Allergy Season is Here. Apoquel, Helpful or Harmful?

Allergy Season is Here. Apoquel, Helpful or Harmful?

Spring has sprung and allergy season is here.   Warmer temperatures cause plants to produce more pollen and pollution in the air can trigger symptoms.  It is very likely that whatever caused the allergy to express itself during warmer seasons, was dormant in the body before spring. 

Maybe your dog is itchy, has interdigital cysts, dermatitis, mange conjunctivitis,  which are obviously very uncomfortable.  Most vets will prescribe Apoquel immediately.

If your vet does this, I would find a new asap and read on to understand why Apoquel isn't the answer. It will cause more long-term damage even if it does make the symptoms go away temporarily.  Notice, I didn't use the word "heal," because Apoquel does not do that.  

Apoquel or oclacitinib is an "immune modulator" and an anti-allergy medication often prescribed to alleviate the dreaded itchies.  Zoetis, the manufacture of Apoquel, states that the drug has been "prescribed for over 12 million dogs and counting" and that it "may increase the chances of developing serious infections, and may cause existing parasitic skin infestations or pre-existing cancers to get worse" (Source: Zoetis

First, 12 million dogs is a huge amount.  12 million dogs on Apoquel is a real lot of sick dogs.  Perhaps instead of throwing medication at the symptoms and suppressing the root cause, vets should think about why so many dogs are itchy in the first place?  I would absolutely attribute the increase in allergies and disease in general to too many vaccines and poor diet.  Second, those potential side effects don't seem like a risk worth taking when thinking about your dogs' overall health and well being.   

There is no doubt that most board certified dermatologists would attribute the itchies to a host of diseases including: 

  • Flea allergy dermatitis
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Food allergy dermatitis
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Sarcoptic Mange
  • Demodectic Mange

(Source: VitalAnimal)

Unfortunately, most vets won't actually figure out why this dermatitis is happening in the first place. 

All of these diseases are our dogs' immune system telling us that there is inflammation that needs to be healed (and apoquel definitely will not do that).  When inflammation is present, the immune system will do its' thing and actually try to heal itself because nature, by design, is awesome.  In fact, infectious disease, trauma, bites and stings, lacerations, all of these heal with inflammation (Read more on that here). 

However, when inflammation is chronic and the itchies are chronic, the body needs help to heal itself.  Think of it as being stuck and needing some help to get un-stuck.  This is where nutrition, diet, exercise and lifestyle come in to play because the healthier your dog is overall, the more efficiently and quickly they will be able to recover. 

So, when you give Apoquel, it will literally stop any inflammation present, but it does so by destroying your dog's innate disease-fighting capacities by interfering with enzymes called kinases or JAKs, which are absolutely needed in

  • Policing the body against tumor formation
  • Controlling body growth and development
  • Forming white and red blood cells
  • Ensuring antibody-producing B cells and “policing” T-cells are functioning well
  • Regulating inflammatory response

(Source: Dogs Naturally Magazine)

So, Apoquel will absolutely stop the itchies initially by suppressing the symptoms and not addressing the root cause, ultimately creating more long-term illness.  

I think it's important to note that Apoquel, worth $4.34 billion in 2012 before Apoquel even hit the market,  is owned by Zoetis (Source: VitalAnimal), a subsidiary of Pfizer and collaborator of MARS inc., who basically have a monopoly on the dog food industry.  Further, Zoetis reported a full year revenue of $7,400 - $7,550 billion (Source BusinessWire).  

If the makers of Apoquel, Zoetis, are aware that it could cause cancer, infections and all kinds of complications, then why keep it on the market?  The answer is money.  Sadly, this is yet another reminder that  the veterinary business is in the business of keeping animals alive, not curing animals or keeping them healthy. The schools are funded by the dog food maker, the school is funded by the dog food guy, the dog food guy is also owned by the vaccine guy and the vaccine guy makes the laws on what makes what legal and what is approved. 

(Image Sources Mars Petcare and Pfizer Canada)

The silver lining here is that there are healthier and safer alternatives to apoquel, which is homeopathy.  According to this study, 20 dogs with atopic dermatitis,  "were treated by a veterinary homeopath with individualized remedies prescribed on the basis of the dog’s cutaneous signs and constitutional characteristics."  The control group was given the placebo and the experimental group was given the homeopathic remedies.  The study concluded that the homeopathic remedies reduced the dermatitis. 

So what do you do when your dog has the itchies? 

  1. Do not give Apoquel or stop giving it immediately
  2. Ask your vet questions and do your own research
  3. Optimize health by feeding high quality food and vaccinating only when necessary to give your dog the best chance possible at being as healthy as possible. 
  4. Check out Bobzilla's "Healthy, Happy Life Made Simple" Quiz 
  5. Home cook or feed raw
  6. Work with an integrative vet

 Read more on this topic here and here .

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