Autoimmune Diseases in Dogs

Updated: April 27, 2022

When we say autoimmune diseases in dogs, it is a broad and complicated variety of disease that greatly affects your fur-baby's immune system. The immune system is composed of a network of antibodies, white blood cells and defenses in the body that help fight off foreign bodies, bacteria, viruses that cause diseases and infections in the body.

If your dog has canine autoimmune diseases, these antibodies will attack the body's own cell and tissue. When not given immediate proper treatment, it can be life-threatening. Here, we've come up with a list of some of the most common autoimmune diseases in dogs, their symptoms and ways you can manage it.

"If your dog has canine autoimmune diseases, these antibodies will attack the body's own cell and tissue."

Autoimmune hemolytic anemia

AHA happens when your fur-baby's own immune system fights off red blood cells, which is responsible for bringing oxygen all throughout the body. In AHA, the red blood cells are damaged at a speed faster than they can be supplied again. Symptoms of AHA include:

  • Jaundice
  • Discoloration of the gums, eyes, skin
  • Paleness
  • Faster breathing, faster pulses
  • Sudden loss of consciousness

Systemic lupus erythematosus

SLE is a rare autoimmune disease that can develop in your fur-baby and can be hereditary. Breeds commonly affected by SLE are German Shepherds, Poodles, Beagles, etc. SLE can show up at any age and greatly affects the kidneys, lungs, heart, and blood. Symptoms of SLE include:

  • Muscle and joint pains
  • Anemia
  • Hair loss
  • Lesions and drying of the skin
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Enlargement and dysfunction of liver, kidney or spleen
  • Fever
  • Issues in the thyroid
  • Lameness

Autoimmune diseases of the skin

Pemphigus. This autoimmune disease results in scabs, scaly skin and pus-filled sores. This commonly appears on the head or on the feet of your dog but can spread fast elsewhere, like on the nose, private areas, and the anus. Discoid lupus erythematosus appears in your fur-baby's nose as scabby scores and loss of pigment. Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada-like syndrome is remarkably rare, prompts a loss of pigmentation and happens together with an eye disease (which can lead to blindness if not treated immediately). Body parts such as the lips, eyelids, nose become seriously infected.

Autoimmune Diseases in Dogs, Autoimmune Diseases Dogs

Can your dog contract autoimmune diseases outside?

Most of us love socializing our dogs and taking them anywhere, but just when we think they are safe with us, we might be kind of wrong about that. Why? Because outside, our dogs become vulnerable to diseases that are easily spread through direct contact of toys, collars, saliva, pee, poop, etc. of infected dogs or animals.

While the exact causes of autoimmune diseases in dogs are still debated, they are considered to be different from diseases that are commonly contracted outside for dogs. The following is a list of the most common diseases your dog can get outside the safety of your home. We will also look at some common dog disease questions like: how do dogs get parvo, is there a distemper vaccine, what does kennel cough sound like, and what are rabies symptoms in dogs?


What is parvo and how do dogs get parvo? Parvovirus or parvo is very contagious and can be life threatening for your dog. But, how do dogs get parvo? It is easily spread through direct contact of your dog to an infected dog, and also to people who have touched parvo-infected dogs. The parvovirus will attack the gastrointestinal tract of your furbaby, causing them to vomit, pee, and poop with blood.

To prevent parvo from affecting your dog, you MUST get them the parvo vaccine as it is considered as a core vaccine and is a must for every dog. It is given as a 4- or 5-way vaccine (DHPP or DHLPP) Distemper, Hepatitis (Adenovirus), Leptospira, Parainfluenza and Parvovirus. The first parvo vaccine is given as young as six weeks old and is then given in a 2 to 4-week interval (totaling three times). A booster parvo vaccine shot is administered one year after the last interval dose, then again every three years. Parvovirus can be deadly for your dog if they become infected or potentially trigger various autoimmune diseases.


What is distemper in dogs? Canine distemper is another highly contagious virus is the that is usually spread through virus particles present in the air or through the respiratory secretion of infected dogs. What are distemper symptoms in dogs? Dogs infected with the canine distemper virus develop sudden fever, runny eyes, colds, cough, seizures, and eventually paralysis. At the moment, there's still no cure but there are distemper vaccines you can give your furbaby to protect them from this life-threatening disease. Just like the parvo vaccine, the distemper vaccine is also a core vaccine given as a 4- or 5-way (DHPP or DHLPP) vaccination.

Kennel cough

Kennel cough, also known as Bordetella, can be caused by either bacteria, viruses or both and is very contagious. You will know your dog has a kennel cough when you notice them having a nasty nose and constantly making a dry, hacking cough. Kennel cough is relatively easy to recognize in your dog as it sounds like a distinct, honking sound and is usually accompanied by a runny nose, loss of appetite, loss of energy, and sneezing. There are antibiotics that can help with kennel cough and Bordetella vaccines to help prevent kennel cough available for your dog.


Any mammal can be infected with the rabies virus and can be life-threatening once they show signs of it. Rabies can be passed on through infected saliva contaminating your furbaby's wound or through the bite of an infected animal. In pet gatherings, it is made sure that every dog attending has been vaccinated with the anti-rabies vaccine. Dogs are first vaccinated for rabies between 3 and 6 months of age. They need a rabies booster one year from that date. They are then vaccinated every three years.

Treatment of autoimmune diseases in dogs

In addition to medications prescribed by your veterinarian, you can find holistic approaches to aid you in treating your fur-baby's autoimmune disorder (but of course, you should discuss it with your vet first to see it won't cause conflict with the medications).

Switch your dog's diet. If you are feeding your dog with processed food, switch to a whole made foods that are made without chemicals, synthetic ingredients and preservatives.

Keep vaccines updated. To prevent your dog from easily acquiring these diseases, vaccination is key. Vaccines help deter many diseases that harm your furbaby. Vaccinating your pet has long been acknowledged as one of the easiest approaches to help them live a long, healthy life. Vaccines actually contain antigens that are similar to that of the disease-causing organism and this stimulates your furbaby's immune system so that if ever your dog faces the real thing, their immune system is able to recognize it and fight it off.

Know who your dogs socialize with. As pet parents, we always want to keep our furbabies happy by socializing them with other people and other dogs. But it's also our responsibility to make sure our dogs are socializing with healthy dogs, to avoid acquiring any contagious diseases. Be especially careful with young puppies or dogs who have not yet up-to-date on vaccines.

Massage. Giving your little pooch a relaxing massage can greatly help his condition. Just make sure you hire a trained professional for safety purposes. You wouldn't want to create any more complications.

Provide supplements. Supplements with ingredients like turmeric and Omega-3 are well-known to help minimize the severity of the symptoms of the autoimmune disease your dog has. There are many supplements that contain these essential ingredients but only a few are trusted and efficient like Pet Parents®. Pet Parents® Turmeric for Dogs SoftSupps® will provide your fur-baby with healthy ingredients that can help promote dog immune support and help maintain a normal inflammatory response. It also contains BioPerine®, a patented extract from black pepper fruits that have been clinically studied for promoting the enhancement of bioavailability, assuring that your fur-baby is being offered only the best value & quality.

Keep a stress-free environment. Removing all stress triggers will greatly help your dog recover faster, as stress can greatly cause anxiety and even depression in your fur-baby.

Autoimmune diseases are complex and hard to deal with but as pet patents, there is nothing we won't do for our fur-babies to make them feel comfortable and at least, help ease their pain to live that happier and healthier life again.

"Supplements with ingredients like turmeric and Omega-3 are well-known to help minimize the severity of the symptoms of the autoimmune disease your dog has."

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