Treating Dog Allergies: Hemp vs. Apoquel
Itching, scratching, redness, rashes … the list goes on and on. Allergies and the uncomfortable symptoms they cause are some of the most common problems facing pet parents today.
And they are on the rise!
According to the 2018 Banfield State of Pet Health Report, flea allergy increased 12.5% in dogs and 67.3% in cats from 2008-2017. In the same time frame, environmental allergies increased 30.7% in dogs and 11.5% in cats.
The symptoms associated with an allergic reaction show up because of a disproportionate response by our dog or cat’s immune system to something they have come into contact with.
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 and oftentimes are prescribed a drug like Apoquel. 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 is known for its anti-inflammatory benefits as well as its 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 alternative in the treatment of pet allergies and the symptoms they cause.
What Is Apoquel?
The most common use of Apoquel is in the treatment of Pruritus. Pruritus is the technical term which describes the uncomfortable feeling that makes your dog want to itch. When we talk about pruritus, we are talking about the sensation, not the specific disease or affliction. It is merely the outward sign of some other problem.
Causes of pruritus include:
- Environmental Allergens
- Food Sensitivities
- Chemical Irritations, (fertilizers, fragrances, 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, so it’s no wonder pet parents are eager to find a solution to their pet’s chronic itching.
What’s worse, this constant state of irritation can affect our pet’s behavioral patterns long-term.
A study by University of Nottingham School of Veterinary Medicine determined that there is a strong correlation between pruritus and behavioral problems in dogs. Asymptomatic dogs were much less likely than those suffering from chronic itching to exhibit behaviors such as:
- Eating feces
- Begging for and stealing food
- Attention seeking
- Excessive grooming
Bad behavior in dogs usually points to some unresolved issue in their physical or mental health and this is no exception. 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.
When our dogs act out, it adds more stress and chaos to our own lives. No wonder pet parents want a quick fix to their pet’s pruritus!
One of the most common ways pet parents find CBD DOG Health is by looking for a natural way to deal with chronic stress in their pets. Whether they suffer from situational anxiety, fear of new people, or acute stress from physical discomfort, CBD is great for balancing stress hormones like cortisol and keeping the sweet sweet serotonin flowing.
How Does Apoquel Work?
So your dog is itching like crazy and it’s driving YOU crazy? Well, it’s your lucky day! Your veterinarian prescribes you a drug called Apoquel that will magically get rid of the symptoms in a matter of hours.
It almost sounds too good to be true.
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 what’s known as a JAK inhibitor. JAK which stands for Janus Kinase, is a signaling compound used by cells to communicate with each other and direct immune function.
Some of the known functions of JAK’s are:
- 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. Our pet’s natural defenses against disease and chronic illness are greatly reduced, leaving 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.
Can CBD Work For Allergies?
CBD and the other compounds found in a full-spectrum hemp extract are best known for their ability 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, CBD increases communication between cells in the immune system, encouraging a more moderate and targeted response to allergy symptoms.
At Hemp Dog Health, we designed the Ease tincture that specifically targets allergies in pets. Ease contains the essential oil of powerful medicinal herbs like 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.
For the sake of argument, let’s say you do choose to use Apoquel to treat your pet’s allergies.
What are the possible side effects?
Side Effects of Apoquel
The problem is, when you take your dog off Apoquel, the symptoms are no longer suppressed so the itch comes right back. 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, 26 were removed from the study for one reason or another and 18 were euthanized.
The most common side effects were:
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
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 like those 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?
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.
Neoplastic Growths and Cancer
The list of instances in Zoetis’ study where dogs developed neoplastic or cancerous conditions is long and extremely varied.
As I mentioned before, the JAK which Apoquel effectively turns off is responsible for policing cancerous cells and making sure abnormal growth is stopped before it becomes a problem.
Without this defense system, dogs treated with Apoquel long term 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
Below the table that I took these diagnoses from, there is a small note which says:
“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.”
These experiments only included 247 dogs, so the proportions of pets that developed new dangerous conditions is unacceptable.
AND YET, the conclusion at the end of this study looks like this:
Pardon my French, but… WTF?!
“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 tests were funded and overseen by the company that makes the product. Luckily we are able to look at the facts presented in the document and see the truth about its effects.
Are There any Side Effects to CBD?
In contrast to the dramatic and often life-threatening side effects of pharmaceutical drugs like Apoquel, full-spectrum hemp extract like what is used in CBD DOG Health products is extremely safe for both short and long term use.
Though much of the clinical research into the intricate effects of cannabis medicine on pets is in its early stages, there is plenty of information that has allowed experts to conclude that CBD is extremely safe, even at high doses over long periods of time.
The potential side-effects that can occur with a full spectrum hemp extract are mild and usually temporary. In most cases, the worst 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.
For more information and research about the safety of CBD and cannabis, check out this blog!
Can CBD Treat The Side Effects to 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.
Making The Switch to CBD
Listen, 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, you may stop the itching and scratching, but the long term effects of disabling your pet’s natural defenses isn’t a choice that should be made lightly.
If you’re looking to switch from Apoquel to a natural, holistic approach make sure to consult with a holistic veterinarian or medical cannabis professional who can guide you through the process of taking your pet off prescription medications.
Aside from using CBD 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 in their diet, chemicals in their environment and look for ways to encourage the proper functioning of the body’s natural immune responses. 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
Father of a bulldog, Moo, Carter is a life-long animal lover from Toronto, Canada currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. Growing up in a family of veterinarians, he grew up surrounded by animals. He had dogs, cats, rodents, reptiles — you name it, and Carter probably rescued it.
Carter’s passion for cannabis activism started when he was in high school. After learning about the senseless prohibition and incredible diversity of cannabis’s utility, he was inspired to get involved. When Carter met Angela, he was excited to learn that he could combine his passions: animals and cannabis.
Carter now travels North America to educate pet parents, retailers, and veterinarians about hemp. He is excited to bring his passion for pets to Hemp Dog Health.