Immunodeficiency Disorders in Dogs
The immune system is a collection of biological processes that protects against disease by identifying and killing the invading pathogens, as well as tumor cells. It works 24/7, guarding against invading organisms and infections, detecting a wide variety of invading agents including bacteria, viruses, and parasitic worms. One key feature of the immune system function is that it is able to distinguish the invading organisms from the body’s own cells and tissues.
Primary immunodeficiency disorders involve weakened immune response when required. Primary immunodeficiency disorders are seen due to heritable defects in the immune system, whereas secondary immunodeficiency disorders are caused by some other primary disease.
Breeds predisposed to primary immunodeficiency disorders include basset hounds, Cardigan Welsh corgis, Jack Russell terriers, Beagles, German shepherds, Chinese shar-pei, Doberman pinschers, dwarfed Weimaraners, gray collies, and Irish setters.
Symptoms and Types
- Prone to recurrent infections and failed response to conventional antibiotic therapies
- Lack of appetite (anorexia)
- Various skin infections
- Poor growth (hallmark)
- Post vaccination diseases
- Other symptoms related to infections
Immunodeficiency disorders are a congenital disorder; i.e., dogs are born with them.
You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms, to your veterinarian. He or she will then conduct a complete physical examination, as well as a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count (CBC) -- the results of which may reveal various cell abnormalities or clues for infections. More specific tests are available for a more detailed evaluation of the immune system, and may be employed by the veterinarian with your consent. For example, he or she may take a bone marrow sample from your dog for evaluation.
Unfortunately, no cure is available for congenital problems with the immune system. In cases of severe disease, hospitalization may be required to stabilize your dog. In the case of mild problems, your dog can be taken home after therapy.
Prevention of infection is the key factor for keeping your dog healthy, and good management practices are required to prevent exposure to infections. In cases of infection, your veterinarian will give an antibiotic cover to treat infection; it may take a few days to a few weeks for a complete resolution of infections. Delay in recovery is due to poor immune system support in treating infections, and prolonged antibiotic cover is usually required.
Living and Management
Prognosis largely depends upon the nature and extent of the problem. However, the animal cannot be complete “cured.” You should discuss the issue of hereditary diseases with your dog’s veterinarian and how these should be prevented in future litters.
In some dogs, complete rest may be advised to prevent further complications. Diet is another important factor to meet for your dog’s daily nutritional requirements. Exposure to infection should be minimized in those animals prone to infections due to some hereditary problem.