Autoimmune Skin Disease in Dogs

Many autoimmune illnesses in dogs are autoimmune skin diseases. Psoriasis, lupus and pemphigus are common skin diseases that are immune system mediated. These skin diseases can be controlled with medication and topical treatment, but need to be detected in a timely manner.

The Immune System

The immune system is a complex self defense mechanism composed of antibodies, white cells and other chemicals that are meant to protect the body from diseases and viruses. If the immune system is compromised in any way, it may react to different substances found in the body and will attack its own cells by producing auto antibodies.

Autoimmune Skin Diseases

Among the autoimmune diseases, there are a lot that will manifest solely on the skin of the dog. The immune system will produce auto antibodies, which will cause lesions, spots, blisters or dry skin. Some of the most common autoimmune skin diseases affecting dogs include:

  • Pemphigus vulgaris, manifested through skin lesions
  • Psoriasis, more frequently affecting the scalp and causing skin flakiness and lesions
  • Lupus erythematosus, which is a type of lupus that will only manifest on the dog's skin

Allergies are also autoimmune diseases and may manifest on the skin, but will be accompanied by other symptoms as well.

Causes of Autoimmune Skin Diseases

The autoimmune diseases are considered idiopathic, as the causes have not been detected yet. However, there are a few possible causes such as:

  • Heredity (i.e., psoriasis may be inherited)
  • Vaccines
  • Drugs (i.e., steroids or antibiotics)
  • Exposure to chemicals and environmental pollutants
  • Extensive exposure to sun

Symptoms of Autoimmune Diseases

The skin autoimmune diseases may manifest through a few symptoms that may not be necessarily point to an immune mediated disease. The symptoms can include:

  • Skin lesions
  • Ulceration of the mouth and other mucous membranes
  • Itchy skin
  • Flaky skin
  • Skin rashes
  • Foul odor of the skin

In addition to these symptoms, the dog may also be in a general state of weakness and may also have joint pain (in the case of lupus or psoriasis).

Diagnosing Skin Autoimmune Diseases

The autoimmune skindiseases are difficult to detect and typically the vet will perform a lot of clinical tests to rule out other possible diseases. Skin scraping tests and auto antibody tests are essential in giving a clear diagnosis. The vet may not give a 100% clear diagnosis, as the auto antibody tests can be negative even if the dog is affected by an autoimmune disease.

Treatment Options

The treatment of autoimmune skin diseases will focus on inhibiting the hyperactive immune system and getting suitable topical treatment. The immune system can be controlled with corticosteroids such as prednisone or prednisolone. The topical treatments may contain steroids or different other ingredients that are meant to eliminate the lesions and ulcerations. There are also some essential fatty acids that can be helpful in healing the immune system.