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Dog Autoimmune Disease

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Dog Autoimmune Disease

Dogs, like humans, are susceptible to developing a variety of autoimmune diseases. These disorders can be due to genetic as well as environmental factors, and with inbreeding and line breeding, many breeds have a severe genetic risk of suffering from some form of autoimmune disorder. Some of these illnesses, such as degenerative myelopathy, often found in German Shepherds, Corgis and Boxers, may leave a dog lame or even paralyzed.

For breeders of purebred dogs, the diagnosis of an autoimmune disease can lead to heartbreaking decisions. Many autoimmune disorders are treated with steroids, such as corticosteroids or immunosuppressive drugs which will lower the immune response and keep a breeding female from cycling, which in turn prevents her from breeding. However, if she does become pregnant, the daily medications she takes for her disease can leave the puppies with severe birth defects, or cause premature labor and spontaneous abortions. At best, it will simply leave the puppies at risk to develop an autoimmune disease, themselves. Many dogs may not show signs of the disorder or be diagnosed until later in life, after they have left the breeder. This makes it important to fully research pedigrees of breeding dogs before purchasing any purebred puppy, particularly from breeds known to suffer health issues.

Since many autoimmune diseases can be tested for, using the same diagnostic tests, blood tests, and imaging procedures as are used to diagnose humans, a responsible breeder will never breed or line breed afflicted dogs. Unfortunately, not all breeders are responsible enough, which has led to some breeds, such as the Akita, Old English Sheepdog, Weimaraners and the Australian Shepherd, to name only a few, to suffer from them.

Signs and Symptoms

All dog owners know to notify their vet if there is any marked change of behavior in their pet. There are some symptoms, however, known to be shared amongst dogs suffering from an autoimmune disease. If your dog begins to show signs of ulcers, sores or bruising, speak to your veterinarian. This is not by any means a comprehensive list as different autoimmune disorders will affect each dog differently. If you are concerned that your dog may be suffering from an autoimmune disorder, speak to your veterinarian.

  • Lack of appetite
  • Dog Diarrhea
  • Weakness or instability of the legs
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Lesions, mouth ulcers and nasal lesions
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Seizures
  • Anemia
  • Joint and limb stiffness
  • Changes in gait or posture
  • Severe body odor
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain and tenderness
  • Rapid heartbeat and breathing
  • Fevers

Diagnosing Autoimmune Diseases

There are many symptoms for a dog suffering from an autoimmune disease, many of which can be easily confused with any number of other illnesses. Do not hesitate to ask your vet for blood tests, urine and stool analysis if you suspect your pet may be suffering from an immune disorder, and let them know if there is a history of autoimmune diseases in your dog's bloodline as this can help lead to a proper diagnosis. If your dog shows signs of a dull coat, along with a marked lack of energy, talk to your vet about a thyroid test.

Related Autoimmune Diseases

When a dog is suffering from an autoimmune disease, they are also at increased risk for other problems such as Dog Hypothyrodism, Pemphigus disease, Canine Lupus and Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia. These diseases can lead to complications such as blindness, Dog Skin Disease and organ failure. For pups, they may be born malformed and stunted, both physically and mentally. In some cases, autoimmune diseases can lead to fatalities.

Caring For Your Dog

For an owner whose dog has been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, or a related disorder, hard decisions must be made. With medication, diet and proper veterinary care you may be able to extend your pets life, but any prognosis will be guarded at best. As yet there is no cure for any autoimmune diseases or disorders.

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