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Apoquel for Dogs: How It Works, Benefits, Dosing, and Safety

ElleVet Dog

Reviewed by: Dr. Robert Menardi, DVM

Table of Contents

Allergies are never fun. They can cause itchy skin, red eyes, sneezing, and congestion. Unfortunately, allergies aren’t exclusive to just humans. 

Allergies in dogs are a very real problem we face as pet owners. It can lead to a number of health problems, and because most dogs are covered in fur, it can be hard to diagnose or notice at first. 

In recent years, veterinarians have continued to turn toward a medication called Apoquel that has proven to help dogs with allergies and the complications that can follow. This guide will take a close look at how Apoquel works, its benefits, and how to safely administer it to your furry friend. 

How Does Apoquel Work? 

Simply put, Apoquel is an allergy medication used in dogs. It is effective for flea allergies, food allergies, and contact allergies. It is known to be especially effective in treating atopic dermatitis and pruritus in dogs (itching). 

In fact, it is the first medication to be specifically designed to combat allergic itching and inflammation in dogs. It is available in 3 different strengths and costs around $200 per 100 tablets (100 doses). 

Apoquel works by inhibiting chemicals in your dog’s body called cytokines. Basically, when dogs are allergic to something or are suffering from seasonal allergies, cytokine chemicals in the body create inflammation and itching around the area of concern. 

Medication like Apoquel can help curb your dog’s need to itch, thus allowing the area to heal properly. Without a drug to control itching and scratching, your dog will constantly irritate the area, ultimately worsening their allergies and symptoms. 

What Are the Benefits of Apoquel for Dogs?

Apoquel is a highly regarded allergy medication for dogs and offers a range of benefits that set it apart from other treatments. Its effectiveness and unique characteristics make it a preferred choice for many pet owners seeking support for their furry companions.

Speed of Action

One of the standout features of Apoquel is its remarkable speed of action. Within just four hours of administration, Apoquel begins to alleviate the distressing symptoms of allergies in dogs.

This rapid onset of support provides immediate comfort and a swift return to normalcy. Within 24 hours, Apoquel can completely control your dog’s allergic itch, promising not only immediate respite but also long-term support.


Apoquel’s distinction extends to its composition. It is not a steroid-based medication, a rarity among allergy treatments. 

Steroid-based drugs are commonly associated with adverse side effects in dogs, including increased thirst and urination, along with potential immune system complications. Apoquel’s steroid-free formula eliminates the risk of these unwanted consequences, making it a safer and more comfortable choice for dogs.

Long-Term Itch Reduction and Inflammation

In addition to rapid support and steroid-free composition, Apoquel offers the added advantage of long-term itch reduction. By effectively curbing your dog’s urge to scratch, it contributes to the healing process, preventing further damage to the skin and promoting a healthier, happier pet. 

Moreover, it helps reduce long-term skin inflammation, addressing the root causes of allergies and enhancing your dog’s overall well-being.

What Is the Dosing and Administration for Apoquel?

Apoquel is given orally, twice a day, for 14 days (initially). Following the 14-day period, dosing is decreased to a maintenance amount once a day while slowly decreasing dosage to the lowest effective amount (during long-term use). 

You can, however, safely stop Apoquel use without tapering dosage. It can be given with or without food, and your dog’s weight will determine the exact dose amount. Apoquel doses are usually between .04-.06 milligrams per kilogram of body weight (mg/kg). 

Is Apoquel Safe? What Are the Side Effects?

Apoquel is safe to use in dogs one year and older. Side effects have been rarely seen and documented, but the most common occurrences have been mild vomiting and diarrhea. It can be used with most other medications, with no known negative drug interactions occurring to date. 

Before you start Apoquel for your dog, make sure you and your dog’s veterinarian go through any and all existing medications and how they may interact with Apoquel, if at all. Apoquel is not for use in pregnant pets or pets with severe infections. 

What Are the Common Causes of Canine Allergies?

Now that you know all about canine allergy medication, you might be wondering what your dog is allergic to in the first place. Canine allergies are as diverse as the breeds themselves, affecting dogs of all shapes and sizes. 

Identifying the causes behind these allergies is essential in providing effective treatment and support for your furry friend. This section explores some of the common culprits behind canine allergies.

Environmental Allergens

Pollen, mold spores, dust mites, and grasses are among the environmental allergens that can trigger allergic reactions in dogs. These allergens are often inhaled or come into contact with a dog’s skin, leading to symptoms like itching, sneezing, and skin irritation.

Food Allergies

Dogs can develop allergies to specific ingredients in their diet, commonly proteins like chicken, beef, wheat, and corn. Food allergies often manifest as skin problems, digestive issues, or chronic ear infections.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Flea bites can be more than just annoying for dogs. They can trigger an allergic reaction known as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Even a single flea bite can cause intense itching and discomfort in dogs with FAD.

Contact Allergies

Some dogs may be sensitive to certain substances they come into contact with, such as cleaning products, shampoos, or even certain fabrics. Symptoms typically occur in areas where contact was made.

Insect Stings and Bites

Insects like bees, wasps, or mosquitoes can provoke allergic reactions when they sting or bite a dog. Swelling, redness, and itching are common symptoms.


Certain breeds are predisposed to specific allergies due to their genetic makeup. For example, retrievers and bulldogs are more prone to environmental allergies, while West Highland White Terriers and Shar-Peis are often susceptible to food allergies.

Understanding the root causes of your dog’s allergies is crucial for developing an effective treatment plan and enhancing their overall quality of life.

Wrapping Up

Canine allergies are a prevalent issue that can significantly impact your dog’s well-being. Whether triggered by environmental factors, food, insects, or genetics, allergies can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms and affect your pet’s quality of life. 

Recognizing the signs of allergies and identifying the specific causes are essential steps in providing your dog with the care and support they need.

Fortunately, there are various treatments and management strategies available to alleviate your dog’s allergic reactions and improve their comfort. Consultation with a veterinarian is a crucial first step. They can help pinpoint the allergens affecting your dog and recommend appropriate treatments, such as medications like Apoquel, supplements, dietary changes, or allergen avoidance. 

By addressing your dog’s allergies and tailoring their care to their specific needs, you can help them lead a healthier, happier life, free from the discomfort and irritation caused by allergies. At ElleVet, we believe your veterinarian is your best partner in managing your dog’s allergies — don’t hesitate to seek their guidance and expertise when considering giving Apoquel to your furry companion.


Cytokine and Lymphocyte Profiles in Dogs with Atopic Dermatitis after Allergen-Specific Immunotherapy | NIH 

Steroid Treatment – Effects in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospitals

Food Allergies in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospital

The immunopathogenesis of flea allergy dermatitis in dogs, an experimental study | K-State