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Canine Autoimmune Disease

Canine Autoimmune Disease

Canine autoimmune disease can be caused due to hereditary or environmental factors, or at times by a combination of both. This article provides some information about the causes and symptoms of autoimmune disease in dogs.
Ningthoujam Sandhyarani
Canine autoimmune disease is more or less similar to autoimmune disorders in humans. Some dog breeds are at a higher risk of developing this disease than others. As we all know, the immune system is responsible for recognizing any intrusion of microorganisms and generating antibodies in order to fight against these disease-causing organisms. In short, the immune system is the natural healing mechanism of the body. Autoimmune disease is a condition in which the body fails to recognize the invasion of microorganisms due to some underlying health conditions. Instead, it generates autoantibodies that affect the normal cells and tissues.


Canine autoimmune disease can be caused by hereditary factors, side effects of medications, pollutants, food preservatives, and pesticides. It can affect a single organ or the whole body. Once a dog is affected with this disease, the susceptibility of the pet towards other dog health problems increases. For example, dog liver disease commonly occurs if the pet's immune responses are weakened. Hence, multiple autoimmune diseases are often observed. This disease results from certain antibodies which are produced by the body under various health conditions.

At times, an autoantibody that is restricted to a specific organ is produced. For example, in canine Addison's disease, the autoantibody synthesized by the body targets the adrenal gland, thus affecting the particular organ. The activity of an organ can also be affected by the combination of antibodies and T-cells. In case of antibodies that target proteins, the dog's whole body is disturbed due to the circulation of defected proteins. Canine autoimmune disease may also result from other dog illnesses. For example, a dog affected by liver cancer secretes very little to no serum enzymes, thus leading to this disease.


The symptoms may vary depending upon the type of autoantibodies generated by the body and their respective targets. In canine autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), the autoantibody targets red blood cells. The dog may show lethargy, weakness, vomiting, abdominal pain, and an increase in the heartbeat and breathing rate. Following are some commonly observed signs and symptoms of autoimmune disease in dogs.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea, with or without blood in the stools
  • Weakness in legs
  • Intolerance to exercise
  • Stress and depression
  • Increased lethargy and weakness
  • Skin disorder and mouth ulcer
  • Lesions, especially nasal lesions
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Seizures
  • Anemia
  • Stiff joints and limbs
  • Abnormal posture
  • Alteration in gait
  • Body odor
Very often, the symptoms of canine autoimmune disease are confused with other ailments. Hence, it is very essential to undergo proper diagnostic methods to decide the appropriate treatment options. In order to rule out other health problems, the vet may conduct blood tests, a urine and stool analysis, and other laboratory examinations. If you notice any symptoms or changes in the dog's behavior, it is always advisable to consult a qualified veterinarian for early diagnosis. After the correct diagnosis, the veterinarian may prescribe medications after considering the type of autoimmune disorder.

The most effective method to prevent canine autoimmune disease is to improve the immune system by feeding the pet with proper dog food, supplemented with a natural diet. While feeding the pet, make sure to check the ingredients of the diet, so that there are less chances of food allergies. Ingredients like ethoxyquin can cause allergies in your dog. If possible, you can opt for effective natural remedies that have no side effects.