Vets sometimes prescribe Apoquel for Labradoodles to ease itchiness caused by allergies.
Also known as oclacitinab, Apoquel has become popular for its fast and effective relief of allergy symptoms since it came on the market a few years ago.
But how safe is it to give your dog Apoquel?
Are there any side effects for your dog, especially if he takes it for an extended period?
In this article we’ll take a closer look at everything you need to know about Apoquel, including what studies have shown.
Are Labradoodles Prone to Skin Allergies?
Like humans, dogs can be allergic to just about anything.
Unfortunately, skin allergies are quite common in Labradoodles since both the Labrador Retriever and the Poodle are subject to allergic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema.
If you notice your Labradoodle is licking and scratching incessantly, a trip to the veterinarian is in order to determine the cause. There’s also a risk of infection from continuous scratching and biting.
Common Causes of Skin Allergies in Labradoodles
If you notice that your Labradoodle is itching, scratching, rubbing, or licking there’s a good chance he has skin allergies.
There are four common types of allergies in dogs:
- Flea bite allergy
- Environmental allergies (to pollen, dust, mold, etc)
- Food allergies (which often come to light soon after changing your Labradoodle’s diet)
- Contact allergies (for example perfumes, insecticides or deoderants)
What is Apoquel for Labradoodles?
If your Labradoodle suffers from allergies you know that the itching can drive him crazy. He may scratch and bite furiously to try and relieve the discomfort.
Apoquel is an oral medication that inhibits the enzymes which cause the inflammation and itchiness associated with atopic dermatitis in dogs.
Apoquel was developed specifically for dogs and usually starts to diminish itching within 24 hours.
The effects wear off quickly, within 12-24 hours, so in most cases it needs to be administered daily.
This FDA-approved immune suppressant works differently than antihistamines, steroids, or cyclosporine.
It’s important to note that Apoquel does not treat the cause of the allergy, but simply blocks the symptoms.
Is Apoquel Safe for Labradoodles?
This 2013 study found that Apoquel provided rapid, effective and safe control of atopic dermatitis.
However, Apoquel is not safe for dogs under 12 months old.
Studies show that it puts puppies at an increased risk of bacterial pneumonia and generalized demodex mange infections.
Since Apoquel works by suppressing the immune system, your vet may advise against using it if your Labradoodle has other health conditions.
Dogs that are breeding or lactating should also not be given this drug.
Side Effects of Apoquel
Luckily, most Labradoodles will experience few side effects from taking Apoquel as long as it is given as prescribed.
In fact, the results of this study show that Apoquel was safe and effective for over 95% of dogs and long‐term use improved their quality of life.
Gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite and fatigue are among the most reported side effects. But these symptoms can often be relieved by giving the medication with food.
Less common side effects include increased susceptibility to urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, and skin infections.
Apoquel Dosage for Labradoodles
Tablets come in 3 different strengths: 3.6mg, 5.4 mg and 16mg of oclacitinib per tablet.
Your Labradoodle’s weight will determine the dose of Apoquel they need.
Since the Labradoodle is a mixed breed that comes in a wide range of sizes depending on whether the Poodle parent is a Standard, Miniature or Toy, weight can vary greatly.
The data sheet provided by the manufacturer, Zoetis offers the following guidelines based on weight.
If your Labradoodle weighs:
- 15 to 19.9 pounds, a single tablet of 3.6 mg
- 20 to 29.9 pounds, a single tablet of 5.4 mg
- 30 to 44.9 pounds, half a tablet of 16 mg
- 45 to 59.9 pounds, two tablets of 5.4 mg
- 60 to 89.9 pounds, a single tablet of 16 mg
Of course, these are only guidelines and Labradoodles may require a different dosage.
If your vet recommends a different amount, it’s best to follow their advice.
How Long Can My Labradoodle Take Apoquel?
There have been no time restrictions placed on this drug by the FDA.
In a study dogs have been treated with Apoquel for longer than 2 years.
How Much Does Apoquel Cost?
In the US, you can expect to pay between $1.80 and $2.50 per tablet.
Different strengths of Apoquel have a different price range.
The higher the strength of the tablet the more you can expect to pay.
You may find less expensive generic options online, but Zoetis is the only manufacturer who has the rights to produce oclacitinib tablets and Apoquel is the only brand name they use.
If you have pet insurance, it may cover the cost.
Pros and Cons of Apoquel for Labradoodles
- Rapid onset of relief, Apoquel can reduce itching within 4 hours
- Effectively controls itching within 24 hours
- Less side effects than some other treatments
- Low likelihood of side effects, even with long term use
- No withdrawal needed for skin testing
- Minimal negative impact on the dog’s immune system
- Competitive pricing
- Does not work for all dogs
- Apoquel is not a cure, it only treats the symptoms
- No long term data available due to newness of Apoquel
Alternative Treatments for Skin Allergies in Labradoodles
Atopic dermatitis is frequently caused by underlying genetic factors, and is typically chronic.
Management of this skin disease is usually possible with medication, and by eliminating known allergens from your dog’s diet or environment.
Oral antihistamines such as benadryl, clemastine, and hydroxyzine can help reduce itching, but are not as effective as steroids.
However, they are generally safe and don’t have as many side effects, although they can make some dogs fatigued and other restless.
Steroids work quickly and effectively to reduce itching and are fairly safe when used for short periods.
There are side effects such as increased urination and weight gain.
But when used for long periods there can be a risk of serious health problems that includes liver enlargement, high blood pressure, kidney disease, weakened muscles and ligaments, bladder infections, thinning of the skin, and hair loss.
Cyclosporine is a broad-spectrum anti-inflammatory that is usually safe to use long-term. It also has the advantage of being able to use on puppies as young as 6 months old.
The downside is that the onset is slow and it is not good for flare ups.
Gastrointestinal side effects are also more common than with other treatments and it often cannot be used if the dog is taking other medications.
Should I Give My Labradoodle Apoquel?
Giving your Labradoodle Apoquel if he’s suffering from allergies can give him almost immediate relief from itching and scratching.
For dogs that suffer from chronic atopic dermatitis it may be a good long term choice.
However, since Apoquel has only been on the market since 2014, there’s a possibility of long term effects that have yet to be discovered.
Like any drug there is always the possibility of side effects, and it’s important to talk to your vet and always give your dog the correct dosage.
Have you ever given your Labradoodle Apoquel?
Let us know in the comments.
References and Further Reading
Favrot, C., et al., “A prospective study on the clinical features of chronic canine atopic dermatitis and its diagnosis,” Veterinary Dermatology, 2010
Hensel, P., et al., “Canine atopic dermatitis: detailed guidelines for diagnosis and allergen identification,” BMC Veterinary Research, 2015
Eisenschenk, M., “My clinical experience with Apoquel (oclacitinib),” Pet Dermatology Clinic, 2019
APOQUEL® (oclacitinib tablet) information sheet. Zoetis. 2019.
Cosgrove, SB, et al., “A blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of the efficacy and safety of the Janus kinase inhibitor oclacitinib (Apoquel®) in client-owned dogs with atopic dermatitis,” Veterinary Dermatology, 2013
Barnette, C., Oclacitinib. VCA Hospitals. Accessed February 2021.
Goretl, K., “An embarrassment of riches: An update on the symptomatic treatment of canine atopic dermatitis,” The Canadian Veterinary Journal, 2018.