Natural Alternatives to Apoquel for Pets

by Angela Ardolino

Allergies are uncomfortable and stressful for our dogs. Itching, scratching, rashes, and redness are all symptoms that accompany your dog’s allergic reactions. We all want to help our dogs feel comfortable, and not suffering from allergy symptoms.

So we take our pets to the vet, where allergies are the most common reason for vet visits. And what do our vets prescribe? The most commonly prescribed medication for allergies in dogs is ApoquelThis powerful pharmaceutical drug alleviates allergy symptoms in as little as a few hours and allows dogs to get back to normal quickly (at first). Sounds great, right? Wrong. 

Despite Apoquel’s fast-acting nature, is it really what is best for our dogs? 

The short answer: NO. And, we’ll explain why.

Apoquel's Short Term Symptom Relief

According to our Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr. Zac Pilossoph, “Apoquel is a unique drug. The way it was made to be used is really just for the short-term. The drug has a quick onset of action and can reduce itching in as few as four hours. It was designed to be short-lived.”

Dr. Pilossoph continued to state “Apoquel is generally recommended for one to two weeks, twice daily then tapered to once daily. If used more than 2 weeks, more than twice a year, I'd consider it abused.

After Apoquel: Recurrence of Symptoms 

“Also, since it’s a drug that requires continuous usage, it’s not one that is known to build up in our dog’s body. This makes it easier to get off of Apoquel. Your dog is not likely to experience any sort of withdrawal symptoms when she gets off of Apoquel, but the likelihood for her allergy symptoms to reappear is high, just within hours of stopping the Apoquel.”

The recurrence of symptoms is the reason we are seeing dogs on Apoquel for life. What was meant to be short-term relief while veterinarians and other professionals determine the underlying problem has become a lifelong addition to their routine. 

Apoquel's Side Effects

Unfortunately, this medication also comes with side effects. The longer your dog is taking Apoquel, the higher the likelihood for them to develop serious health conditions. 

Zoetis, Apoquel’s manufacturer, conducted a long-term (two year) study examining 247 dogs and the side effects of Apoquel they experienced. Of the 247 dogs studied, 26 were removed for unknown reasons and 18 were euthanized.

The most common side effects, as indicated by the study, included:

UTI or Cystitis

  • Bacterial infection of urinary tract
  • Affected 11.3 % of test subjects


  • Bacterial infection of the ear canal
  • Affected 9.3 % of test subjects


  • Bacterial infection of the skin 
  • Affected 9.3 % of test subjects


  • Chronic GI upset 
  • Affected 10.1 % of test subjects

At our animal rescue, Fire Flake Farm, we know the side effects all too well. We have dogs who come to the farm who have experienced all the above symptoms as well as lumps, bumps, tumors, and other cancerous growths on their body. 

Natural Remedies for Allergy Symptoms

Apoquel, like most other allergy medications, doesn’t reach the root of the problem. As noted before, once Apoquel is stopped, the problem will return

Before discussing ways to help the allergy symptoms, I always stress the importance of finding the route of the problem! Check out this blog all about finding your dogs allergy source.

If your dog has an allergic reaction to the environment, for example, environmental allergens are getting into the body and stimulating the body to react through the skin. According to Dr. Pilossoph, “topical therapies in terms of shampooing and cleaning the epidermal barrier are important. 

Here are some options for Natural Allergy Relief for Pets:

  • Aloe: Aloe promotes the skin’s healing from dermatitis, burns, and wounds.
  • Full Spectrum Hemp Oil : Hemp is an ideal choice for pets with allergies because it reduces inflammation, regulates the immune system, and supports the gut, which houses 70% to 80% of the immune system.
  • Full Spectrum Hemp Salve: Topical Full Spectrum Hemp Salves are a fantastic alternative for dogs suffering from skin allergies and infections.
  • Yarrow: Assists with wound-healing mechanisms. 
  • Black Tea/Nettle Tea: Black tea and nettle tea are known astringents. When used at room temperature, they can be used to remove discharge from hot spots and relieve itching. The compounds found in black tea have also been used as an anti-inflammatory. 
  • Zymox: Zymox is available in spray, cream, and shampoo form. The enzymes in Zymox possess antibacterial and antifungal properties. 

According to Dr. Gary Richter, an Integrative Veterinarian well-known for his natural practices, nutritional therapy should also be implemented. He stated “nutritional therapy relates to improving allergic symptoms through nutrition. Offering a balanced, fresh, whole-food diet provides optimal nutrition with a minimum of unwanted additives and contaminants. Sometimes this is enough to resolve allergic symptoms.” 

Dr. Richter continued to state “although not life threatening, allergies can have a major impact on quality of life. Funding a path to controlling allergic skin disease can be an exercise in patience. While allergies are seldom cured, they are routinely controlled with well-thought-out integrative care that includes a combination of allergen avoidance, improving the immune response, and symptomatic care.”

Final Thoughts

If you are considering taking your dog off of Apoquel, you don’t have to worry about withdrawal effects, but should be prepared for their allergic reactions, and symptoms to return since they will no longer have an ‘allergy blocker’ for a period of time. To learn more about the transition to hemp, and other natural remedies for allergy relief, you can schedule a consultation with Dr. Zac Pilossoph and Angela Ardolino. They can guide you in the right direction toward a healthier path of life for your dog.




About Angela Ardolino

Angela Ardolino

Angela Ardolino is a holistic pet expert who has been caring for animals for over 20 years and operates a rescue farm, Fire Flake Farm, in Florida. She is also the owner of  Beautify the Beast a natural pet salon and shop. After getting her certificate in Medical Cannabis Biology and Therapeutic use from the University of Vermont School of Medicine, she founded Hemp Dog Health to provide high quality, all-natural medical cannabis products designed specifically for pets. Angela has seven dogs, Odie a 14-year-old mini-schnauzer, Nina a 10-year-old Doberman. Jolene a 9-year-old mutt, Maza a 9-year-old mutt, Rhemi an 9-year-old poodle, plus 4-10 more at any time she is fostering or boarding. She uses Full Spectrum Hemp Extract on all her pets at her rescue farm every day, and has since 2016. She is a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, the Veterinary Cannabis Association and has trained hundreds medical doctors and veterinarians about the therapeutic uses of medical cannabis on animals. Visit for more information.