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Immunoglobulin (IGA) Deficiency in dogs… Symptoms, expectations and costs!

We here at IndulgeYourPet would be willing to bet that the day you decided to adopt your dog, the last thing on your mind was…

“How susceptible is he or she to developing Immunoglobulin (IGA) deficiency?”


Let’s face it, the day we decide to become a pet owner, all we can think about is how great it’s going to be to have this new family member become a part of our home.  And it is!

But the fact remains…

That over time, all living thing (including ourselves) will one day have some kind of medical issue which may require treatment.  Which is why we wanted to take a moment and discuss exactly what immunoglobulin (IGA) deficiency is that that you’ll have a better idea of what it is and what you should expect while helping your dog manage this condition.

After all…

It’s not like immunoglobulin (IGA) deficiency is something that’s discussed all that often, right?  So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Immunoglobulin (IGA) deficiency defined

IGA Deficiency is a disorder or fault within a dog’s immune system which causes it to be frequently unwell and at greater risk of infections and other problems than a healthy dog would be.

You see…

Immunoglobulin is a normal protein that should be present in the body to help fight off diseases – so when your dog is lacking in it, it starts to cause all sorts of nasty little problems.


If you start to notice that your furry friend has been:

  • “Sneezy” recently,
  • More tired than normal,
  • Or that he keeps getting recurring infections.

It might be time to take him to the vet and express your concerns.

So, what causes IGA deficiency and where does it come from?

IGA is a primary Immunodeficiency disorder that takes place when a dog’s ability to produce Immunoglobulin A starts misbehaving. Immunoglobulin A is a group of proteins that the immune system uses to produce antibodies. Antibodies are essential to the body to fend off things like skin conditions, urinary tract infections and the common cold.


When your dog loses the ability to produce Immunoglobulin A the end result is that he or she will become subject to frequent and reoccurring health problems that its immune system will be unable to fend off.

Bacteria and viruses…

Will have a better opportunity to enter into your dog’s respiratory system, their urinary tract and under the skin simply because his or her immune response will be weakened or insufficient to deal with all of the foreign invaders they (and us) encounter on a daily basis.

Now there is also…

a second variant upon this disorder, one that characterizes an advanced stage of the disease and that can be defined through blood tests. This second variant is known as Selective Immunoglobulin Deficiency (SIGA) and is detected through the absolute lack of any Immunoglobulin A in the blood. Either of these two are dangerous and neither should be left unchecked.

Causes of IGA and SIGA

IGA and SIGA are both genetically inherited, meaning that dogs with a family history of the disease should be considered to be at risk of contracting it for themselves. The only known prevention for this disorder is to disallow the breeding of any afflicted gene pool, but within some breeds that would leave us with very few healthy breeding pairs left.

The good news is…

That despite the fact that IGA is the most common immunodeficiency disorder in both dogs and humans, it still remains a relatively rare disease.

Symptoms of IGA include:

  • A running nose or severe levels of nasal discharge,
  • Folliculitis,
  • Skin conditions,
  • And exacerbated allergies.

Breeds at Risk

There are only a few breeds known to genetically inherit this disease although there are a wide range of breeds who routinely suffer from low levels of IGA in the blood as standard. Therefore, it is not uncommon for dogs to develop this disease as they get older.

How is this IGA treated?

Firstly, your vet will make an examination and consult with what you know about your dog’s family history.  From there, they’ll likely order a series of test that will examine your dog’s blood serum for the presence of plasma cells, IGG (immunoglobulin G) and IGM (Immunoglobulin M) and IGA levels as well This will give them an idea of how much of an immune response system your dog still has.


As treatment commences your vet might want to prescribe an antibiotic, however, it is hit or miss with this condition as to whether this works or not. Your vet will need to treat individual conditions as they present symptoms so a whole range of medications may be employed at one point or another.

It should be noted that…

Once diagnosed, your pet will need an ongoing care plan that will include diet, exercise and possibly oral supplements all designed to maximize your dog’s natural production of IGA.

A good vet…

Will then work closely with you on this matter. Propionibacterium acne vaccines and Staphylococcal phage lysate might also be prescribed with the same intention. Typically, however, your vet and yourself will have to commit to monitoring your pet’s health and treating any new symptoms as they arise.


Many German Shepherd pups that suffer from this condition do not live to make it through ‘puphood’. Recurrent infections mean that they succumb early to the symptoms of their condition. A dog who is IGA deficient needs lifelong care, so be prepared for that… and for the veterinary bills that will only keep growing as time goes on.

Which brings us to…

Were we like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians or medical professionals.  All we are is a bunch of folks who just happen to be passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them.

This is why…

If you feel like your pet may have immunoglobulin (IGA) deficiency  (or any other health issue for that matter) the first thing that you’re going to want to do is have him or her check out by a vet ASAP!


The truth is, an early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering him or her, but beyond that diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!

Which is why…

We here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now will a pet insurance policy be right for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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