Canine Autoimmune Disease Symptoms

Canine autoimmune disease happens when a dog's immune system doesn't know the difference between the dog's normal tissue and systems, and outside invaders. As a result, the immune system overreacts and begins to attack the dog's body.

The Canine Immune System

The immune system is made up of many different parts within a dog's body, working together to fight infections and eliminate bad proteins. These parts include white blood cells, antibodies, organs, oxygen and nutrients in the blood. The immune system defends against factors that can attack a dog's health. These are carried in a dogs bloodstream, so foreign elements that should not be in the body are fought on the spot.

An autoimmune disease develops when the immune system becomes overactive and attacks the dog's body. Although the exact cause of autoimmune diseases are not known, it is thought they could be caused in part by the overuse of drugs or vaccines, pollutants and chemicals. This disease can affect an organ, part of the dog or his whole body. Some examples of autoimmune disease are inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, Addison's disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Canine Autoimmune Disease Symptoms

Autoimmune diseases in dogs can have a range of symptoms, depending on the part of the body that's being attacked. Common symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea that may or may not have blood
  • A fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • A lack of energy
  • Lesions of the skin
  • A change in behavior

In instances when the skin is affected, lesions may appear on a dog's nose, in his mouth or on the anus. The skin may begin to flake off. A dog with this disease can also develop a peculiar odor.

In cases of rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, a dog may tire easily from normal activities and have stiff joints. The area around the joints affected may also feel warm to the touch. Lymph nodes could become enlarged and, if the thyroid is affected, weight gain may be noticed. When the kidneys are affected, a dog will increase his water consumption and urine output.

Anemia can be a symptom of an autoimmune disease, as the production of red blood cells in a dog's body slows or ceases, while the rate in which these cells are destroyed increases. Autoimmune hemolytic anemia can cause a dog to suddenly collapse, develop a heart murmur and become jaundiced. Dogs can begin to bruise easily or bleed excessively after an injury. Their extremities can also become cold and the skin may turn blue, become swollen or develop ulcers.

The prognosis for a dog with an autoimmune disease depends upon what parts of the body are affected and when the condition was discovered. Noticing symptoms that could indicate a canine autoimmune disease and seeking prompt veterinary care can help begin a tailored therapy early, improve a dog's quality of life and even extend his life.