Apoquel® for Dogs

By Amy Van Gels, DVM. Reviewed by Molly Price, DVM on Feb. 20, 2024

In This Article


PetMD’s medications content was written and reviewed by veterinary professionals to answer your most common questions about how medications function, their side effects, and what species they are prescribed for. This content shouldn’t take the place of advice by your vet.

What Is Apoquel® for Dogs?

Apoquel® (active ingredient oclacitinib) is an FDA-approved veterinary prescription allergy medication used to treat itching and inflammation associated with allergic dermatitis in dogs, including flea allergy (allergy to flea bite saliva) and atopic dermatitis, a common long-term inflammatory skin disease triggered by environmental allergies.

Apoquel® for dogs starts working within four hours and helps stop itching within 24 hours. Veterinarians prescribe Apoquel® either short-term for allergic flare-ups or long-term for the management of skin allergies.

Apoquel® does not cure your dog’s underlying allergic condition but is an effective treatment to help relieve the itching and inflammation triggered by it.

Apoquel® may be used as a sole medication but is often used in combination with other allergy management treatments (omega fatty acid supplements, topical and shampoo therapy, flea and tick preventative) to help improve the health of your dog’s skin. It often takes time and patience to care for an allergic pet, and your veterinarian will determine what treatment is right for your pet.

Apoquel® is available in oral tablet and chewable tablet formulations. It is not approved for use in other species or in humans.

Apoquel® is sometimes prescribed for treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory medical conditions in dogs, including ischemic dermatopathy, ear tip dermatosis, perianal fistula, pemphigus vulgaris, and cutaneous lupus erythematosus.

This is called extra-label or off-label treatment because this use isn’t described on the drug label. Apoquel® is sometimes prescribed by veterinary dermatology specialists for cats with allergic and inflammatory skin conditions, but safety and efficacy studies had not been performed in cats at the time of this publication. Your veterinarian will determine whether this medication is right for your pet.

Apoquel® Considerations

Apoquel® should not be used in puppies less than 12 months of age, in pets with serious infections, or in breeding, pregnant, or nursing pets.

Giving Apoquel® with certain medications can result in health risks to your pet, so it is important to discuss your pet’s medications, including vitamins and supplements, and medical conditions with your veterinarian.

It is important to note that Apoquel® suppresses the immune system, which may make it harder for a sick pet to fight infection and may increase the risk of cancer.

How Apoquel® Works in Dogs

The active ingredient in Apoquel® is oclacitinib, which is classified as a Janus kinase (JAK1) inhibitor. Apoquel® works by blocking the effects of Janus kinase, an important signal that triggers itching and inflammation in allergic dogs. This reduces the cause of itching at a cellular level and blunts the effects of certain inflammatory signals in the body. As a result, allergic dogs that are given Apoquel® do not feel as itchy and scratch less. The skin inflammation caused by allergies is also reduced. Apoquel® is not a corticosteroid or an antihistamine.

Apoquel® Directions for Dogs

Follow the directions on the drug label or as provided by your veterinarian.

Apoquel® may be given with or without food, but giving it with food can lower the risk of digestive upset.

Missed a Dose?

Speak with your veterinarian about what to do if you forget to give a dose of Apoquel®. Generally, they may instruct you to give it when you remember, or if it is almost time for your pet’s next dose, to skip the missed dose and resume your normal dosing schedule. Do not give extra or double doses.

Possible Side Effects of Apoquel® in Dogs

The most common side effects include gastrointestinal upset (vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite) and low energy (lethargy), which are typically short-term and resolve on their own.

Less common side effects may include:

  • Elevated liver levels

  • Skin and ear infection

  • Seizures

  • Increased thirst

  • Demodicosis (skin infection caused by Demodex mites)

  • Cancer

  • Skin masses

Human Side Effects

Apoquel® is a prescription veterinary medication not intended for use in humans. Wash your hands after handling this medication.

Due to possible side effects, humans should never use medicine dispensed for their pets and pets should not be given any medicine dispensed for a human’s use.

If you accidentally ingest a pet medication, call your physician or the national Poison Control Center hotline at 800-222-1222.


No specific monitoring is required for this medication, but your veterinarian may recommend routine testing depending on your pet’s individual needs, other medications they may be on, and/or the issue that initially caused your pet to be placed on this medication.

Call Your Vet If:

  • Severe side effects are seen (see above)

  • Your pet’s condition worsens or does not improve with treatment

  • You see or suspect an overdose

  • You have additional questions or concerns about the use of Apoquel®

Apoquel® Overdose Information in Dogs

An overdose of Apoquel® is unlikely to cause toxicity, but large overdoses given over long periods of time may result in gastrointestinal upset (vomiting, diarrhea), lethargy, pneumonia, deep infection in between the toes (interdigital furunculosis), or papillomas (warty growths caused by papilloma virus).

If you suspect an overdose, immediately contact your veterinarian or an animal poison control center. Consultation fees often apply.

Pet Poison Helpline (855) 764-7661

ASPCA Animal Poison Control (888) 426-4435

Apoquel® FAQs

What does Apoquel® do for dogs?

Apoquel® relieves itching in dogs with allergic skin diseases, including flea allergy dermatitis and atopic dermatitis. It inhibits an important itch signal, thereby preventing itching at its source. Apoquel® also reduces the release of some of the signals that trigger inflammation. By reducing itchiness and inflammation, Apoquel® helps control allergic skin diseases in dogs.

How long can a dog take Apoquel®?

Apoquel® may be given short-term or long-term due to its high level of safety and effectiveness. Your veterinarian will recommend an appropriate length of treatment to help ease the effects of your dog’s allergies.

Is there a generic version of Apoquel®?

No. Generic oclacitinib (active ingredient of Apoquel®) is not available.

No vet writer or qualified reviewer has received any compensation from the manufacturer of the medication as part of creating this article. All content contained in this article is sourced from public sources or the manufacturer


Amy Van Gels, DVM


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