Written By Grace Park
Published: 12/07/2020Updated: 12/07/2020
Apoquel | Wag!

Apoquel is used to give fast and effective relief of itching due to food allergy, flea allergy, contact allergy, and atopic dermatitis. It is a non-steroidal medication that relieves symptoms of itchy skin with little impact on the immune system.

Veterinarian-approved and fast-acting, this medication targets both itch and inflammation. Continue reading to learn about the dosage, efficacy, and possible side effects as well as other considerations for Apoquel.


Apoquel (oclacitinib tablet) is given to dogs in pill form, according to weight. Tablet sizes are 3.6mg, 5.4mg, and 16mg.

Dosage Instructions

The dosage of the tablets is 0.18 to .027 mg/lb. As a therapeutic drug, the medication is given twice a day, typically for 14 days. After 14 days, the medication is given once a day. 

Apoquel can be given with or without food. The medication can be discontinued without a need to taper.


Apoquel starts to relieve the itch your dog is experiencing within 4 hours of the first dose. Within 24 hours, the itchiness is under control. The medication can be given long-term without affecting the immune system. The medication is part of the class of drugs known as Janus kinase inhibitors, which target inflammation and itching without having an effect on immunity.

A controlled study determined that Apoquel for dogs was more effective than ciclosporin, another drug used to treat various diseases, one of them being atopic dermatitis. 

As well, in a blinded, randomized study, prednisolone (a steroid) and Apoquel administrations had comparable results when treating itchiness and other clinical signs typically associated with atopic dermatitis. 

Both studies point to the success of this easily administered medication for canine skin issues.

Side Effects of Apoquel

Apoquel for dogs is safe for use in canines 12 months and up. Side effects that may be seen are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • New growth or lesion on the skin
  • Lethargy

Dogs with a history of cancer should not be given Apoquel. If there is pre-existing cancer, the condition may worsen. 


As with any medication required for your dog, discuss concerns and tell your veterinarian whether your dog gets supplements, herbal therapies, or vitamins.

Drug interactions

Apoquel (oclacitinib tablet) is deemed safe when used concomitantly with other medications.

  • Apoquel for dogs has been used safely alongside several medications commonly used for parasite protection, as antifungals, and NSAIDs. 
  • As well, there is no known contraindication with vaccines and antibiotics.
  • However, evaluation has not been performed on the use of Apoquel and systemic immunosuppressants like cyclosporine.

 Allergic reactions and sensitivity

  • This drug is not for use in dogs under the age of 12 months. 
  • Apoquel may cause susceptibility to infections like demodicosis.
  • Do not administer to dogs with pre-existing parasitic infections, or they may worsen.
  • Neoplastic conditions may be exacerbated (tumorous tissue growth).
  • Dogs with serious infections should not be given Apoquel.
  • Dogs used for breeding, or who are pregnant or lactating should not be given this drug.

Frequently asked questions

My dog is itching and scratching often. Do I need to make an appointment with the veterinarian?

Biting and scratching repeatedly can lead to sore and damaged skin, and also opens the door for secondary infections. It is best to determine the cause of the itching and get prompt treatment to avoid bacterial and fungal infections.

What are signs of allergic itch in dogs?

  • Rubbing the skin against furniture
  • Head shaking, ear discharge which may point to ear infection
  • Body odor
  • Greasy skin
  • Scabs on the skin
  • Red and inflamed skin
  • Licking or biting

What are some of the conditions relieved by Apoquel?

Apoquel for dogs can be used to treat skin conditions caused by a food allergy, flea allergy dermatitis, skin irritation, and inflammation caused by contact with carpets, shampoos, and more. As well, environmental allergens like pollen and mold can cause a dog’s skin to become itchy and sore. Apoquel can help resolve the itching and soreness.

How fast does Apoquel work?

Relief from itching is typicallyseen in 4 hours, with a substantial change in the dog’s condition after 24 hours.

Do I need to give Apoquel with food?

Apoquel can be given to your dog with orwithout food.

If my dog has a flare-up, can I give Apoquel?

Yes, this veterinarian-approved medication can be given for short periods. It can be used for quick relief of flares.

Do I need a prescription for Apoquel?

Yes, your dog can benefit from Apoquel! Ask for a prescription from your veterinarian, who will explain how it works and give you the correct dosage and instructions for your dog.

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