Apoquel or Cytopoint? Treatments for Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs

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Apoquel or Cytopoint? Treatments for Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs

Allergies are a pain for dogs and their humans. Raw red spots seen in atopic dermatitis, for instance, are sometimes treated with corticosteroids or other immunosuppressant drugs. These, unfortunately, can cause several side effects. However, with newer, state-of-the-art alternatives like Apoquel and Cytopoint, there’s no itch left to scratch. Keep reading to learn more about these allergy treatments for dogs.

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Why Does My Dog Have Allergies?

You are probably familiar with a variety of unfortunate scenarios. Say, for instance:

  • You haven’t cleaned your carpets in a while, and your dog has been infested with dust mites.
  • You have switched to a different food brand, and your fuzzy friend isn't all that fuzzy anymore.
  • You have just moved long-distance, and your dog develops an allergy to the local pollen.

Canine atopic dermatitis (CAD), also known as canine eczema or atopy, causes inflammation due to a weakened skin barrier. This allows allergens to enter and is the cause of your dog’s constant scratching, licking, carpet rubbing, and biting. Hot spots may occur on the ears, stomach, paws, and armpits.

CAD has a genetic component and often sets in between 2-6 years of age in the following breeds:

  • Labrador
  • Golden Retriever
  • Boxer
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Bulldog
  • Terriers
  • German Shepherd

The End of the Steroid Era

Years ago, antihistamines, like Benadryl, and corticosteroids were the prevailing treatments for pruritus (itchiness). Steroids can be effective: One study on prednisolone showed an 81% reduction of skin lesions. Hydrocortisone spray has been proven to reduce the frequency of CAD relapse.

Still, while glucocorticoids can provide immediate relief, they also come with undesirable side effects. Your dog can get overly hungry or thirsty, with increased urine production. Other observed changes are behavioral alterations, panting, and weight gain.

Immunosuppressive treatments like steroids also increase susceptibility to infections. That’s why dosage is usually tapered down to the lowest effective dose.

Comparing Apoquel and Cytopoint

You’d do anything for your pet. Let’s look at the differences between these two medications, as well as some other treatment options for your dog’s allergies.


Apoquel is an anti-itch tablet given twice daily for the first two weeks. Afterward, the patient switches to a once-a-day regimen. This provides the comfort of at-home administration.

In placebo-controlled studies on Apoquel’s active ingredient, oclacitinib, 67% of dogs showed a lesion reduction of over 50%, and quality of life improved for 91% of dogs.

Side effects occur only in 1 per 10,000 cases, but vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and lethargy have been reported.

Apoquel cannot be given to dogs that are less than a year old, pregnant, or lactating. Also, if your dog has a tumor or severe infection, Cytopoint may be a better option.


Cytopoint is the most recent product developed to combat atopic dermatitis in dogs. It comes as a monthly injection with very few known side effects.

Because very specific dosages can be administered, this is more suitable for pups and miniature breeds.

The effectiveness of Cytopoint is remarkable: studies show a reduction in lesions and lower pruritus scores.

Cytopoint is not a conventional pharmaceutical – it is a dog antibody that blocks the “itch” signal within the nervous system. The advantage of this is that it will not affect your pet’s liver or kidneys. The downside is that your dog may eventually grow immune to the treatment.

Additionally, don’t expect overnight success. Cytopoint is the first-choice medication for the long-term treatment of CAD.

In some cases, the silver bullet is to combine Cytopoint with Apoquel, especially for additional itch relief during flare-up events caused by triggers like pollen, new foods, and pest infestations.

Other Allergy Treatments to Consider

1. Atopica

While Apoquel and Cytopoint decrease the itch, Atopica also inhibits the immune system’s reaction to irritants. Its soft capsules are administered orally, once a day.

Atopica is suited for the chronic treatment of CAD. However, it can come with gastrointestinal side effects and takes up to four weeks to take effect.

2. Immunotherapy

Atopic dermatitis sets in due to a complex biochemical chain of reactions. Apoquel and Cytopoint break the inflammatory chain at different points, but they don’t treat the disease itself.

As an alternative, consider allergen-specific immunotherapy (ASIT). A standard allergy test will be performed to pinpoint the irritants to target. Dogs then receive daily oral drops or a less frequent subcutaneous injection to strengthen their immunity.

In 65% of cases, substantial improvements are observed following ASIT.

3. Lifestyle

Besides medication, there are general lifestyle tips to take into account for improving your dog’s health:

  • Bathe your dog with hydrating or oatmeal-based shampoos every other day.
  • Clean wounds with a mild soap or betadine solution twice daily.
  • Use antibiotic ointments to treat secondary infections, if directed by your veterinarian.
  • Avoid contact with strong detergents and other cleaning products.
  • Keep the house clean from dust mites and mold. Consider installing an air purifier.
  • Prevent your dog from jumping in bushes and rolling around on the lawn.
  • Serve high-quality, veterinary-approved foods.
  • In cases of excessive licking and chewing, your dog may benefit from wearing an Elizabethan collar (a.k.a., a dog cone).

Return to Normal Life

CAD manifests superficially, precluding the need for your pet to undergo internal exams, surgery, digital X-ray, or other analyses. Still, it is a complex condition that requires a personalized treatment plan to become manageable.

While Apoquel and Cytopoint effectively treat your dog’s itch, you should also consider side effects like inflammation, skin barrier restoration, and secondary infections.

With the right medication and everyday precautions to prevent allergen intrusion, CAD becomes manageable, leaving you and your dog free to go on that road trip you’ve been dreaming of.

Read more:

Diagnosing and Treating Environmental Allergies in Dogs

Allergy Tests for Dogs

Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) in Dogs

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Published: 3/18/2022

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