Like humans, dogs have an immune system to protect them from illness and disease. When this natural defense system can’t distinguish between foreign cells and the body’s own cells, it can turn on itself.
An autoimmune disease is when the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells. The causes of autoimmune diseases are not fully known or understood, but genetics and environmental conditions may play a role.
Diet alone can’t cure autoimmune diseases or treat the symptoms, but the right diet can provide support while your dog is undergoing treatment. It’s important to work closely with your vet to choose the appropriate diet for your dog, but we have compiled a list of reviews of the best dog foods for autoimmune diseases and options to discuss with your vet.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites of 2023
|Best Overall||Hill’s Prescription Urgent Care Wet Dog Food||
|Royal Canin Vet Diet Recovery Wet Dog Food||
|Hill’s Prescription Diet Multi-Benefit Dry Dog Food||
|Royal Canin Vet Diet Adult Glycobalance Dry Dog Food||
|Hill’s Prescription Diet Joint Care Chicken Dry Dog Food||
The 10 Best Dog Foods for Autoimmune Disease:
1. Hill’s Prescription Diet Urgent Care Chicken Wet Dog Food
|Main ingredients:||Water, turkey liver, pork liver, chicken, turkey heart, corn flour, pork protein isolate, fish oil|
Hill’s Prescription Diet a/d Urgent Care with Chicken Wet Dog Food is an excellent option for myasthenia gravis. This food is formulated to support dogs recovering from a significant illness, injury or surgery and helps them retain lean body mass. The soft consistency is intended to make the food more palatable to help with the loss of appetite that occurs with illness or trauma.
This prescription diet also offers highly digestible ingredients, including protein, to limit muscle mass in recovery. Not intended as a long-term diet, this food should be fed in the short-term to support your dog under the supervision of your vet. This food is only available with a prescription.
2. Royal Canin Vet Diet Recovery Mousse Wet Dog Food
|Main ingredients:||Water sufficient for processing, chicken, chicken liver, gelatin, powdered cellulose, natural flavors, fish oil, vegetable oil, egg product|
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Canine Recovery Ultra Soft Mousse in Sauce Dog Food is a good recovery diet for dogs and puppies in critical care situations. With an autoimmune disease like myasthenia gravis, this food can provide support with high protein to maintain muscle mass and dietary fat to make it appetizing to dogs with inappetence.
Though intended as a short-term recovery diet under the supervision of your vet, this food offers complete and balanced nutrition following significant illness or injury. If your pet is hospitalized or recovering from a hospital stay, a supportive food like this can prevent a loss of nutrition. It’s only available through a prescription, however.
3. Hill’s Prescription Diet Multi-Benefit Chicken Dry Dog Food
|Condition:||Type 1 diabetes mellitus|
|Main ingredients:||Whole grain wheat, powdered cellulose, chicken meal, whole grain corn, corn gluten meal, chicken fat|
Hill’s Prescription Diet w/d Multi-Benefit Chicken Flavor Dry Dog Food is a weight-control food that helps dogs get complete and balanced nutrition in a nutrient-dense, calorie-restricted formula. This diet also helps dogs maintain normal blood glucose levels and supports healthy digestion, both of which are important with a disease like diabetes.
Clinically tested for conditions that respond to fiber, this food helps to metabolize fat, maintain lean muscle mass, and control cell oxidation. The addition of L-carnitine increases energy metabolism and burns fat while preserving muscle. The fiber also promotes satiety to keep dogs satisfied between meals without extreme fluctuations in blood sugar. This food is only available with a prescription.
4. Royal Canin Vet Diet Adult Glycobalance Dry Dog Food
|Condition:||Type 1 diabetes mellitus|
|Main ingredients:||Chicken by-product meal, barley, corn gluten meal, powdered cellulose, wheat gluten, dried plain beet pulp, tapioca, chicken fat|
Royal Canin Canine Glycobalance Dry Dog Food is a prescription dry dog food formula specially formulated to maintain a healthy body weight in dogs prone to weight gain. The high protein content preserves lean muscle mass without adding weight, and the antioxidants maintain health and vitality. It’s also formulated with a reduced level of starch.
For diabetes, this formula supports healthy blood glucose levels to keep dogs satisfied longer and discourage hunger or begging between meals. This diet is low glycemic, with grain, and no peas. You can only get this diet with a prescription from your vet, so be sure to discuss it and see if it’s the right option for your pet.
5. Hill’s Prescription Diet Joint Care Chicken Dry Dog Food
|Main ingredients:||Whole grain wheat, whole grain corn, flaxseed, chicken meal, corn gluten meal, chicken fat, chicken liver flavor, fish oil, powdered cellulose|
Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d Joint Care Chicken Flavor Dry Dog Food supports your dog’s joint health and mobility with ingredients like glucosamine and chondroitin. It also contains omega 3 fatty acids and EPA to help maintain cartilage and prevent joint degeneration.
Clinically proven to help your dog walk, run, and jump more easily in just 21 days, this food is a good choice for joint conditions like autoimmune polyarthritis. Though it’s only available with a prescription, you can speak to your vet about whether it’s appropriate for your dog’s condition. Some reviewers struggled to get their dogs to eat it, but soaking seemed to help several dogs eat the food more comfortably.
6. Purina Pro Plan Vet Diets JM Joint Mobility Dry Dog Food
|Main ingredients:||Brewers rice, trout, salmon meal, corn gluten meal, poultry by-product meal, dried egg product, oat fiber, animal digest, animal fat with mixed tocopherols|
Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets JM Joint Mobility Canine Formula Dry Dog Food is a special formula to support joint and cartilage health in dogs. Made in collaboration with nutritionists, researchers, and veterinarians, it contains glucosamine, omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamin E for joint health.
Ideal for dogs at any stage of life, Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets JM Joint Mobility Canine Formula Dry Dog Food has high protein content in a low-calorie formula to promote lean muscle mass and support a healthy weight, which limits weight gain that can add pressure to joints. Like the other foods on the list, this food is only available with a prescription from your vet.
7. Royal Canin Vet Diet Adult Hydrolyzed Protein Dry Dog Food
|Condition:||Autoimmune skin disease|
|Main ingredients:||Brewers rice, hydrolyzed soy protein, chicken fat, natural flavors, dried plain beet pulp, monocalcium phosphate, vegetable oil, sodium silico aluminate, fish oil|
Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein Adult HP Dry Dog Food is a palatable diet for dogs and puppies to help with skin conditions. It uses hydrolyzed proteins, which are composed of low molecular weight peptides for improved absorption into the digestive tract and a lower risk of immune responses. The added B vitamins and amino acids also work to protect the skin’s natural barrier, while the omega 3 fatty acids promote healthy skin and coat.
In addition, the blend of fiber supports healthy digestion in dogs prone to digestive upset. Another benefit of Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein Adult HP is that it’s manufactured with strict protocols to avoid cross-contamination. This food can be used long-term for dogs with food allergies or sensitivities, but it’s only available with a prescription.
8. Hill’s Prescription Diet Derm Complete Dry Dog Food
|Condition:||Autoimmune skin disease|
|Main ingredients:||Corn starch, hydrolyzed chicken liver, hydrolyzed chicken, powdered cellulose, soybean oil, calcium carbonate, dicalcium phosphate, lactic acid, potassium chloride|
Hill’s Prescription Diet Derm Complete Environmental & Food Sensitivities Dry Dog Food is clinically formulated to manage environmental and food sensitivities. The food helps support the skin barrier year-round to reduce reactions to environmental irritants. The single protein source limits food allergies or triggers that may cause itching and irritation.
This food also contains bioactives and phytonutrients to normalize immune response and improve the condition of the skin. In dogs with autoimmune skin conditions, this food can help to reduce triggers and reduce inflammation. It’s a prescription-only diet, however, so speak to your vet about whether it’s appropriate for your dog.
9. Hill’s Prescription Diet Skin Food Sensitivities Dry Dog Food
|Condition:||Inflammatory bowel disease|
|Main ingredients:||Corn starch, hydrolyzed chicken liver, powdered cellulose, soybean oil, calcium carbonate, dicalcium phosphate, lactic acid, potassium chloride|
Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Skin/Food Sensitivities Original Flavor Dry Dog Food is a prescription diet formulated for food sensitivities that lead to skin, coat, ear, or digestive issues. In most cases, these reactions are caused by the protein in a food, which is why this diet uses hydrolyzed protein to limit adverse reactions. It also contains a variety of antioxidants to promote overall health, including a single carbohydrate source, cornstarch.
Another benefit is that this food is enriched with essential fatty acids to promote a healthy skin barrier for a marked improvement in the skin and coat. It’s ideal for all breed sizes. In conjunction with treatment from your vet, this food can help with the inflammation of inflammatory bowel disease. It’s only available with a prescription, however.
10. Purina Pro Plan Vet Diets Hydrolyzed Chicken Dry Dog Food
|Condition:||Inflammatory bowel disease|
|Main ingredients:||Corn starch, hydrolyzed soy protein isolate, partially hydrogenated canola oil preserved with Tbhq, coconut oil, powdered cellulose, tricalcium phosphate, corn oil|
Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA formula offers complete and balanced nutrition to help adults and puppies get the nutrition they need without an immune response. Made in collaboration with nutritionists, researchers, and veterinarians, this food has just one protein source and a single carbohydrate source to minimize food sensitivities and inflammatory responses.
This food is designed to be highly digestible and promote optimal nutrient absorption in dogs. The chicken flavor is appealing to dogs without triggering a chicken allergy, which is among the most common protein allergens. This food is only available with a prescription, so be sure to speak to your vet about whether it’s the right choice for your pet.
Common Autoimmune Diseases in Dogs
In dogs, autoimmune diseases are somewhat rare. The symptoms and complications can vary by type, but the common thread between them is that the immune system is in “overdrive” and attacking healthy cells.
Here are the most common autoimmune diseases:
- Pemphigus complex: A group of five autoimmune conditions that form small blisters in the mouth and mucus membranes. They commonly affect the eyelids, lips, nostrils, and anus.
- Bullous pemphigoid: A type of immune disease that involves itchy, large welts that appear before or after the formation of blisters. The blisters may occur in the mouth and mucus membranes, armpits, and groin.
- Systemic lupus erythematosus: This is an example of a multi-systemic autoimmune disease that can mimic other diseases. It can involve a wide range of symptoms like stiffness in the legs, blood abnormalities, and symmetrical dermatitis.
- Myasthenia gravis: This is a disease that causes a malfunction in the transmission of signals between nerves and muscles. Dogs experience extreme weakness, excessive fatigue, and other symptoms.
- Type 1 diabetes mellitus: A common type of diabetes that occurs in dogs, type 1 diabetes mellitus involves the destruction of the insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas and a subsequent lack of insulin.
- Autoimmune polyarthritis: This is an autoimmune disorder that leads to inflammation in multiple joints, much like rheumatoid arthritis in humans.
- Inflammatory bowel disease: This is a syndrome caused by chronic irritation of the intestinal tract. Dogs with inflammatory bowel disease have recurrent or chronic vomiting and diarrhea.
With the differences in these autoimmune diseases and the potential for complications or worsening of symptoms, it’s vital that you work with your vet to develop the best protocol of medication, supportive therapy, and diet. No diet can cure an autoimmune disease, but it can provide additional support.
There is a wide range of autoimmune conditions that can impact dogs. Be sure to work with your vet to choose a diet that’s appropriate for your dog and offers support for its specific symptoms. Our top choices for dog food for autoimmune diseases include Hill’s Prescription Diet a/d Urgent Care with Chicken Wet Dog Food for myasthenia gravis, Hill’s Prescription Diet w/d Multi-Benefit Chicken Flavor Dry Dog Food for diabetes mellitus, Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d Joint Care Chicken Flavor Dry Dog Food for autoimmune polyarthritis, Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein Adult HP Dry Dog Food for autoimmune skin conditions, and Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA Hydrolyzed Chicken Flavor Dry Dog Food for inflammatory bowel disease.
Featured Image Credit: Nancy Dressel, Shutterstock