Systemic Autoimmune Disease Average Cost

From 538 quotes ranging from $500 - 5,000

Average Cost

$2,000

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What is Systemic Autoimmune Disease?

Commonly, the signs of systemic autoimmune disease are vague, such as lack of energy, weakness, skin ulcers, joint pain, and weight loss. A definitive cause is often not identified but a genetic tendency (such as with Persians and their crosses) or viral triggers are suspected in many cases. The long-term outlook is poor.

Systemic autoimmune disease (SAD), also known as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), affects the cat’s immune system such that it attacks its own cells. The damage done and resulting symptoms depend on which tissue is targeted. For example, if red blood cells are attacked, the cat becomes weak due to anemia from lack of blood cells. 

Symptoms of Systemic Autoimmune Disease in Cats

Systemic autoimmune disease can potentially destroy any body tissue, depending on which cells are mislabeled for attack. Thus, the signs of disease vary depending on what part which tissue is damaged. This leads to vague symptoms that should alert the cat owner their pet is unwell and to seek professional veterinary advice. Common clues include one or more of the following: 

  • Weakness and Lethargy: This can arise because of anemia or because the cat feels unwell.
  • Skin lesions: A common site of problems is where the skin meets mucous membranes, such as the lips, eyes, and anus. The skin becomes inflamed, ulcerated, and scabby.
  • Bleeding: One form of SLE attacks thrombocytes, whose job it is to clot blood.
  • Lameness: Another form of SLE targets the joints, causing pain and a shifting lameness.
  • Excessive thirst: This is most typical when the kidneys are targeted
  • Waxing and waning illness: The cat may not be ill all the time but have ‘good’ and ‘bad’ days.
  • Poor appetite and weight loss

Causes of Systemic Autoimmune Disease in Cats

This disease is caused by the immune system when it turns on itself and damages normal, healthy tissue. The body’s immune system produces antibodies (which fight infection and destroy diseased cells) in response to antigens (substances that trigger an immune reaction.) Normally the body ignores its own antigens, but when for some reason it misreads self-antigens as foreign, this results in destruction of its own tissue. Possible reasons why this happens include:

  • A genetic tendency: Breeds such as the Siamese, Persian, and Persian crosses are over-represented amongst cats suffering from SAD
  • Viral infections
  • Hormonal factors

This said, the underlying trigger is rarely identified and usually remains a mystery. 

Diagnosis of Systemic Autoimmune Disease in Cats

Unfortunately, diagnosis is not always straightforward, since the tests are associated with a high percentage of false negatives. This means, although the test result comes back negative, if the cat has highly suggestive symptoms then SAD cannot be ruled out and the vet may need to probe deeper still. 

After taking a history, the vet examines the cat and takes note of symptoms such as pale gums, joint pain, an enlarged spleen, or evidence of recent bleeding. This helps the vet to rule some conditions out, as well as decide which tests are most helpful. 

An appropriate first step is a general blood profile which looks at hematology (the cat’s red and white cells) plus biochemistry. This gives an overview of whether the cat is anemic or deficient in a particular cell line, and if there is organ damage. The vet uses this information to pinpoint further tests. Unfortunately, no one single test is 100% accurate or 100% reliable, so false negatives and false positives can confuse the picture. 

Further blood tests used include:

  • Anti-Nuclear Antibody (ANA) test: False positives can occur with liver disease or in feline leukemia positive cats.
  • Coombs test: False negatives can occur in mild SAD
  • Examining a fresh blood smear under the microscope: Looking for specific types of red blood cell damage that indicate attack by the immune system

In addition, the vet may harvest samples from specific areas that are affected, such as a skin biopsy or joint fluid. 

Treatment of Systemic Autoimmune Disease in Cats

Treatment is based on using drugs to switch off the inappropriate immune response and stop the body attacking itself. Surgical intervention is not appropriate or helpful. 

Corticosteroids

High doses of corticosteroids such as prednisolone are often used as the first option as they are highly effective and inexpensive. These drugs are usually given daily by mouth so that fine dose adjustments can be made. They should be given with or after food to reduce the risk of gastric ulceration

High doses are initially given for two to four weeks until a sustained improvement occurs. After that, the dose is decreased incrementally every two to four weeks. The aim is to stop treatment once the SAD has switched off. Unfortunately, relapses are common at some point in the future.  

Steroids are associated with side effects such as increased thirst and appetite in the short term, and the possible complication of inducing diabetes or Cushing’s disease in the long term. Regular monitoring of the blood is necessary to check the response to treatment; this may be weekly or bi-weekly at first.  

Other Immunosuppressive Drugs

Should the cat fail to respond to corticosteroid treatment, other immunosuppressive drugs such as azathioprine can be added into the protocol. Many cats respond to initial treatment for a period of time but relapses are common. 

Recovery of Systemic Autoimmune Disease in Cats

For those cats on treatment, regular follow-up appointments and blood tests are essential. This allows dose adjustments (up or down) to be made, depending on how the pet is responding. A sick or weak cat may need hospitalization for the first few days of treatment, in order to receive a blood transfusion or supportive intravenous fluids. Once stable, or if the SAD is mild, treatment is undertaken at home with daily or alternate day doses of medication. 

The short-term outlook is favorable when the problem is diagnosed before it reaches a crisis point, but deterioration or relapse are common and associated with a high mortality rate. 

For those cats that respond to treatment, the owner must be vigilant for relapse and seek urgent veterinary attention should their cat become unwell. 

Systemic Autoimmune Disease Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Champy
Unknown
1 Year
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

SKIN TWITCHING
Red dots on skin

Medication Used

Antihistamine
steroids
antibiotics

My cat hasn’t been officially diagnosed yet but it all started 2 months ago when he had ringworm. I was applying topical cream to control the ringworm for about two weeks when I started to notice his skin was inflamed. I immediately took my cat to the vet and he provided my cat with a spot on medication, antibiotics and steoroids (for 3 days). However, it became worse — my cat’s skin started twitching and he started attacking his tail (assuming that it is very itchy). We brought him back to the vet which then he was given a calming collar and an injection (antibiotics) and antihistamine to be taken every day — this seem to have controlled the situation and helped him a little. But two days ago, when the antihistamine pills was finished, he started having skin rolling (skin twitching) and attacking his tail and his skin was very inflamed. We did blood test and everything was normal. We brought him back to the vet and he is on another round of steroids for two weeks. Really desperate for a cure.

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Koda
Unsure
11 Months
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Fur Loss

My cat is 11 months old, and about 3 months ago - out of the blue we noticed our dogs were licking the cats ear almost non stop. because of this we thought she had a build up of ear wax but after about 2 days all the fur on her ears started falling out.. we kept her isolated away from the dogs and then we noticed she could put her back left foot down, she was limping. so we took her to the vet. we tested for ringworm leukemia and hiv. all came back negative. she continued to get worse the fur on her face all came off, and part of her legs. her feet pads were swollen and scabby. The vet started her on an antibiotic as well as a steroid. after a week or so shes started walking normal but as soon as we tried lowering the steroid she starts limping again. the vet took her off the antibiotic because her fur got better and then worse again. now were doing half a steroid once a day and shes on the mend but shes just not the same cat anymore. she used to be so playful and now all she does is lay on the ground.

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Tony
domestic short hair
2 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Lameness, sore back, grouchy.

Medication Used

Clindamycin Hydrochloride

My two year old cat quit planning as actively and then started walking stiffly in the hind and then on the front. He was eating, drinking, eliminating normally. I took him to the vet who thinks it may be toxoplasmosis, although the test came back negative. She put him on anitbiotic clindimyacie and his response was immediately to get better. After 15 days of meds and two weeks off the meds he started experiencing symptoms again. She thought to treat him longer and now after another 10 days on meds he was better and is now limping again. he is also feeling like he is losing weight all tough his eating seems normal. I am not sure her diagnosis is correct and I am wondering if it is auto immune instead.

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Monkey
Maine Coon
10 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Pale Pink Gums
scratching
Lethargy
Hair Loss
Loss of Appetite

I adopted my cat seven years ago from a shelter. He was a sick little boy, but only with a cold that he got over quickly. After many happy years with a playful, spunky, weirdo of a cat, I noticed he wasn’t eating or drinking very much a few weeks ago. After a trip to the vet, they told us his red blood cell count was extremely low. At first they thought it was a bacterial problem, but after no response to antibiotics they ran more tests. Negative for cancer and hiv. The final prognosis was systemic autoimmune disease.

My once very chunky cat became boney at half his original weight in just a few weeks.

I have to spoon feed him, otherwise he won’t eat

I have to bring him to the litter box, or he will relieve himself where he lays

A few times the vet had to fill his stomach, and give him water under his skin since dehydration was become a big issue

I have only a sliver of hope that my cat might get a little better, at least better enough to play again.

But sometimes I feel as if I’m having my last moments with him :(

It seems like recovery is a cycle, he is worse some days than others. On his bad days he doesn’t eat/drink and just hides under furniture.

On his good days he will “merp” when I approach him, purrs loudly when pet, and climbs up onto my shoulder. But sill no energy for playing

I got my cat from the animal shelter, exact same thing. He got anemia, they put him on pred x which helped soooo much. They suspect he has an autoimmune disorder. He also has hyperthyroid which I am getting fixed on Monday with radio active iodine treatment. Good luck :)

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Zoey
Calico
3 Years
Critical condition
1 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

Anemia

Medication Used

Atropica

About 3 months ago, I noticed my 3 year old cat Zoey begin to lose weight rapidly and do nothing but sleep all day. She had this black ‘tar like’ fluid draining from her left eye so I took her to our regular vet figuring she had in infection. Thinking I would walk out with a $250 bill and some antibiotic ointment has intimately turned into a $15,000 in vet bills and medication I can’t pronounce.

My vet took some blood work because she was concerned about her physical findings in addition to identifying a heart murmur. It turns out Zoey, who was otherwise healthy, had a high white blood count and low red blood count which was causing her to be severely anemic. She injected her with fluids, prescribed Doxycycline and Prednisolone. She recommend I follow up with a cardiologist, who later determined the murmur was the result of the anemia and agreed with our regular vet on the treatment plan.

We followed the plan and on the day she was scheduled to have her red blood count retested, my husband let her go outside without worry, because she was actually up and around, thinking she was feeling better. I was really concerned when she hadn’t come back (like she always had) so we went searching for her. My husband found her in lying in the woods completely lethargic and unresponsive.

We rushed her to the ER vet where she was given fluids, oxygen and a blood transfusion. They ran a battery of tests which all came back negative (Feline Leukemia, AIDS, Tick Born Illnesses's, etc.) as did the ultra sound to determine if she had any internal bleeding and the bone marrow aspiration to rule out cancer. The final diagnosis, an Auto-Immune Disease.

After a couple of days, Zoey’s Red Blood Count increased and she showed signs of improvement so she was sent home with Doxycycline, Prednisolone and Atropica. We tried our best to give her all the medications but Zoey wasn’t very cooperative taking the pills (no matter what ‘tricks’ we attempted.) At her follow up appt, we realize we mistakenly mixed up her medication schedule (once a day vs. every 12 hours) but her counts stayed at the same level so the Dr wasn’t overly concerned. He prescribed a liquid form of Atriopica, advised us to continue with the (correct) schedule and he would continue monitoring her.

When she was due for her next medicine shipment was delayed due to the massive flooding in the area and didn’t arrive before we ran out. Long story short, Zoey took a turn for the worse and understandably ended up back in the ER for more blood transfusions.

She is back home and for the last couple of weeks, she has had all her medications as scheduled, including a specialized formula of Prednisolone to rub inside the tip of her ear. She was more active, plus appeared to be gaining weight. Then, it’s seems as though overnight she wasn’t doing so well.

I took her to the our regular vet yesterday and her red blood count dropped despite her getting meds consistently. My vet unfortunately told me if the medicine isn’t working by now, then the outcome is grave and there is nothing else we can do except give her blood transfusion every 4-6 weeks, which we can no longer afford at $2500 a shot.

We have ultimately come to the resolution that we will keep her comfortable until she stops eating, drinking and when she is clearly suffering, with a heavy heavy heart, euthanize her. I hate the thought of this but we have done all we can do to help her.

It truly sucks having to chose between our cat and proving the basics for our family because the ongoing treatment is not within our financial means. I tried applying for donations and other funds without success.

I feel terrible when reading other people story’s and one day I hope to start a foundation in Zoey’s honor to fund the research that will help all the cats in ‘knead.”

Thank you for listening to Zoey’s story.

Im so sorry to hear about your Zoey. So sad to have no other resolution! How is she these days?
I am experiencing something similar with my Miyuki. Numbers for her red bloodcells and reticules and PLTs are down. With no answers. As im reading online, it seems to be an auto immune disease. The vet is going to do an ultrasound tomorrow. Im hopeful for an answer. I hope Zoey recovers somehow if she is still with you. So sorry...

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Zorah
Siamese Persian Mix
4 Months
Critical condition
1 found helpful
Critical condition

Has Symptoms

pale gums
Sneezing
Eye Discharge
Weakness
Red Swollen eyes
Eye color change
Weight Loss
Seizures
Lethargy
Labored breathing

Medication Used

Furosemide
Lasix

My 3-4 month old kitten, Zorah, is a Siamese Persian crossbreed. It started Memorial Day weekend when we took her home. She was an outdoor cat but now is only indoors. 4 weeks ago we took Zorah to get her booster shots, but we had noticed she had labored breathing. After an X-ray it was discovered that she had fluid surround her lungs, suffocating her from the inside. We were faced with a decision: get a $3,000 surgery that she wasn’t guaranteed to survive, or euthanize her. We made the appointment for the next day. Instead, we visited a friend of ours who is a vet. He didn’t know what to do, but decided to give her some Furosemide. That night was the worst, but the next day she was back to normal. After 4 days her breathing got worse again. We got her another shot and a prescription for Lasix. We thought it was working so we took her in for more xrays but the prognosis was that the fluid has accumulated more. Soon after her bright blue eyes started turning yellow. We thought it was jaundice as the vet had told us that this medicine was hard on her liver. This proved to be false. Then she had a seizure. We decided to put her down again but there wasn’t an opening for a couple more days. Instead, we went to a third vet who wanted to look at her first. While we were there her right eye had turned completely red. The vet gave us a diagnosis of pink eye and gave ya medication. He said it could also be an infection like FIP or an autoimmune disease. That night she had another seizure. However, a week later she was doing fine and a third set of xrays showed the fluid was almost completely gone. Her eyes were just red from stress on blood vessels and pink eye. However. We just got back from a 4 day trip and she is looking even worse. Her breathing is fine, but her eyes are swollen and red and the discharge won’t stop leaking. She is extremely lethargic and so weak she couldn’t get up the stairs this morning. She has always struggled with putting on weight. Now that FIP is out of the picture, we believe this to be an autoimmune disease affecting our sweet kitten. The seizures were just from lack of oxygen and her lung is a bit damaged but nothing that will cause long term effects. Now, her nose is running, or that’s what it sounds like, and she is sneezing too often for it to be normal. It’s also important to note that we put cameras in the house to watch the cats (we have a 10 year old male) while we were gone. We discovered that our older cat has been mounting her and trying to force intercourse. He drags her My the neck and pins her down. It would be different if she was a healthy cat but he could cause serious damage to her. Please help! She has been through so much and she is such a great kitten.

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Leo
British Longhair
11 Years
Mild condition
1 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

scratching ears

Medication Used

Panalog

My cat is around 11 years old and all of a sudden began scratching his ears badly so they have become like wounds. Vet gave me a steroid and antibiotic shots and it helped somewhat. After that vet gave us Panalog and it helped a lot but I still see the signs of him scratching again. What should we do?

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Munchkin
domestic short hair
1 Year
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Pale Pink Gums

I have recently adopted my cat from a shelter, after 15 days I went for a normal check up and the doctor told me that the cat has red cells of 10% which is a severe concern. When she ran all the tests she told me that the cats body is attacking itself and there is nothing she can help with it. She also prescribed a steroid but she told me that it will have many side effects on the cat. Initially when she ran tests for FeLV the reports were positive but the lab results says it’s negative and she took few samples today where it says positive again but I haven’t heard from the lab yet. The vet told me that this is something very unusual which she can’t help as there is only 10% of red cells and some reticulocyte which is 25 instead of 50. And she asked me to wait for a week and if health detiorates then euthanize him. I really want some help, please help me with this situation. I can’t live without him. Please help me!

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
There are different causes for haemolytic anaemia including immune mediated haemolytic anaemia, infections and poisoning; reticulocyte count isn’t a reliable indicator of new red blood cells being produced as this may be close to zero in healthy cats in some cases, however it does show that the bone marrow is producing more red blood cells. Try the immunosuppressive therapy to see if there are any signs of improvement, however without examining Munchkin myself I cannot say for certain what the specific cause is. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Baxter
Unsure
11 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Medication Used

prednisone

I've taken my cat to the vet and the blood work they did to test for hyperthyroidism and diabetes came back negative. I think they did a few more tests as well, but I'm not sure what. Anyway, Baxter is almost 11 and he recently has lost quite a bit of weight - around 7lbs. He was around 25lbs. In addition to the weight loss, he has licked his hair off around his butt, legs, and he's shedding terribly and his collar wore off the hair around his neck. Also, the pads of his paws have peeled and they bother him when he walks. I also have noticed that his nails are turning dark and a couple of his nail pads have split and are swollen. He is on prednisone now one tablet every 12 hrs. to see if it's allergies. But now that I've noticed his nails, I'm thinking he has an autoimmune disease. Should the prednisone help to manage the symptoms if that's what's wrong? Is it worth another trip or call to the vet?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
I'm not sure how long it has been since your veterinary visit, but if has only been 1 or 2 days, it may be a good idea to see if the medication is going to help. Without seeing Baxter, I'm not sure if an immune disease is a possibility, but it would be worth calling your veterinarian to see if that is a possibility, and if that is what they were thinking when they put him on the prednisone.

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Buddy
American Shorthair
3 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Breathing Difficulty

I’m not sure if this is what my cat has. It started with his ears dripping dark fluid then progressed to drooling and had breath after about two days he seemed better began eating drinking acting normal now he’s having trouble breathing like he’s stopped up and I can hear it in his chest . Any idea what this may be?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
I don’t think this is an autoimmune disease; however without examining Buddy it is difficult to say what the specific cause of the symptoms may be. The symptoms may indicate an infection but due to the vague nature of the symptoms it is difficult to pin down a diagnosis. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Charlotte
Maine C
2 Years
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Our 2year old Maine coon cat is getting ulcerated lesions on her body. Prednisone cleared them initially then they came back. She is behaving normally except for this. Appetite and feces are normal. Has been about 4 months that we are treating this

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
There are various different autoimmune diseases which may affect cats which result in them breaking out in ulcers on their body; corticosteroids generally clear these up by suppressing the immune system. Treatment can be long term and unrewarding; you should discuss possible long term treatment options with your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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