Autoimmune Disease in Dogs

Autoimmune Disease in Dogs

An Autoimmune Disease refers to the immune system’s inability to recognize a dog’s own body and, therefore, begins to attack and reject the body’s own tissues, labeling the tissue as foreign.

This can be specific to one type of tissue or generalized.

How it affects pets

Autoimmune diseases can be life threatening in some cases, depending on what organ or system of the body is affected. Autoimmune disease can take many forms; affecting the skin (Pemphigus), the blood (hemolytic anemia, Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia), the joints (Arthritis), the digestive system (IBD), the adrenal glands (Addison’s), or many systems of the body at once (Lupus). The immune system’s attack on the body tissues can result in the breakdown of tissue, inflammation, pain, and vulnerability to pathogens. The liver and kidneys can be adversely affected by common treatments for autoimmune disease. The liver can become easily overwhelmed and may find it hard to repair damage as fast as it occurs. Support of these organs is important.


There are many theories but, as of yet, no one certain cause is found for autoimmune diseases in dogs. It is possible that some may be triggered by such things as vaccines, environmental pollutants, preservatives in food, chemicals, viral infections, stress, allergies, excessive use of corticosteroids and/or antibiotics, and genetics.

What types of foods do holistic vets recommend for autoimmune disease?

  • Choose a minimally-processed, wholesome food that is free of chemicals, preservatives, hormones, antibiotics and other toxic substances. Avoid ethoxyquin and BHA.
  • A diet free of common allergens such as glutinous grains may help the digestive system remain in balance. Many prescribed medications for an autoimmune disease can have adverse effects on the gut. Consider an elimination diet.
  • Choose a diet that helps your dog maintain a normal body weight and condition.
  • Choose a diet that provides plenty of antioxidants (combat free radicals), and all essential nutrients from as many fresh foods as possible.

Other modalities to consider?

  • Consider supplements of essential fatty acids (specifically Omega-3), vitamin E and Selenium, and Vitamin C if appropriate for you pet.
  • Consider a probiotic supplement.
  • Remove as much stress and toxic substances from your pet’s environment and diet as possible.
  • Consider added support for the liver such Animal Apawthecary’s Dandelion/Milk Thistle.
  • Consider acupuncture or acupressure treatment to help relieve symptoms and regulate the immune system.

Diets that meet some of the parameters vets suggest for autoimmune disease:

Any of the Honest Kitchen’s grain-free/gluten-free diets would be appropriate, depending on the dog’s individual needs: Grain Free Beef Recipe – Beef, low-carb, active adults, puppies, pregnancy, nursing Limited Ingredient Chicken Recipe – Chicken, lower-carb, limited ingredients, active adults, puppies, pregnancy, nursing Grain Free Turkey Recipe – Turkey, low-carb, active adults, puppies, pregnancy, nursing Grain Free Chicken Recipe – Chicken, adult maintenance, moderate activity Grain Free Fish Recipe – Haddock, whiting, salmon, low-carb, low-fat, lower-calorie, adult maintenance Grain Free Fruit & Veggie Base Mix – Vegetarian foundation mix, combine with meat for a complete meal, adult maintenance


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Lucy Postins

Lucy Postins is founder and Chief Integrity Officer at The Honest Kitchen. She is a companion animal nutritionist who started The Honest Kitchen in her kitchen in 2002. She is passionate about advanced nutrition and holistic health including complementary modalities such as herbalism and homeopathy. Considered an expert in her field, Lucy frequently writes articles for local and national media, conducts radio interviews and educational spots, and occasionally holds educational seminars for pet owners on the importance of good nutrition. She also recently authored Dog Obsessed, a guide to a happier, healthier life for the pup you love.
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