A lot of dog breeds like Golden Retrievers, Boston Terriers and West Highland White Terriers are prone to allergies. This applies to both male and female dogs. If your dog has allergies, you are likely to prominently see symptoms from the age of six months to about three years.
Many of these allergies are seasonal. Your pup’s face, feet and ears will feel extra itchy, and you will find them scratching themselves more than usual. It could also lead to wound, ear and skin infections.
About 15 percent of dogs with conditions like atopic dermatitis also develop asthma and inflammation in the nose. So, you need to investigate what they are allergic to and find a solution to get them out of their uncomfortable predicament.
For a while, Apoquel was seen as this miracle drug that got rid of itchy and sore skin quickly and effectively. But of late, that has not been the case.
Allergies are nothing but failures of the immune system. And Apoquel has helped many a dog get better. But there are more than a couple of problems with this drug. We’ll go into them in detail in a bit but for starters, it has been known to:
- Stunt body growth
- Control overall inflammation
- Stops the body from detecting and getting rid of cells that are potentially cancerous
- Reduce the development of red and white blood cells
This is a drug that is typically prescribed for dermatitis. But not only are these unwanted side effects but are also dangerous for the general well-being of your pup.
That is why, for a while now, a lot of dog parents are looking for alternatives to Apoquel. If you are one of them, fear not.
We have some solutions for you and your dog. But fair warning. Consult your vet before you make any sudden changes. Now let’s look at the available alternatives.
Dealing with Environmental Allergens
When testing for allergies, remember that food is not always the suspect. A lot of allergens that irritate the skin are present on a surface or in the air. About 90 percent of dogs with allergies are reacting to environmental allergens.
To figure this out, you need to get some air purifiers that have HVAC filters. If you already have one of these, make sure you have changed the filters. Try to limit your dog’s contact with grass, dust mites and pollen that are common culprits.
In fact, if your dog’s allergies are seasonal, like in fall and spring, you can angrily glare at plant pollen.
You might also want to start thinking about immunotherapy to narrow down the list of potential allergens. This is a process where a series of allergens are introduced to your dog’s system so that your canine gets used to the allergen and so doesn’t react to it any longer.
Ideally, you must limit the use of drugs because a lot of them, like Apoquel, can lead to a dependency problem.
Changes in the Diet
When it comes to skin allergies among dogs, you need to see if there is an unidentified allergen in their food. This can be done by elimination.
Study the label pack of the foods you are already giving them. Strip their meals down to the bare minimum items that contain one starch and one protein. Observe them on this diet for a week or two.
If they seem to be fine, then food is the culprit. Then you can start adding items to their meals once every two weeks and observe if there is a skin flare up. That way, you will be able to figure out the ingredient that has caused the allergy.
When you strip the meals down to the bare minimum make sure the quantity is adjusted so that your pup doesn’t starve. Also, keep your vet in the loop so that you don’t miss out on expert advice.
This process will take time and requires you to do some work. But that is the responsibility to have undertaken.
Since a lot of commercial brands come with a nutrient pack, your dog will be lacking on this front for a bit. So read up on homemade recipes and make sure to give them a balanced meal.
When cooking at home, make sure you are mindful of foods that contain irritable and allergens like dairy, eggs, wheat and soy. Dogs are also likely to develop an allergy towards meats they frequently eat.
So, that list often includes pork, lamb, chicken and fish. That is why you need to mix and match the meats you give them. Synthetic vitamins and preservatives can also cook up a storm.
It is unlikely but in the elimination stage, you must consider all possibilities. That’s why cooking at home will help you figure out what’s causing the allergy. The ingredients of flavoured medications, supplements and treats must also be taken into account.
Maintain a list of the items you have eliminated as an allergen and if you succeed, you will see a change in their skin and coat situation.
Now, while you’re working on environmental allergens and food allergens, you might want to look into supplements that are built to decrease inflammation on the skin.
Supplements also give your dog some necessary vitamins and minerals that will help the little guy fight the allergies in the meanwhile. Fish oil supplements that contain omega fatty acids are really good for getting rid of itching and also maintaining general skin health. And there are no side effects to this remedy.
When the dog’s body lacks a particular enzyme that needs to break down certain food particles, it might cause indigestion or nutrition deficit. That in turn can cause an immune response like itching and might finally result in your pup developing a food intolerance or an allergy. So, any of the probiotic blends and digestive enzymes in the market that are made for dogs are a good idea.
You might also want to consider getting your dog tested for vitamin D levels just to be sure. It plays a key role in fighting allergies.
Dealing With Parasites and Infections
If you haven’t done a bunch of tests to make sure your puppy doesn’t have fleas or mites, you should do it right away. This is the easiest way to figure out what’s bothering your little one. If your dog has dermatitis, you might not know that through these tests but you have to go through the routine anyway.
If your dog has never had fleas, it is possible that one little bite has unleashed this world of misery. And that’s an easy thing to miss. Mange is another thing that is easily missed.
Certain mites can go deep into the dermal layer and refuse to surface through normal skin scrappings. So, you might have to do more than one test to detect them. You know that’s what you have to do if the test result was negative but your dog is showing symptoms of mange.
Staph bacteria is another possibility if your dog has environmental allergies. It is microbial and is usually on a lot of surfaces. It can be detected through blood tests that take a look at antibodies. Vets are also likely to prescribe antibiotics to eliminate the possibility of dermatitis caused by bacteria.
Just remember that while that helps, yeast infections can get worse due to antibiotics and that can also lead to itching. So, talk to your vet about all the symptoms and keep them posted when something new happens. And come the moment, don’t hesitate to consult a dermatology specialist.
If your pup is in pain and the itching seems to be bothering them, you can get help with a variety of ointments and balms. But remember that this is a temporary solution to ease their pain while you figure out what is causing the allergy. But there are also some home remedies that can be incredibly helpful
Coconut oil has antibacterial properties and is naturally soothing to the skin. If you have some lavender lying around in the house, mix it up with the oil and apply it to your pup’s skin.
The same is the case with baking soda, apple cider vinegar, camomile tea and green tea because their ingredients are skin soothers. A lot of pet parents like to hit the pharmacy for balms if their canine has hot spots. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Some Serious Problems with Apoquel
If the alternative to medications like Apoquel did not convince you to get your dog off it, here’s a dip into the side effects of the so-called miracle drug. It might even look like your dog is getting better on Apoquel initially but that recovery comes with a price.
- Dependency: This is a strong medicine that is meant to treat chronic skin problems. So, when a dog is prescribed Apoquel, the assumption is also that they will never really be taken off it.
And even in those cases, a lot of pet parents stop giving it to the dog to see if he or she can do without it and discover that without the medication, their dog is worse than he or she ever was.
So, you see how a vicious cycle in place? In fact, Apoquel is like a bandage that forces the immune system to do things it is ill equipped to do. So, the moment you stop giving it to your dog, the system crashes and the pup is back to square one. Often, worse than where they were before Apoquel.
- Connection to Cancer: The immune system has a huge role in fighting cancer inside a dog’s body (as is the case with humans). Apoquel has the ability to increase the possibility of cancer.
In fact, you will see that it is even listed on the box as “may exacerbate neoplastic conditions”. This means that it has the capacity to exacerbate cancers that are already in your canine’s body.
What could be worse than going in to cure an itch and possibly dermatitis only to end up with cancer? This shouldn’t come as such a shock considering the medicine basically tinkers with the way the immune system works.
One study showed that five percent of dogs that were put on Apoquel were diagnosed with cancer in one form or the other in just over a year after starting the intake. It is true that Apoquel doesn’t cause cancer, but that’s a very low bar, isn’t it?
- Expensive: You’re going to find this a little offensive. On top of all that it already does, Apoquel is actually an expensive drug. This medication has been on the market for a few years now and it is pretty sought after for situations of severe and chronic itching among dogs. And that’s why it is a pricey one.
- Other Side Effects: Like any other drug, you can expect this one also to cause diarrhoea and puking. Apart from that, it can increase the rate of infection because it suppresses the immune system’s functions to get its way. Demodex mange, pneumonia and ear infections shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Is There An Alternative To Apoquel For Dogs? – The Bottom Line
The biggest red flag of them all is when Apoquel is prescribed to a puppy under the age of one. Their immune systems are weaker than grown dogs and that’s highly dangerous.
In grown dogs, Prednisone was the go-to medication that was regularly prescribed by vets for allergic dermatitis and it was about 800 percent less expensive than Apoquel.
Of course, it wasn’t as powerful and hence not as effective as our “miracle drug”. Atopica was another medication that vets used to prescribe but its side effects were just as bad as Apoquel, if not worse.
And Apoquel has a patent in place untill 2026 which means there really won’t be a rival for another few years. So, the above mentioned remedies are your best bet.
There are a few other choices like Benadryl which can help but none of them as effective as Apoquel. However, they are without a doubt much safer than the latter.
To answer the question, is there an alternative to Apoquel for dogs, yes there are a few but they aren’t as effective but they can be a lot safer.