Your Dog Got Cancer Because She Was “Predisposed?”

Calling BS on Big Pharma

As if it weren’t enough that the commonest drug prescribed for the man-made itchy allergies your dog suffers from (Apoquel) appears to have cancer as its chief side effect, now Big Pharma wants you to believe its your dog’s fault she’s dying of malignancy.

This is both disturbing and an insult to your intelligence.

Jennifer brought this to my attention as she related an all too common heartbreak following Apoquel’s immune system suppression:

Our cocker years ago was put on Apoquel when it first came out. She got cutaneous lymphoma which is actually rare in the breed. Now it has come out that if dogs are “predisposed” to getting cancer (they) can get cancer from the drug.

Messing With Immunity

The backstory, of course, is that Apoquel works by partially suppressing your dog’s immune system. The fervent hope of every immune suppressant, antibiotic, pesticide, and chemotherapy drug is that “partial” translates to:

Don’t screw up the good guys!”

So it is with Apoquel. The itchy allergic dog is only that way because her immune system is in a state of high confusion. It’s viewing ordinary things like foods, grasses, pollen, and flea saliva as a signal to wildly ratchet up inflammation, as if these things were all significant threats to Sadie’s very existence.

By stepping in with a chemical that stops Sadie’s immune communication system, the hope was that this would merely turn off the itch, and let everyone resume a normal life and sleep at night in peace once more.

And, it brought at least initial relief to many itchy dogs. Quickly, in fact, often within hours of a pill being given.

But in small letters that could be easily overlooked was a veiled warning from Apoquel’s maker. It might also allow cancers to grow. Or infectious disease to get the upper hand.


IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION Do not use APOQUEL® (oclacitinib tablet) in dogs less than 12 months of age or those with serious infections. APOQUEL may increase the chances of developing serious infections, and may cause existing parasitic skin infestations or pre-existing cancers to get worse.


Therein lies the rub. Comments on my warning blog post about Apoquel are rife with stories of cancer coming to show itself after Apoquel was used for a period of time. If you tally them up, it would appear malignancy (and untimely death) is the chief side effect of Apoquel!

So much for partial suppression.

What’s a company to do? This is a big moneymaker for Zoetis! The drug is expensive, prescription only, and selling like hot cakes.

Misplaced Blame & Obfuscation

“Well, for starters, we could blame it on the dog!” (said some Zoetis marketer cum scientist one day)

“If your dog is ‘predisposed’ to cancer, well sure, it might get cancer after taking our drug. But that’s not our fault! We can’t fix a predisposition. That’s your dog’s problem.”

So, like Jennifer, you’re left with the heartbreak of losing your dog to cancer (when all you hoped for was itch relief from a drug promising that) and now you no longer have anywhere to place blame.

And how were you to know your dog was “predisposed” to cancer, anyway?

Here’s the scenario that plays out far too often:

  1. Your dog received vaccines, likely multiple vaccines all at once.
  2. That invasion overwhelmed her immune system: “Yikes, my defenses have been breached and I’ve got a bunch of foreign viruses running around my body! Red alert!
  3. In that state of immune confusion and panic, normal things are mistaken for invaders, and inflammation becomes Sadie’s new normal. She can seldom rest now, as that inflammation is accompanied with skin and ears that torment her with The Itch.
  4. “We can’t live like this! We’re up all hours of the night and day, trying to keep Sadie from turning herself into a raw bleeding mess! She’s miserable and so are we!”
  5. Followed by the run to Dr. WhiteCoat’s clinic, seeking relief, anything! You’re offered a promising solution. Apoquel can stop this faster and more thoroughly than anything in the past arsenal of drugs ever could! Let’s send you home with some. Everybody’s using it, and it works!
  6. Sure enough, seemingly within hours, Sadie’s itch drops from a 9 on the 10 scale to a 4! This does work, halleluja!
  7. A month or a few later, Sadie is sick and it looks much different than just itchiness this time (although that appears to be increasing again, even though you continue to give the Apoquel…)
  8. Back to Dr. WhiteCoat to see why. And that’s when the C Word bomb is dropped: Sadie now has cancer. Often, not just any cancer. No, this is cancer of her immune system! Lymphoma.
  9. Options for treating this look horrible. Chemo will make Sadie sick and probably not extend her life significantly. And it’ll be a huge expense. Surgery or radiation is impossible, as her cancer is widespread throughout her lymph system.
  10. Next up, you may hear this hopeless pronouncement: “Sadie must have been predisposed to cancer. That’s why she got this horrible disease.”

Why This is Such BS

Big Pharma dishes BS on cancer NOT being caused by Apoquel

There are several reasons this is completely bogus:

  • Predisposition can’t be measured (not unless you have high tech connections in laboratories).
  • According to scientists who study cancer and immunity, we ALL have cancer cells trying to grow in us at any given time. It’s our immune system that takes them out.
  • It conveniently misplaces blame, even though this clearly started after using Zoetis’ Apoquel, and the label warns you this could happen.

And most shameful, if it’s all your dog’s fault, Zoetis can keep right on profiting from this expensive drug while untold damage is done to your loved ones, all couched in supposedly “helping” your dog who’s suffering this 100% man-made disease.

The Way Out

You have options to prevent this common scenario, but they all work best the sooner you start. (Time is not on your side, here.)

  • Work on the initial cause: decrease or stop vaccinating, minimally those animals who’ve already had several. Annual vaccination being pushed at you? FIRE that vet!
  • If you MUST vaccinate, use immune support around that event to minimize chances of damage
  • If your animal is already damaged, focus again on strengthening the immune system. From allergies to cancer, it’s imperative that Sadie’s immune system gets back on track
  • Consider hiring a homeopathic vet (download my free Apoquel Alternatives Report for how to do this well)

You can say NO to vaccines and have some natural rearing strategies in place, like this or this.

Refuse to Take Blame. Take Responsibility Instead.

Being a victim in this Big Pharma led money grab is a horrible place to find yourself. It’s why I’m so focused in helping pet owners “call the shots” and protect their animals from the current “over-prevention” epidemic of immune dysfunction.

It all starts with knowledge. And applying that knowledge confidently, so your animal and you don’t become caught in the conventional medicine machine  that’s cranking out damage and early death while profiting ruthlessly.

You can do this. Tell us in the comments if you’ve already started and what you’ve seen (and how that feels). If this is new to you, keep tabs on what appears in the comments below. Learn from the experience of those who’ve successfully gone before you and have animals that are truly VITAL.

That’s why we’re here, after all.


Print This Article

Click below, press print, and enjoy offline reading.

[social_warfare buttons="print"]


Leave a Comment


  1. Lori W on October 31, 2021 at 1:45 pm

    We had our dog Harlow’s allergies 95% under control with homemade dog food and treats, greens powder, frequent water washes and a tiny dose of prednisone. The vet suggested a miracle pill that would clear out all the remaining issues and has fewer side effects then prednisone. Welcome Apoquel in to our lives. We said yes thinking if it has fewer side effects and the vet is suggesting we should try it for Harlows sake. What harm can it do.

    Harlow is a healthy, happy 13 year old Cockapoo who lives for food. He has frequent ear infections and skin issues.

    The vet Prescribed two pills a day for first 14 days. On the 6th day, Harlow was uneasy and uncomfortable. The next morning he could not move. Did not get up for a pee or breakfast. His stomach enlarged, his eyes sad. We rushed him to the vet.

    Fever 104F, low platelets, tense stomach and something going on with his liver toxicity.

    That was yesterday. Today we brought him home, still having a fever and knowing he needs a CT scan tomorrow. We hope and pray he will recover.

    This drug is a money grab. IT’S KILLING by accelerating the development of infections and cancer cells (we all have in us). Pet owners should be informed. We are failing our pets (our family members) having this still on the market.

    I would not give this to my children, why would I give this to a dog that brings happiness to my family.

    Does anyone know if there a class action suit?

  2. michael turner on February 5, 2021 at 8:51 pm

    I lost my boston terrier of 10 years because of APAQUEL, she was on it for two and half years. the damage sounds just like everyone i have read here in all the comments. cancer and many of the other issues. I have gotten another boston and the same mistakes will not be repeated. My dog is completely holistic and healthy.

  3. Suzanne Malless on December 23, 2019 at 6:32 pm

    My Westie Molly was on Apoquel she started throwing up while on it and we were told to place the Apoquel in the freezer before giving it to her to help stop her from vomiting. Years later she is Now she dealing with many health issues ! Ranging from Tumors, constance ear infections, and now Pulmonary hypertension.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on December 24, 2019 at 4:26 am

      Arrgh, Suzanne. You are experiencing a couple of the side effects that Zoetis speaks of: tumors (seemingly coming in as #1 in these many comments) and otitis (chronically inflamed ears). Both of those likely worse than the original condition they gave the Apoquel for!

      The freezer? Wow. May have helped the vomiting, but hardly a fix for the more serious side effects, was it? I wish you the best untangling this with Molly.

  4. Wayne Anne Roberts on December 22, 2019 at 10:31 pm

    YOU HAVE ONLY TOUCHED THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG ON APOQUEL! My St. Bernard was on this drug for 2 yrs. when she began having seizures at age 6 yrs 4 mos. Under the care of a Neurologist she had an MRI, the MRI looked good, no tumor, no stroke, dx by default of epilepsy. Only dx finding, her bone marrow was suppressing the development of her red blood cells. I discontinued the Apoquel immediately! The vet treated and she began to improve in 6 weeks confirmed by blood work. She remained on Keppra XR, Zonisamide, and Potassium Bromide, and had no more seizures for 24 mos. In addition she had recurrent bladder infections which continued every other month. The only time she was clear were the months she was on antibiotics. Under the care of her regular vet she had a full senior panel of blood work and urinalysis done in July 2019 and I received a call from the vet telling me everything was normal and looked good. She had started having difficulty with her right knee and I was treating that along with another bladder infection so thought this was why she was so quiet and sleeping a lot. I took her to the vet hospital on the 23rd or 24th of September and was given another script for an antibiotic. On October 31, 2019 she could not stand up. I called the vet and she came to my home. She told me she was extremely anemic and needed to be put down. I could not understand as I had thought she only had a knee injury. I called the hospital and requested the lab reports from July 2019 (senior panel) trying to understand what happened. The Hematology Report showed her Reticulocytes (immature red blood cells) were high again. The report was even flagged stating the degree of anemia and reticulocytes needed to be further evaluated. The urinalysis showed the same re-current bladder infection. NEITHER OF THESE CONDITIONS WERE REPORTED TO ME, THE PET PARENT. PRIOR TO TAKING APOQUEL, MY SAINT NEVER HAD A BLADDER INFECTION, NOR SEIZURE, NOR BLOOD PROBLEM! Madison was a professionally trained pet therapy dog, visiting a local hospital and nursing home. She loved everyone and everyone loved her. She was a big, beautiful girl, over 200lbs. of cuddle. PLEASE HELP ME GET THE WORD OUT TO PET PARENTS EVERYWHERE ABOUT THIS DRUG. I AM A NURSE AND IF I HAD REQUESTED MY ANGEL’S LAB REPORT BEFORE SHE WOULD STILL BE HERE WITH ME!!! I will provide copies of lab reports from before she took the Apoquel and after to confirm and prove what I am telling you. IF THIS WILL HELP JUST ONE ANIMAL AND ONE PET PARENT FROM GOING THRU WHAT I AM LIVING WITH IT, IT WILL BE WORTH IT.

  5. Kathy Nairn on December 20, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    I’m compelled to comment here after reading the other comments that have been posted regarding Apoquel. My dog is a boxer mix and 7 years old. I will admit that shortly after being slammed with all those first time vaccinations, it seemed he developed allergies. Some breakouts were so bad his face swelled, and we’d rush him to emergency vet. His first year to year and a half, we did allergy testing and we don’t feed him chicken anymore. That was the biggy. He had been given holistic allergy drops by vet during this time frame. Was not working as expected for the other allergens. Benadryl kept him sleepy. Clareton allergy tabs work to a certain degree. We then opted for Apoquel. So he’s been on it for roughly 5-1/2 yrs. Also, before going on the apoquel we had surgery to remove a mast cell cyst from his sternum area, about a nickel size in diameter. He’s not had any since. He’s not had any other side effects that I’m aware of. I have thought about taking him off of it because I feel we have his diet under control. We know his allergies, what causes them and how to deal with them now. So yes, I’ve wondered about ceasing the apoquel. But I wasn’t aware I wouldn’t be able to, as someone else stated here. He’s in otherwise good health, spunky and energetic with good appetite and passes all his annual and bi annual exams. Suggestions are welcome. Thank you.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on December 23, 2019 at 3:14 am

      Talk about marketing! I’ve heard this from several others: “you can’t stop Apoquel!” Whaaa? Perhaps this deserves a blog post all its own, but of course you can! Why are you being told you cannot??

      Worst case scenario: the symptoms of allergic itch return. They were suppressed on the drug (= swept under the carpet, NOT cured, right?) and when you stop suppressing them, they show up again. Nothing like steroids in the past that had to be weaned for a totally different reason, you can stop this drug anytime you want!

      And for this dog, Kathy, I’d get off it as soon as possible! You likely know the breed is known for getting cancer, and from the many other comments here, you see how commonly people are seeing that very diagnosis after using this drug which admits, on the label, that it can bring on infectious disease and cancer.

      What’s the Plan B, that’ll actually CURE the allergies, risk free, while your dog gets healthier in every way? Professional prescribing of homeopathy by a trained homeopathic vet. I even tell you how to find a good one in the Apoquel Alternatives Report that’s part of every Vital Animal Pack membership (zero cost, btw).

  6. Isabel Newcomb on December 16, 2019 at 5:31 am

    I am still trying to help my three year old Spanish Water Dog of the effects of my ignorance and following “professional” veterinary help (not knowing it is one big for profit industry). Misky developed severe itching after she received the Lyme vaccine the same day she passed “with flying colors her three year vet exam”
    She was put on steroids, antibiotics, more steroids, medicated shampoos, hidrolizef protein vet prescribed diet and sold at the vet’s office, cytopoint injection and Apoquel! After I read online about last medication. I stopped immediately (few days). I researched for a Holistic Vet. I drive an hour and a half each way… I cook for her (organic ground turkey meat and organic pumpkin/yellow squash or sweet potatoes plus several natural additives and Chinese natural medicines). Misky’s inmune system is compromised. She has globulonefritis, lost most of her beautiful fur, her eyes are close shut and I put compresses and clean them all day long. She has become urine in continent at night. I take her out every 45 minutes during day time. She sleeps most of the time…it is so sad that I pray for God’s wisdom to do what is best for her. Her only pleasure now seems to be car rides… she no longer enjoys walking or playing…

    • Will Falconer, DVM on December 23, 2019 at 4:00 am

      Hey Isabel, I’m so sorry your SWD is suffering from this shot (guessing it was more than just Lyme, however, but maybe not).

      The fix is explained in my free Apoquel Alternatives Report, which you can download when you join our Vital Animal Pack (also free). You’ll see several ideas there, but the one with the greatest return is the first: hiring a professional, trained homeopathic vet. Don’t be shy to do this, as the quicker you get this “nipped in the bud,” the better the results will be. The converse is also true: lots of trying other things that “sort of help” and coming to the professional after months usually means the path to curing this is much longer.

      All the best to you both.

  7. Jenny Bellandi on December 15, 2019 at 6:18 pm

    Perfectly said. This is the group i started after my setter Emma met apoquels fate. We are a natural group and focus on diet amd healthy immune system support. We share your articles. Thank you for writing these and giving people awareness.

  8. Rhonda Snider on December 15, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    We had our pug on Apoquel for over a year when I found out that it could cause cancer. I immediately started reading and researching and found a lady that has helped me transition our girl over to a raw diet and probiotics and a supplement. She is still detoxing some, but getting better. I will admit there have been a couple of times during this detoxing that I was ready to go back on kibble and Apoquel but I know that only leads to an early death and I want my sweet girl around for a long time!

  9. Lorraine Sullivan on December 15, 2019 at 9:31 am

    I’m not sure if anyone is aware that the FDA sent a letter to Zoetis, makers of Apoquel, regarding the misinformation on their website regarding the safety of this drug. The FDA list the claims made on the website and follow it with- quote: “These claims misleadingly suggest that APOQUEL is safer than steroids without providing comparative studies to support the claim. Moreover, they misleadingly minimize the risk associated with the use of APOQUEL by citing a short term study to support the claim that the side effects are minimal and were similar to placebo when a higher frequency of adverse reactions in Apoquel treated dogs was seen in a longer-term study.” Here is the web address of the 4-page letter:
    It is listed in the CVM Untitled Letters as “Zoetis, Inc. Misbranding 2018/05/24 CVM Apoquel (oclacitinib tablet)”.
    Belonging to many dog groups, I have become so discouraged at the number of dog owners who have been told to give their dogs this drug, and also appalled that any Vet would prescribe it to a puppy as young as 4 to 5 months when it clearly states NOT to give to dogs under a year old. Why is this happening? It use to be that Vets would get to the bottom of an illness that was causing a symptom and now it’s a case of just hiding the symptom so no one sees there is a illness. Symptoms are a red flag…if we don’t see them, we don’t know there is a health problem. I try my best to discourage dog owners from using this drug but like the flea/tick products, I always get told that the’re sure their vet knows more than me so they will stick to their Vets advice…it’s a losing battle!

  10. Roberta Jamieson on December 15, 2019 at 8:05 am

    One of our sanctuary rescues came in at 10 years of age, 4 years ago, on Apoquel. He’d been on it for FOUR years!!! We are an NR rescue and took him off of it immediately. We were able to treat his often hemorrhagic multiple anal fistulas with homeopathy which worked to heal all but the largest one. But it is under control and since being here he’s only had 3 hemorrhagic events which were quickly controlled. He is in his 15th year and doing really well.

  11. CINDI DENEVAN on December 15, 2019 at 7:19 am

    Your article about apoquel really resonated with me. We adopted a rescue dog from the humane society. She had terrible sores which they assured us would go away after she was done with the antibiotics she was taking. Well that did not happen it got much worse. Our dog was an itchy bloody mess. We had many trips to the vet, daily showers with special shampoo, changing up dog food on a regular basis, and then if course the vet prescribed apoquel. Like a miracle she stopped itching and no more bloody messes. I was not happy about the drug knowing I could never take her off of it. I wasnt a cure just a bandaid for the problem. After doing more research I stumbled across a company promoting a solution by using their recipe for a raw diet along with the nutrient supplement and fish oil. It is amazing. Mo more drugs and she is unbelievably healthy. We’ve been making her this food for at least two years with no reason to do anything different.

    • Cindy Hiemenz on December 15, 2019 at 9:27 am

      Can you share the dog food recipes with us?

    • Pete on December 15, 2019 at 9:33 am

      I’m still trying to straighten my dog out from being on Apoquel for nearly 3 years. Can you please share what you have been doing in detail?

      Thanks in advance.

    • Erin on December 22, 2019 at 11:05 pm

      Will you share the steps you took along with the diet (recipes)?

  12. Chris Brackston on December 15, 2019 at 7:05 am

    My poor dog was on Apoquel, antibiotics, steroids and then cytopoint for years until it all stopped working. He was so sick he was too ill to have his rabies shot. One month later he was given the shot. That was November 2018. We put him on raw last February and have tried every supplement – shampoo – skin cream imaginable to help. He has lumps which develop, come to a head and then ooze thick, reddish stuff. Once healed there is no hair there. A holistic vet thought it might be sterile Panniculitis. There has been some improvement, but he still lives in his cone 24/7 to prevent scratching his face. We are DESPERATE. please give me some ideas. Thank you.

    • vicki kelley on December 15, 2019 at 4:00 pm

      Gut Goo from might help. It worked for my Dazy who was a walking hot spot a few years ago and vet treatments had left her a very sick little girl. she is 12 years old now and healthier than when she was 6. I credit this product along with a raw diet (currently Stella & chewy’s, alternated with Primal) in resolving her issues. she is on no medication.

    • vicki kelley on December 15, 2019 at 4:05 pm

      I’d use Gutgoo for 1 month and keep him on Healthy goo in conjunction to it, then continue with Healthy Goo for at least 6 mos. Then try taking him off. He he becomes itchy again he may need the product for life. It is expensive, but it really worked and is cheaper than all the vet crap that did nothing. These products are designed to improve the immune system and lead to normal fuctioning.

    • Will Falconer, DVM on December 15, 2019 at 6:36 pm

      Hey Chris,
      This is way beyond “ideas” or DIY: this is deep-seated chronic disease that’s been suppressed for years by powerful drugs. The best I know for anything chronic, but especially those diseases complicated by excessive allopathic suppression like your dog has been through is professionally prescribed homeopathy. I tell you how to find a suitably trained vet, near or far, who can help you in my Apoquel Alternatives Report. You’ll find it on this page:

      This approach will take time, patience, and attention to detail. While he may be too old to get all the way to cure, he’ll be helped by this approach.

      OH: never, ever vaccinate this poor dog again! Rabies law be damned. That last one (and probably several before it) was pure malpractice. Sick animals are NEVER candidates for vaccination.

      Also, as this is immune related, a far better choice for immune repair comes from powerful immune boosting, the exact opposite of Apoquel’s turning off the immune response. If you haven’t signed up for our newly released Canine Immune Complete, please visit this page and get on the list. I think this supplement could well be the Apoquel-killer for the legions of dogs in all stages of allergic itch, from just starting to very advanced.

    • Missy Hubbard on January 4, 2020 at 12:44 pm

      Ok- I seriously think me seeing your post is a God thing… I haven’t looked at Dr. Falconer’s website in several years but was trying to find an article for a friend because her vet recently found an anal tumor in her golden lab. They are awaiting results and I am trying to convince her to go the homeopathic route vs traditional vet. not just for this but for overall daily health,etc..
      Your story sounds EXACTLY like my Bentley!! We tried everything! Allergy specialist for over a year, acupuncture, steroids,shampoos, soaps, etc.. You name it- we tried it! He was miserable and hairless with hundreds of blood filled pustules all over his body. A friend recommended Dr. Falconer to us and he saved Bentley’s life!! It is a process but EXTREMELY worth it!! After phone consultations, weeks of observations and note taking and reporting back to Dr. Falconer- he prescribed a homeopathic remedy specifically for him along with an all raw diet and supplements to go along with his remedy and diet. Silica LM1 (remedy) Canine Dermal Support(powder), Raw Support (powder)and Transfer Factor Plus- 1 capsule twice a day. He will be able to give you the remedy specifically tailored to the needs of your pet. He is worth every penny we ever spent with him. BE PATIENT with him. He actually “fired” me ;( because I was really worried about an issue and contacted him several times by vm – he only replies like once a week and he was not happy with me because he had explained to us and made us agree in the beginning that we would patient with him… I tell everyone I know about him!! He is that good!! Bentley is a Vizsla. Best of luck! You CAN do this!!