Autoimmune diseases occur commonly in our pets. They are more common in dogs than in cats. An autoimmune disease is one in which the body forms antibodies to the pet’s own tissues. It is really a result of a hyped up immune system that has gone wild. The exact cause is unknown but it is thought to be due to chronic exposure to toxins and chemicals that cause chronic inflammation. These toxins can be anything foreign to the body. Antibiotics and vaccinations have be responsible for some cases of autoimmune disease especially the autoimmune blood disorders. Some breeds of dogs and cats are more subject to autoimmune disease, leading to the thought there is a genetic sensitivity in some animals.
There are several autoimmune diseases that veterinarians commonly see:
Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia-this is when the pet forms antibodies to its own red cells. The results are anemia and excess bleeding. This is a particularly dangerous autoimmune disease.
Keratoconjunctivitis Sica , or Dry Eye-the dog produces antibodies against tear glands so the eye becomes dry and has chronic disease.
Rheumatoid Arthritis–this is caused by antibodies to the tissues of joints and results in lameness and arthritis
Systemic Lupus–antibodies are made against skin, blood, kidney cells and other tissues. This can cause multiple problems.
Pemphigus–antibodies are mounted against the skin causing ulcers, crusts and other symptoms.
Conventional treatment for autoimmune diseases is usually prednisone, cyclosporine or some other immune suppressing drug. Many times strong chemotherapy drugs are needed.
Alternative treatments can include Omega 3 fatty acids, Co-enzyme Q 10, Vitamin A, C, E, and Western or Chinese herbal formulae. Acupuncture and food therapy may also be used.
To prevent autoimmune disease limit vaccines, antibiotics and chemicals in general. Only vaccinate when absolutely needed and not every year with every vaccine. Feed fresh home prepared food with limited preservatives. Limit grains such as wheat and feed organic food if possible. Limit exposure to lawn chemicals, cleaning products and chemical laundry products. In general, less is better when it comes to preventing immune disease in pets.