Veterinary immunologists are vets who specialize in diagnosing and treating conditions related to the immune system. A lot of these diseases cause a variety of complex symptoms, and it can take a while to get the symptoms under control. An ordinary small animal vet may be able to provide basic diagnosis and care, but you may get more insight and better treatment from an immunology specialist if your dog has—or if you suspect they have—any of these diseases.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Systemic lupus erythematosus is a genetic condition most common in beagles, collies, German shepherds, and poodles. If your dog's parents have it, then it is likely your dog will develop it, too. The struggle is that symptoms do not always appear right away. They can show up when a dog is two, or when they're eight. The key symptoms are lack of energy, weight loss, skin lesions, loss of muscle mass, muscle pain, and fever. Since these symptoms are common to many diseases, diagnosing SLE in dogs is not easy, and is a task best left to a veterinary immunologist.

SLE results from the dog's immune system attacking the body's own tissues, and especially the red blood cells and skin. Most cases are managed with a prescription diet, rest, UV skin treatments, and anti-inflammatory medications. 

Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia

Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia is another disease in which the body attacks its own blood cells. This leads to symptoms such as fatigue, fainting, low respiration rate, and pale gums. If the condition is not diagnosed and managed early, the dog may develop jaundice. AIHA can mimic other conditions, like iron deficiency, but a veterinary immunologist can run some tests to ensure an accurate diagnosis is reached. If your dog is diagnosed, the vet is likely to prescribe immunosuppressant medications to tone down the immune system's reaction and help raise the red blood cell count.

Immune-Mediated Polyarthritis

Often known as IMP, this is a condition similar to rheumatoid arthritis in humans. The immune system starts attacking the cartilage and other tissues in the joints, leading to swelling and tenderness. IMP can be tough to diagnose. Many owners and their vets initially assume their dogs have sustained joint injuries or are developing osteoarthritis, but over time, it becomes clear the problem is bigger than this. Working with a veterinary immunologist can help ensure an accurate diagnosis. Once a dog starts on immunosuppressants, the symptoms tend to ease up. Steroids and NSAID pain relievers can also help.

The immune system is complicated, but veterinary immunologists understand it better than most. These professionals should be your go-to choice if you suspect your dog may have one of the diseases above. Contact veterinarian specialists to learn more.