergens account for 70% of canine skin disorders, addressing them is an excellent place to start. 90% of dogs with allergic dermatitis are responding to an allergen in the environment or via surface contact. Dust mites, the protein in flea saliva, and pollen are the three most prevalent allergens.
Your dog definitely has seasonal allergies brought on by plant pollen if they only have itchy skin in the spring and fall. You can at least choose to use medication therapy sparingly if you have this diagnosis. But keep in mind that medications like Apoquel frequently cause dependence and are difficult to wean your dog off of.
There are alternatives to using medications that can dramatically lessen or even eliminate your dog’s underlying allergies.
Symptoms can be greatly alleviated by using powerful air purifiers indoors, changing HVAC filters frequently, and limiting your dog’s exposure to known allergens like grass. However, this might not be sufficient for dogs with extremely sensitive skin, numerous allergies, or severe allergies.
In this situation, immunotherapy may be an option to maybe completely eliminate your dog’s allergies.
Canine immunotherapy operates in a similar manner to human immunotherapy. To find out what your dog is allergic to, tests are conducted. The offending allergen is then gradually introduced to your dog’s system through a series of injections or oral drops over the course of a few days to a few weeks. The number of treatments is gradually reduced as the allergen concentration per dosage rises.
In about 70% of dogs, the dermatitis will lessen or go away entirely when the immune system becomes used to the allergen and stops reacting to it.
Changing Your Dog’s Diet
What about the 10 to 15 percent of dogs who have allergic dermatitis but don’t have an allergic reaction to environmental allergens? The most plausible explanation for these dogs’ allergies is a food component.
True food allergies are very uncommon, but food sensitivities and intolerances are much more frequent, and they can also cause dogs’ skin to become red and irritated. An elimination diet is your greatest option to discover relief if you think something in your dog’s food is to blame for their dermatitis.
An elimination diet involves eliminating all potential allergens from your dog’s diet, followed by a gradual reintroduction of each food after symptoms have subsided. How then do you identify any potential allergens or intolerances? Simple: any food item that your dog has recently been exposed to raises the possibility of an allergy.
The following foods are the most typical allergens in dogs: beef, dairy, chicken, wheat, soy, lamb, maize, and eggs. However, your dog could develop an allergy to any food they have previously consumed.
Examine the bag of dog food for your dog’s ingredients. Make a list of every whole food component you come across. Although it is unlikely, it is conceivable for a dog to have an allergy to artificial vitamins, preservatives, and other minor components. Include on that list any treats your dog has had, foods they have licked up off the floor, and any flavours that are present in their supplements or prescription.
This is a list of things that your dogs are not allowed to eat over the upcoming several months. Finding a dog food that doesn’t have ANY of these substances is your new task. Finding a diet with few ingredients—one protein and one starch—is what I would advise. You might need to look for a dish made with less common ingredients, such as venison and sweet potato or rabbit and oats, if your list contains numerous typical proteins and vegetables.
Over the course of a few days, gradually transition your dog from their current diet to the new one. Restrict your dog’s diet (treats included) to just products NOT mentioned on the potential allergies list you created once they have switched totally to the new food.
This restricted diet must be maintained until your dog’s symptoms subside. That typically entails waiting two to three months for skin allergies. Try feeding your dog a different food if their symptoms don’t get better in this amount of time. If the condition doesn’t get better, it’s doubtful that you have a food sensitivity or allergy.
You can pick one food from the restricted list to add back in once your symptoms have subsided. For at least a month or two, feed nothing but this altered diet. You will know your dog is allergic to that food if the symptoms reappear. When symptoms subside, entirely cut out the offending food from their diet before trying another one on the list. Ideally, you will be able to locate a complete and balanced food with a variety of proteins and starches that your dog can consume without exhibiting any allergic dermatitis signs after numerous trials.
Food may be to blame even if your dog has no allergies or food intolerances. Poor diets might result in an itchy, dry coat and brittle hair. Try switching your dog’s food to one that has several high-quality listed animal ingredients at the top of the list, no filler foods like corn or soy, and no synthetic colours or preservatives if their current diet is less than ideal. Look for a food that is high in healthy fats and at least 25% protein.
This modification alone can frequently have a significant impact on how healthy your dog’s skin and coat are.
Ruling Out Infections and Parasites
In order to rule out parasites like fleas, mites, and other skin illnesses, a battery of tests were likely performed as the initial step in your dog’s trip toward itchy skin. (If it didn’t, you should certainly do this right now.) But frequently, these tests fail to detect common dermatitis causes.
One bite of a flea can cause a week’s worth of miserable itching in dogs who rarely have fleas. Flea allergies are most prevalent in these pets. The absence of apparent flea filth should not rule out a minor or intermittent degree of infestation that can be readily missed in the veterinarian’s office.
Even mange might have a false positive. Some mites reside so deeply inside the dermal layer that they are difficult to identify with standard skin scrapings and may require additional testing to confirm the diagnosis. You might wish to discuss additional tests with your vet if your dog exhibits new signs of mange despite the fact that your initial test came back negative.
Some dogs, particularly those that have thyroid issues or other environmental allergies, may even have staph allergies. The skin of a healthy mammal also contains this microorganism, as do the majority of surfaces.
Only blood tests that look for antibodies can identify this illness, as well as numerous others that result in allergic reactions. If there is a chance that your dog’s allergic dermatitis is brought on by an environmental, contact, or bacterial allergy or infection, taking this action may be useful.
A dog may occasionally be given an antibiotic treatment by a veterinarian to rule out dermatitis caused by bacteria. Despite the fact that this can be a useful diagnostic tool, keep in mind that some infections require numerous courses of antibiotics to eradicate them and that yeast infections, which are frequently made worse by medications, can also result in itchy skin.
The most crucial thing to keep in mind in this situation is to consult your veterinarian and explore all of your alternatives before excluding a parasite or other infection as the source of your dog’s itchy skin. Consider visiting a veterinarian dermatologist who specialises in treating dogs.
Some supplements work in a similar way to changing your dog’s food to one of higher quality to aid with itchy skin.
When discussing supplements for itchy skin, fish oil is frequently mentioned. This is due to the abundance of omega fatty acids in this oil. Omegas are essential for the skin and general health of your dog and are particularly useful for itching relief. In fact, using an omega supplement alone can relieve itching in roughly 20% of dogs with dermatitis. Giving these fatty acids a try has practically no drawbacks because they are a beneficial supplement to any dog’s regimen.
Particularly if your dog has an unidentified food sensitivity or intolerance, digestive enzyme and probiotic mixes designed exclusively for dogs can also be beneficial in easing the itching.
Specific foods are broken down in your dog’s stomach by enzymes. Itchy skin can result from food moving through the system undigested, an unwanted immunological response, or nutritional deficiencies if your dog lacks a certain enzyme or does not make enough of it on their own.
Similar to this, probiotic organisms aid in the digestion of intestinal particles that your dog is unable to break down on their own. Your dog’s ability to absorb nutrients, including several that are crucial for the health of their skin and coat, depends on having a healthy gut flora.
Additionally excellent natural alternatives to Apoquel include yucca and quercetin. Yucca has a similar impact to steroid medications without the negative side effects. For dogs whose itchiness is relieved by Benadryl, quercetin is a plant derivative that functions as a natural antihistamine and is a fantastic alternative.
Many topical creams and ointments are sold for dogs with itchy skin. These goods are valuable to many owners, especially for treating hot patches and flare-ups.
However, there are inexpensive home cures that might provide comfort for your dog’s itchy skin. You may already have some of these goods in your cupboard. They can be used to soothe your dog’s itchy skin.
Natural skin soother with antimicrobial and therapeutic effects is coconut oil. For a deeply relaxing skin treatment, combine it with a little lavender or peppermint essential oil before applying it straight to the skin.
Natural anti-inflammatory ingredients such as green tea, chamomile tea, baking soda, oatmeal, and apple cider vinegar can all be used with water for a soothing soak. While it could take some effort to train your dog to remain still long enough to reap the rewards, once they feel the relaxation, they’ll probably appreciate your tough love.
Apoquel – is it a steroid?
Since ApoquelTM is not a steroid, it does not have any of the short- or long-term negative effects while yet affecting many of the inflammatory pathways that steroids suppress. Similar to people taking placebos, a tiny percentage of dogs vomit or have diarrhoea sometimes.
Can I feed Zyrtec to my dog in place of Apoquel?
So, your next thought is: Is there a cheaper alternative to Apoquel for dogs available on the market?
No, is the response. Since the drug’s patent is not set to expire until 2026, there won’t be any generic Apoquel substitutes available soon.
Additionally, there are no reliable and safe Apoquel alternatives for dogs. In actuality, the other medications prescribed for this disease have equally unsettling adverse effects.
This medicine, which was once widely used to treat dermatitis, was really created to avoid organ transplant rejection in people, once more by weakening the immune system. But it has a very negative impact on the immune system, much as Apoquel.
There are numerous negative effects associated with it, but a few of them include depression, excessive weight loss, shaking, and seizures.
To induce a dog to accept a new organ, this risk would be worthwhile for a brief period of time. However, these side effects are unacceptable for dogs who might need the medication over the long term to treat skin diseases.
OUR EXPERIENCE: Stetson suffered from severe skin allergies, so we tried a variety of home cures to help him stop scratching. Atopica was once suggested and prescribed by our veterinarian at the time, many years ago. We gave it a try for a few weeks, but Stetson felt the negative effects weren’t worth it. Every morning he felt obviously queasy and threw up at least once. Additionally, the monthly cost of roughly $250 seemed a little expensive.
Prednisone is a steroid-based medication that carries all the risks of giving your dogs steroids for an extended period of time.
These include severe weight gain or loss, lethargy, and depression, as well as skin disorders that may flare up again while the dog is taking the medicine and become worse than before.
OUR EXPERIENCE: Prior to Atopica, our veterinarian treated Stetson’s skin allergies with Prednisone. The only adverse effect we observed was increased urination, and it was effective only temporarily (he had to pee all the time). It is not, however, a workable long-term fix.