Greyhounds are beautiful, graceful dogs and devoted companions that still possess the independent nature innate to hound breeds. Although generally healthy and hardy, greyhounds are somewhat susceptible to various autoimmune disorders, including several skin, blood, eye and neuromuscular conditions.
Definition of Autoimmune Disorders
Autoimmune disorders develop when a dog's immune system becomes confused and starts attacking body tissues and vital organs as if they were foreign tissues that must be destroyed. Consult your vet promptly if your greyhound shows any signs of suffering from an autoimmune disorder. Although autoimmune conditions are incurable, a skilled veterinarian can prescribe corticosteroids that suppress your dog's immune response and help manage the symptoms.
Autoimmune Skin Conditions
One autoimmune disorder fairly common to greyhounds is called the "Pemphigus complex," a group of four skin conditions that occurs when the dog's immune system attacks a normal layer of skin and causes topical ulcers, blisters or weeping lesions to form. Severe cases often trigger secondary skin infections, and affected dogs sometimes suffer from fever, anorexia and depression as well. Two types of lupus occasionally affect greyhounds. Discoid lupus onchodystrophy attacks the toenails, while discoid lupus erythematosus causes crusty lesions to form on the dog's lips and nose.
Autoimmune Blood Disorders
Members of the greyhound breed are somewhat susceptible to immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, which occurs when the immune system kills off the body's own red blood cells. Signs of this disorder often include lethargy, fatigue, weakness, lack of appetite and pale gums or lips. Many dogs with IMHA also suffer from autoimmune thrombocytopenia, a condition that causes the dog's immune system to destroy the platelets and prevent the blood from clotting properly. Greyhounds suffering from this condition often pass blood in the urine, bruise easily and bleed from the mouth or nose.
Autoimmune Eye Conditions
The most common eye disorder in greyhounds is called pannus, a progressive autoimmune eye disease that affects the cornea. According to the Animal Eye Clinic, pannus causes brown pigmentation and redness to form in the white of the dog's eye. This pigmentation gradually leads to vision loss. In addition, connective tissue might grow into the cornea and cause blindness. Vets usually treat this condition with topical steroids combined with prescription eye drops containing cyclosporin. Severe cases of pannus might require eye surgery.
Neuromuscular Autoimmune Disorders
Acquired myasthenia gravis is a neuromuscular autoimmune condition that sometimes affects greyhounds. This condition causes a breakdown in the communication between muscles and nerves. Depending on the part of the body the disease attacks, symptoms may include muscle weakness in the eyes, face, limbs or throat. Dogs with neuromuscular autoimmune disorders frequently tire easily and might have difficulty swallowing. Symptoms usually come on quite suddenly, but most dogs experience a spontaneous cure and the prognosis is typically good.
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