Does Apoquel Cause Cancer In Dogs? 

One of the most common things many dog parents have to deal with is their canine companion suffering from allergies that can cause itching. Seeing your pet dog in distress and discomfort from the itching can be very upsetting. There’s also the helplessness you may feel when you have to constantly take your dog to the vet to treat the itch, knowing that the treatment may or may not work. 

Suppose you’re in that boat having to deal with witnessing your furry buddy constantly scratch their irritated skin. In that case, you might have considered giving your dog Apoquel. But, when treating your dog’s irritated skin issues with apoquel, you might ask: does apoquel cause cancer in dogs? 

Do you have a specific question about Apoquel causing cancer in dogs? Then use the table of contents below to jump to the most relevant section. And you can always go back by clicking on the black arrow in the right bottom corner of the page. Also, please note that some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. For more details, check the Disclosure section at the bottom of the page. 

What is apoquel? 

It’s essential to understand what apoquel really is to answer the question: does apoquel cause cancer in dogs? So, what is Apoquel? There is a dog medication known as oclacitinib. Apoquel is basically the brand name that is used for the dog medication, oclacitinib. Apoquel is basically an anti-allergy medication for canines. However, unlike other anti-allergy medications, it is neither an antihistamine (like diphenhydramine) nor a steroid (like prednisone). This anti-allergy medication is made by Zoetis.  

How does apoquel work? 

Understanding how Apoquel works is imperative to answer the question: does apoquel cause cancer in dogs? Suppose the mechanism of functioning of a medication isn’t clear. In that case, understanding its short-term and long-term consequences on your dog’s health will be difficult. 

Since Apoquel is not an antihistamine or a steroid, then what is it? Well, Apoquel is a selective JAKi (selective Janus kinase inhibitor). Janus kinase (JAK) are enzymes. These enzymes work with cytokines, which are proteins, to facilitate essential body functions like an inflammatory response, immunity, blood cell production, and itchiness (pruritus). 

So, Janus kinase is responsible for causing the sensation of itchiness in dogs. Since Apoquel is a selective JAKi, it inhibits (only selectively) those cytokines that are responsible for allergic reactions and, in turn, itchiness with minimal effects on blood production or the immune system. 

Does Apoquel cause cancer in dogs? Examining the side effects of apoquel 

Now that you’re well aware of why apoquel is called a selective JAKi and how it works in inhibiting allergic reactions in dogs and alleviates itchiness in dogs let’s look into the side effects of Apoquel in dogs. Does apoquel cause cancer in dogs? To know this, you’ll need to acquaint yourself with the side effects of this anti-allergy medication first. 

Remember while you read the list of side effects of apoquel that all medications come with side effects. Apoquel is no exception. So, if you’re thinking about giving your dog apoquel, here are some of the potential side effects that your furry buddy may experience: 

  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Reduced appetite 
  • Decreased count of blood cells (change in blood work) 
  • Higher susceptibility to inflections (demodectic mange, UTI, respiratory infections, skin infections) 

When it comes to giving your pup apoquel, one of the most common sets of side effects that your dog might experience is the gastrointestinal symptoms. Be prepared for potential episodes of diarrhea, vomiting, anorexia signs, reduced appetite, etc. However, gastrointestinal distress can be solved easily. Just remember to give your furry friend their anti-allergy medication with food. 

Recommended apoquel dosages for dogs 

Being mentally prepared for the list of side effects you just read about is very important. But what’s even more critical in answering the question: “Does apoquel cause cancer in dogs?” is being well-informed about the right dosage of this anti-allergy medication. Apoquel is sold as an oral tablet in 3 strengths, namely, 3.6 milligrams, 5.6 milligrams, and 16 milligrams. 

Figuring out the correct dosage for dogs is very easy with apoquel. The usual recommendation is between 0.18 and 0.27 milligrams per pound. However, with the three strength varieties of apoquel available, it’ll be easy to administer the correct dosage of apoquel to your canine companion! 

Drug interactions and eligibility criteria for apoquel use in dogs 

Here are some crucial points to remember when it comes to the drug interactions and safety warnings for apoquel use in dogs: 

  • Vets may often prescribe apoquel with other itch relief medications, including topical, injectable, or oral. 
  • Some safe medications for administration while on apoquel include antibiotics, antihistamines, and NSAIDs. 
  • It is essential to be cautious if apoquel is prescribed with immunosuppressive drugs and steroids. 
  • It is possible for canines to overdose on apoquel, so make sure that this medication is out of your canine companion’s reach. If your dog accidentally overdoses on apoquel, immediately rush them to the vet to prevent any toxic effects from manifesting. 
  • Extensive research has shown that apoquel is safe for dogs at least 12 months old. So, if your dog is 12 months or older and has irritable skin issues, they may be eligible to take apoquel. 
  • Apoquel’s safety hasn’t yet been tested in nursing or pregnant dogs. So, do not give your nursing or pregnant dog any apoquel. 
  • Apoquel is also not safe to administer to dogs with a cancer history. 

The bottom line 

So, apoquel is a popular anti-allergy medication prescribed to dogs with pruritus. So, does apoquel cause cancer in dogs? No, apoquel hasn’t been proven to be the cause of cancer in dogs. However, it is important to remember that since it is a selective JAK inhibitor, it can still affect immune function slightly and mildly exacerbate some infections in dogs. 

What makes apoquel quite popular for treating pruritus is its side effects are very mild! However, if your dog already has a history of cancer, apoquel is not safe to administer to your dog. This is because it can make pre-existing cancer worse. So remember that although apoquel cannot cause cancer, it can worsen cancer and tumor growth in dogs with a history of cancer. 

So, if you’re taking your canine companion to the vet to treat skin irritations due to allergies, ensure that you provide a detailed medical history of your pup to your vet. 

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