Monday, 20 February 2017

Apoquel - Lifesaver or Life-TAKER?

Beware Apoquel: Touted Dog Itch Cure-All?

or ... Immune System Killer?

(I realize this is a complete departure from my typical subject matter, but I think it’s important information for all of us who love dogs.)

My Story:  Christmas 2016; got Apoquel from new vet on Dec. 23rd.  After two days, I was so disturbed by the changes in my dog (different personality, very “sad looking”, doing weird behaviors with other people – mopey, lethargic – and just not himself).  Very subjective, I know, but dog-owners who are plugged into their pets (which I am) will trust I wasn’t imagining things.

After one day of 2 pills as prescribed, I cut back down to 1 pill/day, then ½ of that pill, then waiting till the pill seemed to be stopping its effect – which it did… stop him scratching! I’ll give it that. But at far too great a price! Then I stopped entirely. 

Total number of pills given over 2.5 days:  3.5. 

And so I was shocked when, about 24 hrs after the last dose, Tango, my mini Aussie Shepherd X and beloved rescue dog, had a seizure.  A short (tonic, I now see it’s called or petit mal) seizure. He didn’t lose consciousness, he just kind of went stiff for about 10 seconds, bicycled his legs a bit, then looked really surprised as he got up, shakily, but shook it off almost right away.

However, an hour later, he had another one and, over the next 13 hours, he had 3 more. 

I watched him like a hawk for the next few days and, luckily, that was it and he hasn’t had any since.

Just to be clear, prior to this, he’d never had one in the 10 years I’ve had him.

So, I’m certain it was the Apoquel!

The vet had given me some antibiotics, as well, but I hadn’t given him any yet. And he’d tried to get me to take some flea meds, too, but I said “no”.  My dog is very sensitive to many meds, including flea meds and vaccines, which I told the vet. Though I could tell he wasn’t really taking it seriously, as I find so many mainstream vets don’t.  Which really ticks me off, as I’m the best expert on my pet and I think vets should be more open to listening!

So, here are a few resources I found during my exhaustive research-fest, conducted over the next 2 days (so much for my Christmas vacation – I literally read over 200 submissions).  All websites are actually either owned or contributed to by Doctors of Veterinary Medicine (DVMs or VMDs) and feature real life experiences – some presented in a forum-like format – from caring pet owners.

·   Extensive forum with a few good and many bad Apoquel reports.
·  From another vet where I reviewed a lot of dog-owner feedback posts.
·  Online magazine I won’t ever be without, now… fantastic advice and articles!

Possible (mostly) After-Effects of Apoquel

One of the things that showed up frequently in people’s submissions was strange, unexplained tumors -- both benign and cancerous -- that seemed to pop up suddenly in Apoquel-dosed dogs. 

Which makes sense, if you think logically about it, as the drug admittedly shuts down the dog’s immune system!

My own experience around this stems from a time, about a decade ago, when my brother was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which was cresting into Stage 4 (the last stage).  To cure him, he was put into a totally germ-free environment – one which required all who entered it to do the radiation suit up thing because he was, for all intents and purposes, in quarantine – and he had to stay there for 6 weeks while they took his immune system down to nothing, then slowly built it back up again.   

But, sadly, our dogs have no such “isolation unit” to live in while they’re on Apoquel! No, they’re out and about putting their furry little noses into all the same things they did when they weren’t on Apoquel!  And I'm terribly afraid that it’s putting many of them in harm’s way!

Here’s an article from Dogs Naturally Magazine that explains it more completely:

Apoquel Stops Life-Sustaining JAKs

“Apoquel’s mechanism is to interrupt JAKs and prevent them from working.  Without JAKs your dog’s immune system, along with other systems, cannot function correctly.

·    JAK1 is vital for the constant surveillance within your dog’s body to find and destroy abnormal cells that have become cancerous before they form tumors.
·    JAK1 also is an imperative messenger necessary for destroying invading parasites, fungi, bacteria and viruses.
·    JAK2 is central to the production of bone marrow stem cells that then become red and white blood cells and platelets.

Your dog’s antibody system (B cells) and its killer-cell system (T cells) need JAK3 in order to work well. These JAKs all talk to each other and share information to keep your dog’s body healthy.  So you can see that by preventing JAKs from working, Apoquel seriously undermines your dog’s immune system.” 

This was an eye-opener for me!  And, bottomline, I really don’t think you need to be a rocket scientist to get this:  If something wipes out your immune system, it’s not good for you.  And while it might stop the itching, the price on a body’s health (pet or human) is too high to warrant using it!

By the way, the majority of the folks in the Apoquel forums listed above found that their dog’s itchiness returned as soon as they took them off the drug.    

So if Apoquel is Out, What CAN I do to Help Combat my Dog’s Itch?

Most vets lean towards allergies, in one form or another, as to the source of your pooch’s itch!  But it can cost mega dollars and take multiple tests with pretty marginal results to even get any kind of useful result.  And even if you can find an allergy to pin it on, solving that itch doesn’t really get much easier.  Steroids is a popular vet remedy.  But, over time, they can compromise a number of vital organs and most vets agree they aren’t advisable long term. 

What it has boiled down to for me is that, ultimately, many itchy dogs have – or develop from antibiotics and other medications -- a yeast problem. 

An oldie but a goodie is simple Apple Cider Vinegar (though it has to be the kind with the “mother” – go look it up! Do I have to do all the work around here? JK ;)  Umpteen resources I’ve read, recommended it as a simple, easy and inexpensive solution for yeast and itchy issues.  You can dilute it and put it in a  spray bottle, pour in the bath and put it in the dog’s food or water bowl.  Supposed to work well for deterring fleas, as well, as it changes the skin’s pH, making it inhospitable to bugs.  

In the olden days, my little Scottish mother used to swear by vinegar for cleaning.  It’s a known bacteria, mold and germ killer and many more holistic folks use it for cleaning their homes, kitchen counters, windows and toilet bowls.  

Sometimes the old-fashioned remedies really do work!

And here’s a new take on an ancient product that seems to be – like yoga – growing in popularity! It has made a huge difference in my dog’s itchiness since my marathon research session over Christmas and, surprisingly -- like Mikey -- he actually likes it!

Excerpts from:  So Long Yeast, Hello Kefir! by VMD and author, Deva Khalsa

“…pet foods can contain up to 70% carbohydrates. These carbs are broken down to sugars, which then fuel the yeast in your pets’ bodies!”

“Meet kefir. These dairy or water-based grains have a multitude of vitamins and minerals. They provide a wide variety of probiotic organisms and have super awesome healing qualities.”

“Pronounced “kah-fear!” according to the folk of the Caucasian Mountains, this “grain of life” is similar in appearance to regular yogurt, however has a way bigger engine under its hood!"

“Kefir contains several major strains of friendly bacteria not commonly found in yogurt such as Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species, and Streptococcus species. It also contains beneficial yeasts, such as Saccharomyces kefir and Torula kefir, which control and eliminate destructive pathogenic yeasts in the body.”

Since reading this, my dog has been on a daily dose of Kefir and (most days also) yogurt, something we used to eat quite regularly but have dropped off on, for some reason, over the past few years.  So I’m eating it again more now, too.  And I really like the Kefir as I prefer the more tangy, old-fashioned yogurt flavor and that’s what Kefir tastes like!  So I mix them together for my dog if he’s not interested in the Kefir alone.  But quite often he’ll just lick it on down, all by itself! 

You know, I have to wonder sometimes… our kids are all suffering from allergies that my generation rarely experience. And complaints like leaky gut syndrome and realizing a need to fix your ‘gut biome’ are becoming more common place. 

And for us humans (because we aren’t so different from our pets, let’s face it!), I’d recommend checking out this CBC Nature of Things episode:  “It Takes Guts” which is studying the idea that obesity and many other modern day ailments may actually stem from a marked decrease over the past few decades in the multitude of natural flora found in our intestines.

"Microbes help us digest food, harvest calories, provide us with energy, produce crucial vitamins, regulate appetite, protect our immune system and fend off the bad guys.  But because of our modern lifestyles, including a highly processed Western diet and overuse of antibiotics, some of the species of bacteria that once lived in our gut are on the verge of extinction."

Could your Pet have Leaky Gut Syndrome?

Consider this (another article from the Dogs Naturally Magazine) as an option before putting your pet on this scary drug, on which way too little study has been done to determine its long term side effects.

If it were to be given to humans, I’m positive we would have banned it by now but because our poor pooches can’t complain verbally and 1 in 4 people come to vets due to itchiness, it’s just a gigantic cash cow for vet pharma.  And we all know how much big pharma likes cash!

They know we want to “heal” our pets and will spend almost anything to do it.  Oh, and the 1 month supply for my 22lb dog was $100.  The vet, himself, warned me it was (his words) very pricey.   search results for further articles on subject on same site


I am not a vet nor a doctor of any kind. 

I am merely a devoted pet and animal lover who researches everything pretty much in my life.  It’s a curse!  But I think it may have saved my dog from a future of possible cancers and certain seizures had I’d kept him on the drug for any length of time.

Yeast isn’t always the culprit!

And there are other reasons dogs get itchy; I’m well aware of that. And yeast isn’t always in evidence, though it often progresses to that stage, if the itchiness is long-standing.  I’m just trying to give you some “cheap” ideas (ie. Kefir and yogurt and apple cider vinegar) to try first.  And see if it helps, then work up to expensive, often

Pharmaceutical Companies will likely discredit me!

And I’m not doing this to incite any ire from big vet pharma but I feel we have to share our intel with each other which is why I’m breaking ranks here in LinkedIn to share something that may not have much to do with why people typically read LinkedIn Pulse.  But I bet a bunch of you have itchy dogs out there and I just wanted to give you the chance to research this product yourself before subjecting your pooch to this potentially life-threatening “itch cure-all”!

But this is what happens when you “think” you’re going to write another blog subject when, on the same morning, you hear a radio vet touting the “joys” of Apoquel!

Here’s a list of the favourite websites/resources I found during my Apoquel take-down research sessions, in case you want to bookmark any of them for future reference:   long forum with some good and many bad Apoquel reports.  online magazine I won’t ever be without now… fantastic advice and articles!   another great resource and the vet is in Ottawa, for my fellow Canadians.

Thanks for reading and feel free to share what you’ve done to help your pets with this pervasive and frustrating condition! 

And, if you’re looking for a Career Coach or Resume Writer (my usual subject matter), feel free to contact me.  Especially if you’re a devoted pet lover, like me!  I always get along great with Animal Lovers!