Canine White Blood Cells

Photo of author
Updated On

I Love Veterinary blog is reader-supported, and we may earn a commission from products purchased through links on this page, at no additional cost to you. Learn more About Us and our Product Review Process >

All About Canine White Blood Cells

Have you ever wondered about the function of canine white blood cells? The immune system in dogs has evolved to protect the gastrointestinal tract and their mucosal surface from bacterial pathogens.

canine white blood cells under a microscope

One way this is accomplished is by the release of a protein called lysozyme, which is secreted into the lumen of the small intestine where it can act as an antibacterial agent against enteric bacteria.

The epithelial cells lining the canine gastrointestinal mucosa have specific receptors for lysozyme, which allow lysozyme to bind with bacterial molecules and internalize them. Lysozyme-containing vesicles containing bacterial antigens are released into the lumen where they can then be detected by leukocytes through a process called phagocytosis.

What is The Function of White Blood Cells?

A lot of people think the function of white blood cells is to fight off infection, but that’s not true. White blood cells are primarily involved with fighting cancer and other diseases, but they have very little effect on infections.

That’s not to say that white blood cells don’t ever kill an infection. In fact, they attack and destroy toxins that have entered the body as a result of an infection. But if there is a lot of poisons in the blood, it can kill the white blood cells as well.

The primary function of white blood cells is to fight cancer and other diseases rather than infections. This is because cancer is essentially foreign tissue and so are a lot of diseased organs and tissues, like tumors (see definition below).

Cancer is basically a disease (an abnormal growth of tissue) that starts out as an infection with abnormal body cells. It’s not unusual for the white blood cells of the body’s immune system to mistake the aggressive tumor cells for bacteria or viruses. The body then attacks and destroys the cancer cells by sending in its white blood cells to fight them.

visual representation of cancer cells

What Does it Mean When A Dog’s White Blood Cells Are High?

Dogs get many of the same infections as humans, and some can cause white blood cells to rise. The white blood cells are a type of infection-fighting immune cell, but when their numbers are too high it could be a sign that your pup has an infection.

Dogs’ immune cells get produced in the bone marrow where they live for two to three weeks, and by this time the bone marrow may not be able to produce new white blood cells if they have been exposed to a lot of bacteria or viruses. In some rare cases, this can happen if your dog is overproducing its red blood cells, and the result is a condition called polycythemia.

A dog’s immune system contains specialized white blood cells that help fight infections like bacteria and viruses. White blood cells are produced in the bone marrow, a structure in your dog’s body that develops rapidly during about the first two weeks after birth and is under all kinds of pressure from growing cells.

As part of his or her immune system, a dog’s white blood cells work to identify invaders and to target them for destruction with powerful enzymes. In severe cases of polycythemia, these white blood cell numbers become distorted and abnormal so that the white blood cell production rate is too high.

What Does it Mean When a Dog’s White Blood Cells Are Low?

White blood cells are natural defense mechanisms that fight bacteria, viruses, and other malignant invaders. When dogs start to show symptoms of canine chronic wasting disease (CCWD), their white blood cell count can drop below 5%. The lower the number of white blood cells, the more susceptible your pet becomes to being infected by bacteria and parasites.

The white blood cells also play a role in fighting off other infections. For instance, when a dog has chronic fungal diseases (such as ringworm or other yeast and mold-related conditions), the dog’s white blood cell count can drop dramatically.

In general, the white blood cells are responsible for fighting off a wide variety of foreign invaders. The type and diversity of bacteria and viruses that a pet can be exposed to on a daily basis place strong demands on his body’s immune system.

Canine White Blood Cell Study Material

Learning with infographics is easy! Check out the study help below for information on canine white blood cells.

Below is a helpful infographic for vet students, vet techs, veterinary professionals, and everyone in the veterinary field.

white blood cells
Canine White Blood Cells I Love Veterinary - Blog for Veterinarians, Vet Techs, Students

Sharing is caring!

Photo of author


Project dedicated to support and help to improve Veterinary Medicine. Sharing information and raising discussions in the veterinary community.