Apoquel (oclacitinib) is a medicine that works to control the symptoms of allergic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis in dogs. It works by specifically targeting cytokines (a type of substance released by the immune system) to help stop itching and inflammation. Even though it is very effective, some owners report that with long-term use, the medicine does not work as well.

The drug can reduce itching in as little as 12 hours.

Recommended Dosage

Note: Never give this medicine to your dog without the approval of your vet, and always follow the exact recommendations of your vet. The following dosage should be viewed as a general guideline only.

For atopic and allergic dermatitis, Apoquel may be given to dogs at a dosage of 0.18 – 0.27 mg/lb. For the first two weeks, this is to be given twice per day, and then once per day after the first two weeks for maintenance. Avoid giving the medicine twice daily long-term.

The chart below shows a dosage of 0.2 mg/lb.
Chart showing an example Apoquel dosage for the treatment of dogs

Dog’s Weight In Pounds: Dosage In Mg:

Or for simpler dosing, see the table below:

Weight of Dog

3.6 Mg Tablets per Dose

5.4 Mg Tablets per Dose

16 Mg Tablets per Dose

6.6 – 9.9 lbs0.5
10 – 14.9 lbs0.5
15 – 19.9 lbs1
20 – 29.9 lbs1
30 – 44.9 lbs0.5
45 – 59.9 lbs2
60 – 89.9 lbs1
90 – 129.9 lbs1.5
130 – 175.9 lbs2

You may give this medicine with or without food. We advise giving it with food because it can help to lower the risk of vomiting.

Example: A dog weighing 40 pounds may be given 8 mg twice daily for two weeks, then 8 mg once daily for maintenance.


Is It Safe?

There is not yet much information about the safety of Apoquel, but it seems to be low risk for short-term use, as well as effective. The manufacturer also cites a study which claims that the drug produced minimal side effects in dogs who were treated for 2 years.

Apart from this, we know that the medicine:

Can reduce immune system function – This can mean your dog is more prone to infection, or that existing infections or cancers could get worse with treatment. One study has shown that there is an appropriate immune response to vaccines in dogs given doses of 0.8 mg/lb (about 3 times the usual dose). However, 5 of the 8 dogs in the study developed swollen lymph nodes, inflammation of the paws, and cysts. One dog developed pneumonia and was put down.

Does not inhibit JAK2-dependent cytokines significantly – This is a positive, as these cytokines are important for the creation of new blood cells and for innate immune function.

Is not recommended for dogs who are pregnant, nursing, or breeding, or who are under 12 months old – The manufacturer recommends avoiding use in these cases.

For more information on this, 2ndchance has two great pages you should check out. The first contains comments from dog owners who have treated their dog with Apoquel, which you can see here, and the second is another very comprehensive article about the drug, written by Dr. Hines. Keep in mind that while the owner comments are very helpful, they only count as anecdotal evidence.

Safety Guidelines

To safely use this medicine, we recommend following these guidelines:

  • Never use without veterinary approval
  • Contact the vet right away if your dog shows symptoms of fever or pneumonia, or develops growths or skin changes
  • Give with food when possible to help reduce the vomiting risk
  • Do not give to dogs that are under 1 year of age or suffering from a serious infection, or to dogs who are breeding/pregnant/nursing
  • Do not give Apoquel with any other medicines/supplements without approval from the vet

Information from the sponsor states that the medicine has been used safely with other common medicines such as NSAIDs, antibiotics, vaccines, anticonvulsants, dewormers, and other drugs commonly used to treat skin conditions (e.g. cyclosporine or corticosteroids), but you should still double check with your vet.

Running tests every now and then during treatment can also help. A blood panel including a Complete Blood Count (CBC) could be useful, as well as urine testing.

What Is It Used For?

Apoquel is used to reduce the symptoms of allergic/atopic dermatitis, which includes itching and inflammation.

Side Effects

Not much is yet known about the adverse effects of this medicine, but the following effects are possible:
Most Common

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting


  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Increased susceptibility to infection
  • Skin disorders
  • Growths (neoplasia)


In one study, where dogs were given 1.36 mg/lb twice daily for 6 weeks (and then once daily for 20 weeks), dogs showed symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, cysts, skin growths, and lymphadenopathy. There were no serious effects or deaths.


Zoetis (manufacturer)
Plumb’s Veterinary Drugs