Autoimmune Disease Causes in Dogs and Cats

Autoimmune conditions in animals occur when a dog or cat’s immune system produce antibodies (called autoantibodies when they cause autoimmune disease) that attack the body’s own tissue. Autoreactive (act against their own tissue) white blood cells can cause chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and in other cases severe tissue damage that can result in a life-threatening condition as occurs when the body attacks its own red blood cells in immune mediated hemolytic anemia.

Common Causes

Chemicals, toxins and less commonly bacterial or viral infection are the primary causes of autoimmune conditions. This makes sense when you understand that these intrusions in the body cause an immune response to protect the body from these invaders. In most cases the immune system responds in a controlled manner and then returns to normal as the chemicals or toxins are eliminated with the additional help of the liver, kidneys and entire lymphatic system.


An animal acquiring an autoimmune condition after a vaccination is very common. This occurs due to the immune stimulating (proteins/antigens) and other chemical components (preservatives etc) that are contained in vaccines that cause a response by immune system cells. Just because your pet has not had an obvious reaction to a vaccine in the past doesn’t mean they will not have one in the future. Also keep in mind that side effects that can be associated with a vaccination may not become obvious for day or weeks afterwards. For more information on vaccinations view our article Vaccinating Your Dog or Cat.

Topical Flea and Tick Products

We believe this may top vaccinations as a reason a dog or cat acquires an autoimmune condition. Flea and tick chemicals are poisons, pure and simple. At least 1,600 pet deaths related to spot on treatments were reported to the EPA over a five year period (2008 - 2013). In 2000, the Natural Resources Defense Council released a report called Poisons on Pets: Health Hazards from Flea and Tick Products. The report demonstrated a link between chemicals commonly used in flea and tick products and serious health problems in both people and pets. We never recommend their use under any circumstances.

Other Toxins

A client that found us too late had a very sick dog that was sprayed in the face by a skunk. That dog over the course of her life was very sensitive to chemicals. She went into autoimmune hemolytic anemia and passed away after extensive treatment. This case was largely unavoidable, it was an accident, but we share this story to show that any and all toxins can be dangerous to your dog or cat and should be avoided as much as possible. This includes household and lawn chemicals, vaccinations, flea and tick products, grooming products and additives in food and water. By keeping chemicals away from your dog or cat as much as possible you may be able to avoid a preventable traumatic loss of your animal.


You may ask: Don’t genetics play a role? Of course they do, but they are not the catalyst for an autoimmune condition in your dog or cat. If your animal has a genetic disposition towards getting an autoimmune condition it doesn’t mean they have to. The catalyst is generally going to be exposure to a chemical or toxin or repeated exposure that makes your dog or cat more susceptible to future reactions.


Research has not indicated for certain that infections can lead to autoimmune conditions. However, since bacteria and viruses trigger an immune response, some researchers have suggested that antibodies produced in response to certain infections may also attack normal cells.

When making choices that involve the health of your dog or cat keep in mind the adage “the straw that broke the camels back”. In autoimmune conditions there is always a catalyst.

We have some great products that can help your dog or cat that can be found by shopping under Autoimmune Condition.


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Flea and tick product ingredients: what you should know. Retrieved from

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