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Immune-Mediated & Auto-Immune Skin Disease

Immune-mediated and auto-immune skin diseases are when the immune cells or antibodies produced by the body attack skin cells or the proteins connecting them. These diseases typically cannot be definitively diagnosed without biopsies, but patterns of lesions and breed predilections for some are known. They may have a slow, gradual onset or sudden and severe signs in the dog or cat affected. Some diseases can also affect the entire body (such as lupus erythematosus), and others are restricted to the skin. These diseases often require life-long immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory management. 

Symptoms of immune-mediated and auto-immune disease can include:

  • Redness 

  • Hair loss 

  • Skin thickening 

  • Papules or pustules 

  • Erosions and ulcerations (may occur after pustules or appear to develop without) 

  • Lethargy, inappetence, vomiting, diarrhea 

 What Veterinary Dermatology Can Do

Your veterinary dermatologist will take a thorough history of your pet’s signs to determine the best way to diagnose an immune-mediated or auto-immune disease. This process may include cytology, routine blood work and urinalysis, fine needle aspiration, and incisional or excisional biopsy. Your veterinary dermatologist is trained to obtain the most likely sites for a biopsy that will give the best chance at making a diagnosis. Biopsies are sent for review by a board-certified veterinary pathologist for help with confirmation of the clinical diagnosis. 

Management Options for Immune-mediated and Auto-immune disease

If your cat or dog is diagnosed with immune-mediated or auto-immune disease, you can expect that you will likely be treating them with oral and possible topical therapy for the rest of their life. Immune-mediated diseases rarely resolve without medical management, and most will recur if therapy is discontinued. Treatment for these conditions can also have side effects, so an accurate diagnosis is crucial before beginning therapy. Lifestyle changes will also be required, as food or sunlight exposure can exacerbate some of these conditions. Your veterinary dermatologist will develop a treatment plan with you that best suits your cat or dog's needs and lifestyle. Our Client Care Specialists are ready to book your appointment today.