CBD vs. Apoquel for Dogs
Looking to relieve your dog’s itching, scratching, redness, and rashes, but hoping for an Apoquel alternative?
Allergies and the uncomfortable symptoms they cause are some of the most common problems facing pet parents today. It’s often hard to pinpoint the cause of the itching and scratching and the last thing we want to see is our pets suffering.
That’s why pet parents everywhere are running to their veterinarian for help, who will then often prescribe Apoquel for their dog. This powerful pharmaceutical boasts being able to alleviate allergy symptoms in as little as a few hours and get your dog back to feeling normal.
Here at CBD DOG Health, we believe in finding the root cause of the allergen to see if we can get rid of it or find a more natural way to relieve the symptoms. Although Apoquel is fast acting and treats surface level symptoms, it does not treat the root of the problem.
In contrast, CBD from the cannabis plant has well known anti-inflammatory benefits as well as the ability to encourage communication in the body’s various systems. These characteristics, as well as many of the other associated benefits, make cannabis medicine a promising Apoquel alternative in the treatment of pet allergies and the symptoms they cause.
Why Is Apoquel Prescribed?
The most common use of Apoquel is in the treatment of Pruritus. Pruritus is the medical term for itching, it’s simply the uncomfortable sensation that makes your dog want to scratch. This feeling may be caused by environmental allergens, parasites, infections, food sensitivities, or chemical irritations such as fertilizers, fragrances or flea medications.
The last thing we want is to see our dog or cat in a state of discomfort but for many, the battle with pruritus is lifelong. We all know how awful it feels to be itchy for prolonged periods of time, and this constant itching has even been linked to behavioral problems in dogs. When our dogs are constantly in a state of stress it makes sense that eventually their mental health would suffer and begin to affect their behavior. So it’s no wonder pet parents are eager to find a solution to their pet’s chronic itching.
How Does Apoquel Work?
Apoquel is just the latest drug to gain favor among veterinarians in the attempt to curb an ever growing trend of allergic dogs. Before Apoquel came along, vets most often prescribed steroids or drugs like cyclosporine, a chemical originally developed to stop organ transplant rejection in humans.
All you have to do is look at the ways Apoquel stops the itch to know that you’re in for trouble down the road. You may be treating one symptom in exchange for unwittingly exposing your pet to all sorts of opportunistic diseases and infections.
That’s because Apoquel functions by suppressing your pet’s immune system in order to mute the symptoms of an allergic reaction. It does not cure the allergy.
Let’s Get Clinical
Apoquel is an immune suppressant drug, in the JAK inhibitor class. This means it works to inhibit the function of JAK compounds. JAK stands for Janus Kinase. It is a signaling compound used by cells to communicate with each other and direct immune function.
Some of the known functions of JAK compounds:
- Destroying and preventing tumor growth
- Forming red and white blood cells
- Controlling inflammation
- Signaling new cell growth
- Ensuring proper function of immune cells (B-cells and T-cells)
By turning off the function of the JAK receptors, Apoquel effectively powers down the immune system throughout the body. This greatly reduces our pet’s natural defenses against disease and chronic illness. This leaves them vulnerable to ailments they might naturally have avoided. It’s no wonder pets using Apoquel for extended periods of time start to have major problems.
Why Do We Need An Apoquel Alternative?
The main problem with Apoquel is if you want to keep the symptoms at bay, you have no choice but to continue medicating your pet with this drug indefinitely. Unfortunately, the longer your pet is on an immunosuppressive drug, the higher the likelihood is that they will develop serious side effects and health conditions as a result.
In one long term study published by Apoquel’s manufacturer Zoetis, they studied 247 dogs over the course of two years. Of those 247 dogs, they removed 26 dogs from the study for one reason or another and 18 were euthanized.
Apoquel Side Effects
The most common side effects were:
- UTI or Cystitis – Bacterial infection of the urinary tract, affected 11.3% of test subjects
- Otitis – Bacterial infection of the ear canal, affected 9.3% of test subjects
- Pyoderma – Bacterial infection of the skin, Affected 9.3 % of test subjects
- Vomiting – Chronic GI upset, affected 10.1% of test subjects
Do you see the trend?
Bacterial infections and poor gut health. The immune system is harbored primarily in our pet’s gut, making gut health a central pillar of proper immune function. When the immune system is suppressed, the gut is unable to properly deal with pathogens that cause infections throughout the body.
The ironic thing is that many of the opportunistic infections caused by Apoquel lead to itchy ears or itchy skin! Isn’t that what we were trying to get rid of in the first place?
Neoplastic Growths and Cancer
Based on what I’ve seen at our animal rescue, Fire Flake Farm, as well as the evidence presented in this study, the other common side effect of Apoquel is the formation of lumps, bumps, tumors and other cancerous growths.
The list of instances in Zoetis’ study where dogs developed neoplastic or cancerous conditions is long and extremely varied. Without the immune system policing cancerous cells and abnormal growth, dogs treated with Apoquel are at a much higher risk for cellular mutations and other cancerous conditions.
Here’s a sample of the reported neoplastic (cancerous) conditions during the two year trial.
- Mast Cell Tumor Grade 1
- Mast Cell Tumor Grade 2
- Anal sac adenocarcinoma
- Apocrine gland adenocarcinoma
- Low grade b-cell lymphoma
- Spindle cell sarcoma
- Primary malignant bone Neoplasia
- Splenic neoplasm
- Intracranial neoplasm
- Frontal sinus neoplasm
- Dermal pigmented viral plaques
Not listed are the numerous masses that did not receive a specific diagnosis during the study. Here is a note from the study:
“In addition to the known or suspected neoplasms, 47 dogs developed new dermal, epidermal or subcutaneous masses that did not have a specific diagnosis established.”
Remember, these experiments only included 247 dogs, so the proportions of pets that developed new dangerous conditions is unacceptable.
AND YET, the conclusion of the study stated:
“Improved the quality of life for dogs in this study?”
Clearly, these conclusions are skewed to downplay the seriousness of the conditions that can develop as a result of using this drug. This is not surprising since the company that makes the product is the same company that funds and oversees the testing. Luckily we are able to look at the facts presented in the document and see the truth about its effects.
Apoquel Alternative – CBD
CBD and the other compounds found in a full-spectrum hemp extract work to bring the body’s systems into homeostasis. That’s just a fancy way of describing a state of balance.
There are tons of cannabinoid receptors throughout the organs that control our pet’s immune systems. Instead of completely turning off the immune responses, as Apoquel does, CBD instead increases communication between cells in the immune system. This encourages a more moderate and targeted response to allergy symptoms.
At CBD Dog Health, we designed the Ease tincture to specifically target allergies in pets. A great Apoquel alternative, Ease contains the essential oils of powerful medicinal herbs. Including frankincense and turmeric, whose anti-inflammatory and immune supportive properties work synergistically with CBD. Plus, our dogs love the taste.
Giving full disclosure, holistic pet care and natural plant medicine may not produce the instant gratification that Apoquel produces. Holistic medicine seeks to treat each animal as an individual with respect to the complexity of their specific needs.
CBD Side Effects in Dogs
In contrast to the dramatic and often life-threatening side effects of pharmaceutical drugs like Apoquel, full-spectrum hemp extract is extremely safe for both short and long term use.
The potential side-effects that can occur with a full spectrum hemp extract are mild and usually temporary. In most cases, the worst side effects are mild diarrhea or lethargy during the beginning phase of the treatment. There are also plenty of great herbal remedies to support these symptoms, and as the body gets used to a new dietary supplement, these occurrences fade away.
CBD to Treat Side Effects of Apoquel
Not only does a full-spectrum hemp extract offer supportive and effective treatment for allergies and their symptoms, but many of its healing properties also produce the opposite effect of Apoquel’s side effects.
Switching to An Apoquel Alternative
I’m not here to tell you that dealing with allergies is as easy as switching from one medicine to another. That’s kind of the problem with drugs like Apoquel. Sure, it’s a quick fix to stop the scratching. However, the long term effects of disabling your pet’s natural defenses can be very serious.
If you’re looking to transition to an Apoquel alternative, like CBD, consult with a holistic veterinarian or medical cannabis professional. They can guide you through the process of taking your pet off prescription medications.
Aside from using CBD as an Apoquel alternative, to support a healthy immune response, there is a lot you can do to prevent and treat your pet’s allergies naturally.
Consider sensitivities to particular foods or chemicals in their environment. In addition, look for ways to encourage the proper functioning of the body’s natural immune responses. In other words, there is so much that goes into the proper functioning of our pet’s body and their immune system.
We recommend a strategic approach, not a quick fix.
About Carter Easler
Carter is a cannabis educator and holistic practitioner with certification in the use of Cannabis Therapies for Veterinary Medicine by The College of Integrative Veterinary Therapies. He continues to study and share his knowledge of cannabis therapeutics through written articles, educational videos and live speaking engagements across the country.
Growing up in a family of veterinarians, Carter developed a deep love for animals and saw first hand how holistic medicine could change both their lives and his own. As Director of Education for CBD Dog Health, Carter now travels North America educating pet parents, business owners and veterinarians about the benefits and science behind cannabis therapeutics and holistic medicine.