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Auto Immune Disease

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What is Auto Immune Disease?

All our bodies whether human or canine have an immune system, which is a complex network of special cells and organs that defends the body from germs or other foreign substances that may be present


The key issue is that there is a special system to tell the difference between normal body cells and what’s strange or foreign. For some reason there can be a hiccup in the system and then the body can no longer tell the difference between self and non self.


It is the job of the body’s immune system to protect it from disease. Part of the job of this amazingly clever system is to mobilise killer or T cells and direct them to targets so they can eliminate them from the body. The immune system generates specific markers to guide these cells where to attack. These immune complexes can mark the surface of an infected or cancerous cell to draw the immune attack and preserve the well being of the whole body. Occasionally there is a mistake and immune complexes can be wrongly deposited on the surface of normal organs.


If this happens the body will begin to produce auto-antibodies that attack normal cells by mistake having been misled by immune complex being in the wrong place Damage begins to occur and this causes what has been commonly called auto immune disease. Recently there has been an effort to use the more modern and more accurate description of “immune mediated Disorder”. Humans can suffer more than 80 different disorders which can affect all the various body systems. Dogs will also suffer similar or identical conditions to humans and in some breeds including the Bearded Collie, the frequency is a cause for concern.


When does it happen?

It would seem in both humans and dogs that females are affected more commonly than males. The condition often becomes first apparent during child bearing years and for dogs is a problem because the disease commonly does not present until after a litter of puppies have been born.


Certain events or environmental toxins can seem to precipitate the illnesses. Sunshine, solvents, viral infections and bacteria have all been implicated as being trigger factors.  There are many different genetic markers for these diseases but although no specific genes are yet identified it most definitely occurs more commonly in related individuals as in families.  Certain breeds of dogs are more prone than others just as in humans where Type 1 diabetes is common in white western males and lupus is much more common in Afro Americans and those of West Indian origin.


Which diseases are Auto Immune?

There are a whole range of auto immune disease and they can affect all systems in the body.

Examples include Addison's Disease, Type 1 Diabetes, Immune Mediated Thyroiditis (under active thyroid), Haemolytic Anaemia, Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), Infertility due to destruction of sperm, Symetrical Lupoid Oncodystrophy (called by some 'Beardie Flakey Nail), Lupus, Vitiligo and many more including many that we are not yet able to clearly understand.


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