Apoquel Alternative: Over The Counter and What You Must Know

(Last Updated On: May 24, 2022)

Taking care of a crazily itchy dog is no joke! Dogs in this state can keep you up at night, going days and days without proper sleep, and might just drive you crazy dealing with the unbelievable itch during the day.

Yours and your pet’s days will be filled with scratching, hair loss, biting, red inflamed skin, sticky moisture coming from their pores, and long sleepless nights for both of you. Just imagine, Itchy, allergic dogs are the #1 reason that pets actually go to vets!

The problem with itching lies in the dog’s immune system and happens when it’s been working overtime or malfunctioning in any way. One of the most popular new drugs that deal with itching in dogs is Apoquel. A relatively new drug, that became very popular among vets and dog owners really fast.

While Apoquel does work when it comes to controlling itching, there are certain side effects and doubts around it, that makes a lot of dog owners and vets stay away from it.

Nexgard Effects

What is Apoquel Used For?

So, Apoquel is basically an oclacitinib, an FDA approved immunosuppressant drug that claims to provide onset or relief within the first 4 hours and effectively controls itching within 24 hours. It is a drug that’s used to treat/control itching and inflammation in dogs caused by flea / food / contact allergies or atopic dermatitis.

The reason Apoquel works when it comes to providing relief and controlling itching is that it’s a so-called ‘immune modulator’ that acts on the immune system of dogs.

To get all scientific about it, this drug works this way that it stops a piece of the inflammatory chemical cascade through interfering with certain enzymes (kinases), also known as JAK, which blocks the effects of inflammatory cytokines and the cytokine directly involved in the sensation of itch.

Tramadol for your dog?

Why Some Dog Owners Don’t Want To Give Apoquel To Their Dogs

Even though Apoquel seems to work, a lot of dog owners would rather skip it when it comes to itch relief. The reason for that is that nobody has tested the safety of Apoquel for longer than 30 days. The first conducted research lasted only 7 days, and it did prove that the drug is fairly safe.

The second research that lasted for 30 days showed that about 6% of dogs tested had abnormal health events (like diarrhea, vomiting, fever, lethargy, and cystitis). But dog owners are concerned because their dogs might have to use the drug for years, and they fear the dog’s immune system might be really compromised by the drug.

Another reason for concern is that the manufacturer has limited Apoquel for use only in dogs older than 12 months because the studies on 6 and 12-month-old dogs were discontinued when the dogs developed bacterial pneumonia and demodectic mange infections.

Glucosamine for dogs

Apoquel Alternatives?

Itching in dogs can definitely be cured. And by cured I mean not only stopped but actually getting the dog completely well and healthy without any use of continual medication.

And a lot of these Apoquel alternatives are better and safer than Apoquel.

One safe way to deal with your dog’s allergies is by getting a vet to do a tailored allergy elimination program which works perfectly for over 90% of dog patients. Unlike Apoquel, this approach is non-toxic and strengthens your dog’s immune system.

Another approach that you can take, that some dog owners swear by, is classical homeopathy, which involves hiring a trained veterinary homeopath. Veterinary homeopaths will look in-depth at not only your dog’s itching problem but the rest of your pet and its wellbeing.

They often start by asking basic well-being questions that might help them in their goal of curing allergies while the whole animal becomes healthier. Some of the questions you should be ready for are – if your dog has been thirsty, fearful, constantly hungry, or even averse to getting its feet wet.


Whether you decide to use Apoquel or some other drug, or take a completely different approach depends completely on you and your vet’s opinion. A lot of conventional vets support the new drug, but there is still some uncertainty about long term affects so some would rather go without using it.

My advice is that before making any decision or rushing to some new ‘miracle drug’, you should keep your dog’s health and wellbeing in mind and do some thorough research.

Make sure you go through all the pros and cons, study all the positive and negative side effects of a drug like Apoquel (or any other approach) before deciding on using it. Even consult more than one vet if you think it’s necessary.

Before getting your dog on some prescribed meds, always try to find a way to cure instead of treat. After all, you want only the best for your dog, and you don’t want to risk anything. Hope this has helped you in finding more info regarding this new drug.


  • Delphine Broekstra says:

    My 4 year old Labrador is allergic to quite a few things. She had open sore on her face but wasn’t scratching it. Put on antibiotics and now on Apoquel for ‘life,’. I’m not happy at cost per month £60. She doesn’t scratch and wondered if she could go on Pititeze if the sore returns on her face. I’m tempted to give her 16mg tablet alternate days. Thankyou.

    • Leigh says:

      Hi Delphine, unfortunately, I really can’t give specific advice on whether she can go on Pititeze. A vet will be able to give you professional advice. All the best!

  • AnneMarie says:

    My westie molly is 8 years old and I have been using apoquel for years seasonally. Usually from March/April until September/October. She scratches and licks her skin until it’s inflamed and red. Is there any alternative I can use as it is very very expensive

    • Leigh says:

      Hi Annemarie, maybe you can take your dog to the vet for tailored allergy elimination or see a trained veterinary homeopath. It’s worth a try. All the best!

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