Autoimmune Diseases In Dogs: What You Need To Know?
Autoimmune diseases can affect people and pets. While we all have a vague idea of the immune system, we often don’t fully understand how it works.
Therefore, we may not be able to describe the location of organs or visualize their functions. This is because immune system cells are spread throughout the lymph nodes throughout the body. They are also found in the spleen, thymus, lungs, intestines, and every other organ in the body. These cells patrol the body, circulating in the bloodstream.
In autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues. Immune cells are unable to distinguish normal healthy cells in the body from foreign ones and therefore try to destroy them.
The cause of this “error” is still not well understood. Thus, the disease can affect only one system or several systems in the body. In this regard, skin, connective tissues, nerves, and muscles can be affected, as can the endocrine system (the system that controls hormones and other chemicals), joints, red blood cells, and the digestive system.
What factors are associated with autoimmune diseases in dogs?
Currently, science is unable to fully explain what causes these diseases. However, in many cases, the genetics of the individual are suspected. In this sense, it is admitted that there is a higher incidence of this type of disease in some breeds of dogs.
For example, lymphocytic thyroiditis occurs most frequently in Great Dane, Golden Retriever, Cocker Spaniel, Bobtail and Beagle breeds (to name a few). It should be noted that some of these breeds are susceptible to more than one immune disorder, such as bobtails , which are also prone to autoimmune hemolytic anemia.
In addition, other factors such as exposure to certain medications (antibiotics), chronic or tick-borne infections, or cancers have been reported. Other chronic infections, such as infections of the heart and vertebral valves (spinal cord), can also cause them.
Given the association between antibiotics and these diseases, many studies point to an imbalance in the gut microbiome as a likely cause. Finally, although a definitive link has not been established, vaccines have also been implicated in suffering from these types of diseases.
Types of Canine Autoimmune Diseases
Currently, there is a wide spectrum of immune system diseases in dogs. However, in veterinary practice, the following are recorded as the most common:
- Arthritis : affects the joints, with pain and reduced mobility.
- Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia : produced by the destruction of platelets.
- Keratoconjunctivitis sicca : “dry eye” condition.
- Inflammatory brain disease: primarily affects toy dogs .
- Pemphigus foliaceus : the most common of several diseases associated with immune disorders of the skin.
- Inflammatory bowel disease : produces chronic inflammation of the intestinal mucosa.
In all cases, early recognition is extremely important. If left untreated, complications from autoimmune diseases are severe and multisystem involvement is common.
What symptoms can warn of an immune system disorder?
It is important to keep in mind that the dog must be constantly examined. Look for small spots of bleeding on the skin and gums called petechiae. It is also necessary to look for ulcerations on the feet, skin, eyes and mouth. The appearance of areas of alopecia and crusts should be registered in any area of the body.
It is noteworthy that some great allies for the early detection of injuries are the places that offer dog bathing and grooming services. They are usually the ones that detect bruises, bleeding gums, or bloody diarrhea during grooming. There are many cases detected by these professionals.
Every day, it is important to look for blood in the urine and feces, or if the animal’s nose is bleeding. Also notice if your dog has red, sore eyes and thick, mucus-like discharge from the eyes.
Of course, changes in habits such as loss of appetite, presence of lethargy, fatigue and fever are other warnings to be aware of. Significant symptoms such as seizures, blindness, loss of balance or coordination, and tremors may also occur.
How is the diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune diseases established?
First, it is necessary to obtain detailed medical histories, analyze blood and urine, and take tissue samples for a biopsy. X-rays, ultrasounds and MRIs are also performed. All this to establish a preferential diagnosis.
At the same time, the veterinarian will likely prescribe medication to help the dog fight any infections, viruses, or allergies that may be causing the symptoms. In general, steroids such as prednisone are the first line of treatment.
The case of vaccination
We cannot lose sight of the controversy surrounding booster injections of vaccination in the appearance of autoimmune diseases in dogs. Obviously, by boosting the immune system, vaccines can have a negative effect on dogs with autoimmune diseases.
Thus, experts recommend reducing the vaccines to a minimum or stopping them. It is common to do a blood antibody titre test. This test checks whether antibody levels are sufficient to protect against canine diseases, avoiding booster.
Cases where there is no remission
It is important to know that while some autoimmune diseases remit without relapse, others can last a lifetime. Thus, for those serious illnesses that do not respond to treatment, a method called therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) can be used. This treatment extracts the patient’s blood and filters it to eliminate the antibodies that are causing so much damage.
In addition, given the role of the gut microbiome, beneficial bacteria that were lacking in the dog’s microbiome can be provided. These are intestinal restoration supplements for dogs. These capsules contain carefully selected fecal material (yes, excrement) from healthy donor dogs. This procedure is called fecal microbiota transplantation.
Once a pet is diagnosed with an immune disorder, it is necessary to watch out for relapses. It is important to have regular and thorough health checkups and to immediately report any changes in your activity level or physical condition to your veterinarian.
For those responsible, the most important recommendation would be to know what is normal for the dog. Spend 10 minutes a day to really examine it, including the gums. If you find something wrong, act quickly.