Autoimmune Disorders in Dogs

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Autoimmune disorders in dogs are rare. The dog’s immune system will be diseased and will not recognize the body’s own cells, attacking these. The disease can manifest on the skin or attack internal organs. Autoimmune diseases cannot be completely treated, but they can be controlled with various medications.

Autoimmune Disorders in Dogs

The immune system performs the function of defending the dog’s body against various intruders such as viruses and bacteria. The immune system will produce antibodies that can reduce the dangers presented by the infectious agents. However, some dogs will have an autoimmune disorder and in this case, the immune system will not function properly. The immune system will produce certain antibodies that will attack the cells in the dog’s body. This is due to the fact that the immune system considers the body cells a threat and tries to protect the body. An autoimmune disease can manifest on the skin or in the dog’s system or involve both the skin and the internal organs.

The most frequent autoimmune diseases in canines include:

  • Lupus, which may be systemic or discoid
  • Pemphigus Vulgaris or Foliaceus (manifests on the skin)
  • Autoimmune liver disease

Causes of Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune disorders are idiopathic. The cause of a malfunction of the immune system is not known. Some vets believe that dogs that are constantly exposed to various toxic substances, sun and stress are more likely to develop autoimmune conditions. Others opine that excessive vaccination and the administrations of various medications can cause autoimmune diseases. Some dog breeds are more exposed to autoimmune diseases: dachshunds, Dobermans or Chow-chows.

Symptoms of Autoimmune Disorders

The symptoms of autoimmune diseases may resemble symptoms of many other skin conditions or internal problems. You may detect the followings:

  • Lethargy
  • Elevated fever
  • Dermatitis
  • Hair loss
  • Weight loss
  • Skin lesions
  • Depigmeted skin areas
  • Swelling of joints or other organs(lupus may manifest through the swelling of organ linings)

Diagnosis of Autoimmune Disorders

To differentiate between conditions that cause symptoms that are similar to signs of autoimmune disorders, the vet will have to perform a series of tests. Blood tests and a physical examination will be necessary. If the dog manifests symptoms on the skin, a skin biopsy will also be necessary. In some cases, special tests will be required to confirm the presence of lupus or a different type of autoimmune disorder. The antinuclear antibody test (ANA) is one of these tests.

Treatment of Autoimmune Disorders in Canines

The complete treatment of autoimmune disorders is not possible, but there are several means to manage these conditions. The vet will prescribe treatment for the dog’s symptoms and will also recommend corticosteroids or cyclophosphamides, which will suppress the activity of the immune system. The dog may also receive topical treatments and anti-inflammatory medication. The dog should also have a stress free life and avoid strenuous exercise.


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