After much research, anticipation and high hopes, we now have a new drug available for the treatment of allergic skin disease in dogs.  The drug named Apoquel™ (oclacitinib) was developed by Zoetis (formerly Pfizer) and will be officially launched and available after January 20, 2014.   We at D4A are already familiar with Apoquel™ because of our involvement with the drug during its development.  Several of our doctors and many of our patients have been involved since the early clinical trials over the last six years.  We have participated in three different clinical trials to study the safety and effectiveness of Apoquel™.  We have also been involved in a long-term study where we have monitored patients receiving Apoquel™ for over three years and counting.  Because of our experience with Apoquel™, Dr. Lewis was one of three dermatologist invited to speak about Apoquel™ at a “First to Know” meeting in Chicago in the summer of 2013.


Apoquel™ is an amazing drug for several reasons.  It works faster than a steroid, with most patients showing some improvement in their itch the very first day. It is better tolerated with fewer side effects than either steroids (prednisone, Medrol™) or Atopica™ (cyclosporine), which are two other classes of drugs commonly used to help allergic dogs. We envision Apoquel™ being helpful in several different scenarios.  For the allergic dog who has a short-term season of itch, such as every spring when the pollen count is elevated, or for a flea allergic patient who is scratching after a flea bite, Apoquel™ should be an effective and appropriate option.  Another time to use Apoquel™ would be when short-term relief is needed while a patient is starting a food trial.  Because a patient may continue to scratch for several weeks even after the diet change, Apoquel™ can provide comfort during this “lag time” before the food helps.  Many of our allergic patients are allergy tested and then started on some form of immunotherapy (desensitization).  We have the option of either allergy shots, or allergy drops under the tongue (sublingual immunotherapy).  This is the only long-term treatment that is not a drug and is the very best therapy for many of our patients, however, it can require several months (or sometimes longer) before the desensitization is helpful.  Apoquel™ does not interfere with desensitization shots or drops, and can therefore be used in the beginning of such a program to provide relief until desensitization becomes effective.

Finally, Apoquel™ will also be a welcome treatment addition for those allergic patients who just cannot get enough relief from the traditional therapies currently available.  Treating an allergic dog requires being sure we have the correct diagnosis, and then finding the best treatment or treatments while we try and balance the safety, effectiveness, cost,  and ease of administration.  It is certainly not a “one size fits all” approach.  The doctors and staff at D4A continue to help clients find these balances so that we may provide the best comfort with the highest level of safety for your beloved pets.


Written by: Thomas P. Lewis II, DACVD