YND Podcast Episode 19: Natural Alternatives to Apoquel for Dogs

by Angela Ardolino

Apoquel is one of the most common treatments for allergies in dogs, but it has dangerous side effects with long-term use. In this episode, Dr. Bob Ulbrich explains why Apoquel often does more harm than good, and shares some holistic alternatives to Apoquel for dogs, that can help your pet find relief without suppressing its immune system. Dr. Bob has worked as a Certified Veterinary Homeopath for more than 25 years, and he’s also a certified veterinary chiropractor who’s trained in a wide range of holistic treatment methods. 



Episode Recap:

  • Is Apoquel safe for dogs? What are the side effects of Apoquel? (1:17) 
  • The goal should be to heal your dog’s immune system, not to suppress it (4:51)
  • Diet plays a major role in many dog allergies (7:44)
  • Common signs of an allergic reaction (13:52)
  • What are alternatives to Apoquel, and how do you detox from it? (22:07)
  • Homeopathic allergy drops can help manage or even cure an allergy (28:42)


The most commonly prescribed medication for allergies in dogs is Apoquel. This powerful pharmaceutical drug alleviates dog allergy symptoms in as little as a few hours and allows dogs to get back to normal quickly (at first). Sounds great, right? Wrong

Apoquel's Short Term Symptom Relief

Apoquel is just the newest pharmaceutical to gain traction among conventional veterinarians in the fight against dog allergies. Prior to the discovery of Apoquel, veterinarians often recommended steroids or medications like cyclosporine for dog allergies, which was initially created to prevent organ transplant rejection in humans.

“Back in my day, what we were taught was to use steroids which really aren't any better, and are still just suppressing the immune system. If you don't have an immune system, you can’t show symptoms, if you don't show symptoms, you'll look like you're better… So temporary improvement at the expense of long term health. - Dr. Bob Ulbrich

You only have to look into how Apoquel relieves dog allergy symptoms to see that you're in for more health problems in the future. You might be addressing one symptom, but you’re unintentionally exposing your pet to a slew of other ailments and infections.

Apoquel works by suppressing your pet's immune system, in order to stop the symptoms of an allergic response. It doesn't address the cause of your dog's allergies.

After Apoquel: Recurrence of Symptoms 

Unfortunately Apoquel is a short term solution for dog allergy symptoms that is being abused as a long term treatment for dog allergies. As the medication works by suppressing the immune system, once your dog is off of Apoquel, the allergy symptoms return. 

This 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. 

Unfortunately, the longer your pet is on immunosuppressive medication, the more likely they are to develop major side effects and health problems.

Apoquel Side Effects

Unfortunately, this medication for allergies in dogs 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 Apoquel side effects, as indicated by the study, included:

  • UTI or Cystitis
  • Otitis
  • Pyoderma
  • Vomiting

Additionally, 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. (Not listed are the numerous masses that did not receive a specific diagnosis during the study)

  • 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 

Diet & Dog Allergies 

Although there can be many factors to dog allergies, the most common trigger for dog allergy symptoms is diet. Even if your pet seems to be suffering from seasonal allergies, you need to look at what they're eating first. After all, nutrition is the foundation of health for all of us.

If you feed a diet that's not suitable for your pet, it causes an imbalance in their gut microbiome. And this is really important because their microbiome is the foundation of their immune health.

Unfortunately, if you're feeding a kibble diet, the ingredients may be the root cause of your pet's allergies.

You wouldn't believe what gets into these dog and cat foods under the name ‘meat byproducts’. That can be feathers, hair, hooves, beaks, things that are totally digestible, but it tests out as protein. It can also include tumorous tissue that's been condemned from the human food line – goes into the animal food line. Roadkill, it goes into rendering plants and rendered into meat byproducts, euthanized animals, that have been put down and the drugs still in them. Pins from a previous surgery, or the collar that they didn't bother to take off. So you got heavy metal toxicity, and the drugs that they were put down with, not only the drugs that the animals were on, but the euthanasia solution itself is in the veins, and they get rendered into meat byproducts.” - Dr. Bob Ulbrich 

So what should you feed your pet instead? We always recommend a biologically appropriate, fresh, whole food, raw diet or freeze-dried raw diet

When you feed a fresh raw or freeze-dried diet, that's free of common allergens, the body will start to heal itself. The healing begins when the allergens are removed. This allows the gut inflammation cycle to be broken and nutrients to be absorbed again.

Before discussing ways to naturally help allergies in dogs, I always stress the importance of finding the cause of the problem! Check out our blog below for more information on finding the cause of allergies in dogs.

Related: What Causes Dog Allergies?

Natural Remedies for Dog Allergies

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

The whole western medical approach to allergies is to suppress the symptoms, and the symptoms are like the oil light on your car. If it comes on, you can either add oil to the engine or cut the wires leading to the light. Things like Apoquel, steroids, they're just cutting the wires. So, you know, we try and get to what is the cause of their inflammation, and help support and heal their immune system, not suppress it.” - Dr. Bob Ulbrich

Here are some options for Natural Allergy Relief for Dogs:

  • Aloe: Aloe promotes the skin’s healing from dermatitis, burns, and wounds.
  • Full Spectrum Hemp Oil : Hemp is an ideal choice for dog 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 skin allergies in dogs and yeast infections in dogs.
  • 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 dog hot spots and relieve itching in dogs. 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. 

Final Thoughts

If you are considering taking your dog off of Apoquel, you 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. It’s important to get to the bottom of your dog's allergic reactions. 

There are a number of possible causes of dog allergies, as our pets come into daily contact with a huge amount of substances that can act as allergens. Most animal allergy symptoms are in response to something that's commonly overlooked, their diet. However, some allergens are environmental, including insects, plants, animals, but also chemicals in their environment as well. Some examples of common allergens include pollens, mold spores, dust mites, insect proteins such as flea saliva, and medications. 

To learn more about Dr. Bob Ulbrich, natural remedies for allergy relief, or your host and pet expert, Angela Ardolino, check out our resources for this episode below. 



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About Angela Ardolino

Angela Ardolino Author Photo with Odie the Schnauzer
Angela Ardolino is a holistic pet expert who has been caring for animals for over 20 years. She operates a rescue farm, Fire Flake Farm, in Florida. In addition, she owns Beautify the Beast,  a natural pet salon and shop. Moreover, Angela got her certificate in Medical Cannabis Biology and Therapeutic use from the University of Vermont School of Medicine. Next, she founded Hemp Dog Health to provide high quality, all-natural medical cannabis products designed specifically for pets. 


Accordingly, she uses Full Spectrum Hemp Extract on all her pets at her rescue farm every day since 2016. Angela has five dogs. Odie a 15-year-old mini-schnauzer, Nina a 9-year-old Doberman. Jolene a 9-year-old mutt, Maza a 9-year-old mutt, and Rhemi a 9-year-old poodle. In addition, she has 4-10 more any time she is fostering or boarding. She is a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians and the Veterinary Cannabis Association. In fact, Angela has educated hundreds of medical doctors and veterinarians on the therapeutic uses of medical cannabis on animals.

About Dr. Bob Ulbrich

Dr. Bob Ulbrich on YND Alternatives to Apoquel for Dogs
Dr. Bob Ulbrich earned his undergraduate degree at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, and his veterinary degree at The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 1986. In 1994, he became a Certified Veterinary Homeopath through The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy, and in 2005 he received Certification as a Veterinary Chiropractor through the The Healing Oasis Wellness Center. Dr. Ulbrich utilizes a wide variety of treatment modalities in his practice, customizing each wellness plan to suit the specific needs of each patient. His clinic in Tigard, Oregon offers homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, therapeutic laser, nutritional therapy, glandular supplements, Eastern and Western herbal therapies, natural flea control, anesthesia-free dental cleanings and holistic cancer treatments. He is also available to consult by telephone with pet guardians and their local veterinarians throughout the country, and internationally, when a more holistic approach is desired.