There is a new drug available for the treatment of allergic skin disease in dogs. The drug is named Apoquel (oclacitinib). Apoquel works faster than a steroid, with most patients showing some improvement in their itching the very first day. It is better tolerated with fewer side effects than either steroids (prednisone, Depomedrol) or Atopica (cyclosporine). These are examples of two other classes of drugs that are commonly used to help allergic dogs. Another class of medications that is commonly used is Antihistamines. These can often be ineffective.
We envision this drug being helpful in several different scenarios:
- The allergic dog who has a short-term season of itch, such as every spring when the pollen count is elevated.
- The commonly seen dog with flea allergies, who is scratching after a flea bite.
- Short-term relief for a patient who is starting a food trial, because a patient may continue to scratch for several weeks even after the diet change.
- Finally, Apoquel will also be a welcome treatment addition for those allergic patients who just cannot get enough relief from the traditional therapies currently available.
Apoquel should not be used in dogs less than 12 months of age or in dogs with serious infections. Apoquel may increase the susceptibility to infection and demodicosis (A type of skin mite) and may exacerbate neoplastic conditions. Apoquel has not been evaluated in combination with systemic immunosuppressive agents such as glucocorticoids or cyclosporine, though its use is thought to be safe. However, the efficacy and safety of Apoquel should make the need for combination therapy a lot lower in these chronically allergic patients. Apoquel should not be used in breeding dogs, or pregnant or lactating dogs. (On a side note, allergies do tend to have a genetic component. This means that these dogs are not likely the best breeding candidates in the first place.)
The most common side effects seen in dogs administered Apoquel were vomiting and diarrhea. Apoquel has been safely used in conjunction with other common medications including antibiotics and parasiticides and with vaccinations.
If you think your dog is a candidate for this new medication, please call (330)682-2971 to schedule and examination and consultation with one of out veterinarians.
Written by Jenn Brown, R.V.T.
Edited by Jeffrey R. FInk, D.V.M.