The Double-Edged Sword: Evaluating Apoquel's Side Effects on Canine Health

The Double-Edged Sword: Evaluating Apoquel's Side Effects on Canine Health

Posted by volhard dog nutrition on Apr 5th 2024

We're discussing a topic that's been wagging tails and raising brows in the canine community: the impact of Apoquel on our furry companions.

Apoquel, a popular medication for managing itchiness and skin irritation flare-ups in dogs, has been praised for providing immediate relief to itching pooches.

However, another side of this story that needs to be discussed more is Apoquel's risks and side effects.

What Is Apoquel?

Apoquel skin issues

Apoquel is an FDA-approved medicine for use in dogs.

It's primarily given to dogs to help with two skin issues: atopic and allergic dermatitis. These conditions cause allergic reactions that lead to itchy skin and rashes.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis in dogs is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition similar to atopic eczema in humans. It primarily results from the dog's immune system overreacting to environmental allergens, such as pollen, mold spores, and dust mites.

Dogs suffering from atopic dermatitis typically exhibit persistent itching, skin redness, and the development of sores or hot spots. The condition often manifests on the face, ears, paws, and underbelly.

Allergic Dermatitis

While closely related to atopic dermatitis, allergic dermatitis in dogs is a broader term encompassing skin reactions due to allergic responses. These allergies can be triggered by various sources, not limited to environmental factors.

The triggers for allergic dermatitis in dogs include, but are not limited to, food allergens, flea bites (flea allergy dermatitis), and contact allergens.

Food allergies may manifest as skin irritations, often accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms.

An allergic reaction to flea saliva causes flea allergy dermatitis, and contact allergies arise from the dog's skin coming into direct contact with irritants like certain fabrics or cleaning products.

In allergic dermatitis, the primary symptom is itchy skin, leading to excessive scratching, licking, or biting at the affected areas. This constant irritation may result in inflamed, reddened skin and, in severe cases, hair loss and skin lesions.

How Does Apoquel Work?

Apoquel works by selectively inhibiting Janus kinase, a type of enzyme, thus controlling the cytokines involved in inflammation and allergic itch.

Cytokines are small signaling molecules—they send messages within the body to regulate immune responses and inflammation.

In conditions like allergic dermatitis, specific cytokines are overactive. They send persistent signals that lead to the itching sensation and skin inflammation. This is similar to a false alarm, causing the dog's immune system to overreact, resulting in discomfort and skin irritation.

By inhibiting Janus kinases, Apoquel effectively blocks the action of these overactive cytokines, like turning off the switch that sends the 'itchy' signals. This action disrupts the chain of events that leads to itching and inflammation.

As a result, dogs experiencing allergic skin conditions find temporary relief as the urge to scratch is reduced, and, on the surface, the skin appears less irritated.

Does Apoquel Work for Canine Allergic Dermatitis?

Apoquel is specifically designed to treat skin conditions like canine allergic dermatitis.

Suppressing the immune response associated with allergic reactions helps manage symptoms like irritated skin and the urge to scratch.

While it effectively treats skin allergies, Apoquel is not intended for long-term treatment. Long-term use of Apoquel may lead to harsh side effects, including immune suppression, which could exacerbate pre-existing cancers or other serious infections.

Is Apoquel Useful for Existing Parasitic Skin Infestations?

Apoquel is not indicated for treating existing parasitic skin infestations. Its primary use is for allergic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis.

Are There Specific Restrictions or Precautions for Apoquel Use?

Apoquel should not be used in dogs under 12 months of age, lactating dogs, or dogs with pre-existing cancers or serious infections.

The primary concern surrounding Apoquel is the destruction it causes to the gut microbiome due to its silencing of the body's signaling. This is what causes the common side effects of Apoquel: vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.

It's also advised to use Apoquel with caution in dogs with a history of bone marrow suppression.

As with any medication, follow the prescribed information and consult a holistic veterinarian before commencing with such harsh treatment options.

What Does the FDA Say About Its Efficacy?

The FDA has issued specific guidance regarding Apoquel's efficacy.

In a document addressed to Zoetis, the maker of Apoquel, the FDA raised weighty concerns about the misrepresentation of the drug's effectiveness. This highlights the importance of accurate and transparent communication about what Apoquel can and cannot do.

A noteworthy point in clinical trials was that about 4% of the dogs treated with Apoquel experienced significant medical issues.

The FDA's input and the clinical trial data remind users and veterinarians to weigh the benefits against the potential side effects of Apoquel.

Are There Side Effects of Apoquel in Dogs?

Apoquel, while effective in controlling allergic itches and skin lesions, may have unintended effects on a dog's overall health.

One concern is its impact on gut microbiome balance. A healthy gut microbiome is crucial for a dog's overall health, and any disruption can set the stage for various medical issues.

How Does Apoquel Impact the Immune System?

Apoquel functions as a novel Janus kinase inhibitor, meaning it works by blocking specific pathways at the cellular level. While reducing allergic inflammation and itch, this mechanism also impacts the immune system.

By affecting multiple aspects of cellular communication, Apoquel may lead to immune system issues, potentially making the dog more susceptible to infections and other severe health conditions.

Does Apoquel Affect the Canine Digestive System?

When treating skin allergies with Apoquel, there's concern about its impact on the canine digestive system. This is particularly evident in dogs put on a hydrolyzed diet, which is often recommended for allergic conditions.

Such diets lack major nutritional elements and can contribute to digestive issues like Leaky Gut Syndrome and loose stools. This highlights the importance of a balanced, nutritious diet alongside any treatment.

Can Apoquel Cause Lethargy or Behavioral Changes in Dogs?

From a Chinese medicine perspective, Apoquel exacerbates a Qi deficiency, a 'hot' state in the body. The medication creates an imbalance, causing the body's systems to go into overdrive.

In such a state, the dog's digestive system becomes 'hot,' potentially leading to behavioral changes and lethargy. This underscores the need for a holistic approach to treatment that considers both physical and behavioral health.

How Should Dog Parents Respond to Adverse Reactions to Apoquel?

Dog parents who notice adverse reactions in their pets due to Apoquel must approach the situation with care and informed strategies.

Cutting off the use of Apoquel is not recommended. Instead, you should employ a gradual reduction or microdosing approach. This method involves slowly decreasing the dose, allowing the dog's body to adjust without causing a sudden flare-up of the underlying condition.

Alongside holistic medication management, feeding your dog a natural, holistic diet can be beneficial, especially when dealing with skin allergies or other side effects from Apoquel.

Avoid hydrolyzed food, which often lacks essential nutrients, and opt for whole, nutrient-rich foods. A natural diet supports the dog's overall health, strengthens the immune system, and aids in maintaining healthy skin and coat.

Keep in mind that Apoquel is a temporary solution to a long-term problem. Long-term solutions such as a change in diet or even environmental factors should be explored rather than continuing to rely on this band-aid solution.

Monitor your dog's health closely during any medication change. Look for any signs of discomfort, allergic reactions, or behavioral changes.

Regular consultations with a holistic veterinarian are essential during this transition phase. Your vet will provide tailored advice and adjustments based on your dog's specific health needs and reactions to the change.

Beyond diet and medication, promoting your dog's overall wellness is critical. This includes regular exercise, a stress-free environment, and gentle skin care routines free from irritants.

Keep Your Dog Healthy with Volhard!

Move toward more wholesome, nutrient-rich options instead of relying on toxic medications like Apoquel and poor-quality hydrolyzed foods!

For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure to contact us and check out our blog!

Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods!

Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind.

If you want to contact one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!

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