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Featuring Demian Dressler, DVM and Sue Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology), authors of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide

Apoquel for Dogs and Cancer

Updated: May 7th, 2021


People worry about Apoquel causing cancer in dogs. Is this a valid fear? Dr. Nancy Reese investigates.

Kelly’s dog is on Apoquel, and her other dog has lymphoma. As so many of us do, Kelly is asking lots of questions about how to prevent cancer from developing in the first place. Is her dog on Apoquel in danger of getting cancer later? Dr. Nancy Reese weighs in on this week’s episode of Dog Cancer Answers.

The short answer is that there is no good evidence at this point that long-term use of Apoquel causes cancer — but she would exercise caution in giving Apoquel to a dog that has been diagnosed with cancer.

You see, Apoquel targets one specific set of enzymes that are involved in the itch cycle. Those enzymes also happen to be involved in other cell processes, including immune cells … so it could be dampening the immune response. Obviously, dogs with cancer already have immune suppression … so you wouldn’t want to give something that causes more of that.

So in the end, Dr. Nancy thinks that Apoquel, which is excellent for dogs with allergies, is not something she would give to a dog with cancer. So, Kelly, your dog with lymphoma shouldn’t get Apoquel (so it’s good she doesn’t need it) and your dog with allergies can keep taking it until you figure out if something else works for that severe skin allergy.

Kelly also wanted to hear about other drugs or diets for dogs with allergies, and Dr. Nancy obliges.

It’s a great episode to listen to if your dog has allergies or if you are considering using Apoquel. Here’s the video for this episode:

You can read the transcript on the episode page on the Dog Cancer Answers website.

Also, please check out this article published in September 2020 in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association about the incidence of cancer in dogs treated for 6 or more months with Apoquel: Age- and breed-matched retrospective cohort study of malignancies and benign skin masses in 660 dogs with allergic dermatitis treated long-term with versus without oclacitinib | Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association | Vol 257 , No 5 (

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Warm Aloha,


PS: Feel free to share this article or the podcast itself with your veterinarian and their staff.

Leave a Comment

  1. Maureen on August 8, 2023 at 5:06 am

    We had 3 dogs…all on apoquel as it was considered the safest of the allergy medicines. All had been on pred, cyclosporin, and/or termaril P at some point, to treat allergies. They were older, passing at 17, 17, and 18 respectively, but all 3 were diagnosed with cancer. 2 with lymphoma and 1 with mast cell. I strongly believe that apoquel was the cause of their cancer. I feel like there are not enough people identifying the link between the cancer and apoquel.

  2. Amy on October 17, 2021 at 12:24 pm

    They gave this to my dog years ago and he was vomiting black and then diagnosed with breast cancer in male black dachshund, extremely rare. I said I thought it was connected but vets refused to agree. So I’m sure it was never reported as connected so I just think about the percentage known vs percentage unknown when it happens but they don’t report it. Now there’s something wrong with my dog’s brain.

  3. zuko on August 5, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    My dog has been on Apoquel for 4 years. A small lump was forming on his side, under the skin. It turned out to be cancerous No idea if there is any connection but it really saddens and pains me.

  4. Kathi Barrington on March 10, 2021 at 9:12 am

    Why does no one ever mention MSM as an effective anti-inflammatory for dogs. I have used it myself for 20 years (4 grams/day) and totally ended my joint pain, everyehere. I give it to my dogs (1000 mg) daily, when they are healing or itiching.

    Also, for with dogs that itch incessantly, 50/50 solution of organic apple cider vinegar and water, massaged into skin and paws dipped in – left on to dry – daily for 10 days and then as needed, is an incredibly effective, non-invasive way to stop itching of any kind that is NOT caused by mites. And it inexpensive. Yes, my dogs smell a bit like a french fry during treatment period, but such a small price to pay.

    • Molly Jacobson on March 10, 2021 at 12:44 pm

      Dr. Nancy talks about vinegar soaks in the podcast!

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