Autoimmune Disease In Dogs- What's Really Going On!- Part One


Hi there, Lyndall Pinchen , Canine Naturopath here today to share with you a growing problem amongst our dogs. Today I wanted to discuss with you “Autoimmune disease in our dogs....what’s really going on”. Over the last six months in particular, I have seen a rapid rise in the incidence of certain autoimmune diseases and it got me to thinking why! In this three part blog series, I want to look more closely at what autoimmune diseases are and what causes them. But more importantly, how we can help treat and in some cases, reverse them by following a natural regime. Today in part one we’ll address what these diseases are and what I see as the 5 top causes. Then in part two and three, we’ll look at how we can help manage or reverse these diseases, as well as looking at some specific supplements and their benefits.

Our dog’s immune systems are really an amazing combination of white blood cells, antibodies and other substances that all work together to help your dog to fight off infection as well as reject foreign proteins and other nasties. Think of it like the army that offers a frontline defence in battle! But when things go wrong within this system, there can be real and significant health issues arise under a class of diseases known as autoimmune disorders.  

So what goes wrong to cause these disorders? Autoimmune disease in dogs occurs when one or more components of the dog's immune system become overactive and the ability of the immune system to distinguish between your dog’s normal tissues and what is "foreign" is lost. This causes  confusion and leads to the immune system mistakenly produces antibodies that attack and destroy the body's cells and organs, instead of playing its normal role of producing antibodies to defend the body against foreign proteins such as bacteria and viruses.

The end result is that one part or even the whole body can then be under the attack of the immune system. Common autoimmune diseases include:

AI haemolytic anaemia

Inflammatory bowel disease

Immune mediated thrombocytopenia

Rheumatoid arthritis

AI thyroiditis

Pemphigus complex

SLE- systemic lupus erythrematosis.


These conditions affect a wide range of tissues in your dog’s body. Take for example, autoimmune thyroiditis where the body’s immune system develops antibodies against its own thyroid gland cells. As the thyroid gland cells are attacked and destroyed, the remaining cells have to compensate by working harder. When around 75% of the gland is affected, the remaining cells are unable to produce enough thyroid hormone, and this is when you will notice your dog displaying symptoms including:


>weight gain and lethargy

>dull coat as well as greasy or dry skin with or without an odour

>skin infections like yeast issues

>diarrhoea or constipation

>cold intolerance

>increase in reactive behaviour and aggression



In order to treat, prevent, and reverse any autoimmune disease we need to get our dog’s immune systems back under control! In conventional medicine, autoimmune diseases are generally not recognized as diseases of the immune system, but rather as diseases of particular organs....... from a Naturopathic perspective, we want to focus on supporting and strengthening the immune system by getting to the root of why the immune system went out of balance in the first place..but more about that in next week’s blog!


When it comes to what causes our dogs to develop an autoimmune disorder, I believe are the top 5 key elements that are at the root of all autoimmune conditions affecting our dogs.

1. LEAKY GUT SYNDROME AND POOR NUTRITION- if your dog has an autoimmune disease it means their gut has become‘leaky’ meaning the tight junctions in the small intestines that that hold the gut lining together become loose, allowing undigested food particles, microbes and toxins, to enter your dog’s blood stream prematurely. The immune system goes into high alert to deal with the ‘foreign invaders’ and this causes inflammation and over time, causes the immune system to go into a state of confusion. Click here to read more about LEAKY GUT.

GLUTEN- this is a real problem and can be found in a wider variety of processed foods and treats: There are really 3 issues with gluten.

>First, it is the primary cause of leaky gut because gluten triggers the release of zonulin in your dog’s intestines, a chemical that tells your gut lining to “open up”.

>Second, gluten is a pro inflammatory substance meaning it stresses your immune system and increases inflammation.

>Thirdly, the gluten protein has a similar chemical structure to some of your dog’s  body’s tissues (for example, the thyroid), which can lead to the immune system mistaking normal tissues for gluten and thus, attacking them!


STRESS: while stress in its acute form is a normal protective survival mechanism, chronic stress (the kind that our dogs are faced with day to day) can lead to long term inflammation that never really shuts off, creating autoimmune disease. Once the autoimmune response is in place, immediate stress only exacerbates it.

viral, bacterial or fungal/yeast: although it’s difficult to explain exactly, why, scientists have shown that infections such as viral and bacterial infections can lead to autoimmune disease

from chemical load including heavy metals like mercury, pesticides, insecticides, preservatives . This includes vaccinations, flea, tick and worming chemical based products, tap water etc. These all wreak havoc with the immune system and are linked to the development of autoimmune disorders.

In next week’s blog (part 2), we’ll continue to look at autoimmune diseases and how we can approach these complex conditions from an holistic or natural perspective and in the third part, we’ll look at some specific supplements that can be highly beneficial for help treat and reverse these conditions. I hope you enjoyed today’s blog post on “Autoimmune disease in our dogs...what’s really going on”. Don’t forget to like or comment below and subscribe to my channel to receive all the latest happy healthy dogs tips straight to your inbox.

Talk to you soon!!