Stress Induced Autoimmune Disease in Dogs

by Mary Lougee
Stressful dogs can act out and destroy items.

Stressful dogs can act out and destroy items.

Martin Poole/Photodisc/Getty Images

The canine immune system works to fight against disease, allergens and foreign bodies to remove them from your furry friend's system and keep him healthy. This complex system can kick into overtime when your dog is stressed, killing healthy cells along with bad cells. If your dog exhibits any of the systems of autoimmune disease, such as lying around more than normal or lacking an appetite, especially for your human food, take him to the vet.

Canine Immune System

The immune system is a complex system of white blood cells and antibodies that correlate together to prevent infection and foreign proteins. The skin, filled with blood cells, fights off external allergens and infections, and the liver and kidneys filter waste and toxins from the blood. The blood rushes to all areas to fight infection with oxygen and nutrients. The liver and spleen filters blood and traps foreign bodies that remain to keep them from traveling throughout the body. Lymph nodes carry the immune properties to other areas of the body that the blood does not reach. When autoimmune disease occurs, the immune system is overly active, killing good cells. An overachiever in this case, is not good.

Autoimmune Disease Causes

Causes of autoimmune disease in canines are not exactly known, though toxic substances, sun and stress seem related to the dysfunction of the immune system. Some professionals believe that overvaccinated pets and some medications cause this disease. Breeds that are more susceptible to this disorder are the Doberman pinscher, chow chows and dachshunds. Dogs don't use sunscreen, but may benefit from less time in the direct sunlight.

Autoimmune Disease Symptoms

The symptoms vary widely depending on what type of autoimmune disease your dog has. Skin lesions, hair loss or skin that loses its pigment are signs of dermatological immune disease. Internal autoimmune disease symptoms include joint or internal organ swelling. General symptoms include lethargy, weight loss and a fever. Any change from normalcy in your pet's physical condition should be evaluated by your vet, he is probably not just being lazy and not playing ball with you because he is ignoring you.

Diagnosing Autoimmune Disease

Your veterinarian will make a diagnosis after doing blood tests and a physical examination of your dog. Other conditions can cause similar symptoms in canines. These need to be ruled out to find the cause. If the skin is affected, a skin biopsy likely will be necessary. Your veterinarian probably will perform the antinuclear antibody test to make a determination of his condition.

Treatments for Autoimmune Disease

There is no cure for autoimmune disease in dogs. The treatments vary based on the type and are aimed at alleviating the symptoms to keep your pet comfortable. Your pooch may receive skin treatments, corticosteroids or cyclophosphamides to suppress the immune system so it doesn't fight healthy cells and anti-inflammatories to alleviate joint pain. The most important aspect of your dog's treatment is to avoid strenuous exercise and give him a stress-free life. After all, he is your furry family member who deserves the best in care and treatment.

Photo Credits

  • Martin Poole/Photodisc/Getty Images