Autoimmune Disease in Dogs

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Autoimmune Disease in Dogs

Autoimmune diseases in dogs can be pretty complicated to understand. Whether your pet has recently been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, or you just want some more information on this topic,  we’ve created an article to give pet parents an overview of autoimmune diseases in dogs.


So in this article, we’ll briefly explain autoimmune diseases in dogs by answering the following questions:

  • What are autoimmune diseases?
  • What are the signs of autoimmune diseases in dogs?
  • What are the most common autoimmune diseases in dogs?
  • How long can a dog live with an autoimmune disease?
  • What happens if you don’t treat an autoimmune disease in dogs?
  • Can dogs recover from an autoimmune disease?


Disclaimer: Please refer to the information in this article as a guide only. If you think that your pet may be suffering from an autoimmune disease, it’s best to contact your veterinarian. 

What are autoimmune diseases?

The phrase ‘autoimmune’ or ‘immune-mediated’ disease refers to conditions where a pet’s immune system mistakes its own body for a threat and acts to stop it, in the same way, it would respond to harmful microorganisms for example.

This means that in the case of autoimmune diseases, your pet’s body harms itself, often resulting in painful symptoms that vary depending on the area affected (we’ll give some examples later on).

What are some signs of the most common autoimmune diseases in dogs?

To help pet parents understand what autoimmune means can mean for their four-legged friends, we’ve listed some examples of more common autoimmune diseases in dogs and their symptoms below:


    • Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia – in this condition, a dog’s immune system attacks special components of the blood called ‘platelets’ which enable their blood to clot. This means that they may bleed uncontrollably, bruise on their skin, and have less energy. 
  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia – similar to above, the immune system of dogs with this condition attacks their red blood cells which can also be triggered by other diseases. Since these animals are less able to carry oxygen around their body, they get tired more easily and their body tries to compensate.
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus – in this condition, the symptoms depend largely on the specific area the immune system attacks such as the skin, spleen, or liver.
  • Pemphigus Lupus Erythematosus – this autoimmune disease causes changes in the skin and can be influenced by a variety of factors.
  • Immune-mediated polyarthritis – in this case, a dog’s immune system attacks their joints causing pain, swelling, and lameness.

The symptoms, development, and progression of autoimmune diseases vary a lot depending on the type of disease diagnosed. 

In general, if you are ever worried or unsure about your pet, it’s best to contact your veterinarian for advice. Early diagnosis of conditions can help your pet feel better faster and improve the success of therapies.

How long can a dog live with an autoimmune disease?

The length of time a dog can live with an autoimmune disease varies a lot and can depend on the following factors:

  • The severity of the symptoms.
  • When the condition was diagnosed.
  • Your dog’s response to treatment.
  • Your dog’s general health.
  • Whether secondary complications have developed. 

In general, when thinking about a pet with a serious condition, such as an autoimmune disease, it’s best to consider their quality of life when thinking about how best to care for them.

The HHHHHMM scale is a resource pet parents can use to help get an idea of a pet’s quality of life.

What happens if you don’t treat autoimmune disease in dogs?

As with most health conditions, if they are not managed or treated, they are sadly unlikely to resolve themselves and your pet’s symptoms may become more severe.

The development and progression of the disease and its symptoms, vary depending on the type of condition. In general, this could mean the development of secondary health problems or increased intensity or severity of symptoms.

How are autoimmune diseases in dogs diagnosed?

If you think that there may be a problem with your pet, it’s best to seek veterinary advice early on. An early diagnosis from your veterinarian increases the chances of helping your pet feel better as soon as possible and before they develop secondary problems. 

Diagnosing autoimmune disease in dogs requires an examination and lots of information about your pet’s symptoms, lifestyle, and general condition.

After your pet has been examined, and you’ve given your vet all the necessary information, they may decide some of the following additional diagnostics are necessary:

  • Blood examination.
  • Biopsy. 
  • Urinalysis.
  • X-rays.

Diagnosing autoimmune disease can be complicated, so it’s best to follow your veterinarian’s advice and talk to them about concerns you may have, especially regarding the cost.

Can dogs recover from autoimmune disease?

The answer to this question again, depends on the type of autoimmune disease diagnosed by your veterinarian. Thankfully, in many cases, the symptoms of autoimmune diseases can be alleviated, helping pets to feel more comfortable, however sadly, it’s not always the case.

We’ve listed some examples of how autoimmune disease in dogs can be managed:

    • Blood transfusions – in the case of autoimmune diseases affecting your pet’s blood.
    • Immunosuppressive medication – although this can help calm down the immune system, it can lead to complications when used in the longer term. It can be given in the form of an injection or oral medication.
  • Dietary supplements – although sadly this won’t cure the disease, it can help improve your pet’s general health.
  • Antibiotics – again, these won’t cure an autoimmune disease in dogs, however, are sometimes used when a secondary bacterial infection develops.



We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article about autoimmune diseases and how they are treated and managed in dogs. As we mentioned in the article, early diagnosis is particularly important in helping your pet to feel better as quickly as possible, so don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian as soon as you notice something abnormal in your pet.

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