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Autoimmune diseases, fortunately, are rare in dogs. When your dog has an autoimmune disease, antigen-antibody cells spread throughout the body and attack the dog’s own body rather than attacking diseased cells. In a healthy body, only dangerous cells are attacked. In general, there are several noticeable symptoms a pet parent may be concerned with.

Symptoms of autoimmune disease may include the following:

  • Fever
  • Weight Loss
  • Lethargic behavior

Types of Autoimmune DIseases

There are multiple types of autoimmune diseases which are characterized based upon the bodily system they are attacking. Let’s discuss several of the autoimmune diseases dogs may face.

Addison’s Disease

This disease occurs when antibodies attack the adrenal gland. Symptoms may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Kidney failure
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst

Lupus

This is disease which attacks multiple organs throughout the dog’s body. Symptoms may include:

  • Loss of fur
  • Arthritis
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Ulcerations in the skin

Anemia

Occurs when antibodies attack a dog’s red blood cells. Symptoms of anemia may include:

  • Lethargy
  • Swollen extremeties
  • Jaundice
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Thrombocytopenia

This occurs when antibodies attack a dog’s platelets. This condition prevents your dog’s blood from clotting properly. This is often accompanied by lupus. Symptoms include:

  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Internal bleeding
  • Hemorrhaging

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Occurs when antibodies attack a cell known as immunoglobin G. Immunoglobin G regulates your dog’s blood circulation. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis may include:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty moving
  • “Clicking” joints when moving

Diagnosis and Treatment of an Autoimmune Disease

As you can see, the symptoms of autoimmune diseases range significantly. This results in the diagnosis of an autoimmune disease being difficult. In order for your veterinarian to determine if an autoimmune disease is present, bloodwork may be taken and analyzed.

The treatment of autoimmune diseases vary; however, most autoimmune diseases may be treated with diet changes and/or medications.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.