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All About Dog Lupus and How to Treat It

Among the many conditions that dogs can share with humans, lupus is one of the more common ones.

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Depending on the type of lupus that a dog has and the severity of it, it can be a lifelong condition that needs to be managed, and one that hopefully won’t affect their quality of life too significantly.

What is dog lupus?

There are two types of lupus that affect dogs, discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The former is a condition that predominantly affects the skin, and the latter is a more serious immune disorder that requires urgent medical treatment.

If your dog has been diagnosed with either type of lupus, you want to do everything you can to be informed.

This guide will cover all of the basics of lupus, the signs and symptoms to know, and common treatment methods that can ensure your dog lives with it as comfortably as possible.

What Is Lupus?

What Is Lupus?

Lupus is a disease that affects the immune system of a dog, just as it does in humans who develop this condition.

With canines, there are two types of lupus that they can develop, each with varying degrees of severity and treatment options.

Discoid lupus erythematosus or DLE is the most common type of lupus and also the least severe. Sometimes referred to as ‘nasal solar dermatitis’ or collie nose’, it affects areas around the dog’s nose and is generally focused on their skin, similar to how humans develop dermatitis.

Systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE is the more serious type of lupus, and not as common as DLE. With this condition, the immune system of the dog will be compromised and it focuses on specific parts of the body, including their organs.

Although they are both kinds of lupus, they are entirely different conditions, and their symptoms, treatment, and severity differ as well.

If you suspect that your pooch has either type of lupus you should have them checked out by a vet immediately so that they can be assessed and treated.

Common Symptoms of Dog Lupus

symptoms of lupus

The symptoms of DLE and SLE are different and should be viewed as two separate conditions. To help you determine whether your dog might have developed either kind of lupus, we’ve grouped the common symptoms into each type, with SLE being the more serious of the two.

DLE Symptoms

DLE should be viewed as more of a skin condition than anything serious, but it still requires attention from a vet. Keep an eye out for these signs and symptoms that might indicate a problem.

  • Recurring bacterial infections of the skin
  • Sores, ulcers, and scars from previous sores
  • Obvious pain at infection sites
  • Itching and scratching
  • Redness and swelling of the skin
  • Crusty, flaky, and scaly skin
  • Discolored or pale skin on the bridge of the nose

SLE Symptoms

If you suspect your dog has SLE or notice any of these troubling symptoms, you’ll want to act quickly. This condition can cause a dog to deteriorate quickly and you will only have a short time to seek help from a vet before it gets out of hand.

  • Seizures
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Enlarge kidneys, spleen, or liver
  • Change in eating and drinking habits, like excessive thirst or no appetite
  • Anemia
  • Loss of fur or hair
  • Lameness in legs
  • Lethargy and depression
  • Muscle pain and joint stiffness

Is Lupus Painful For Pooches?

itchy and iritating lupus

The condition of lupus isn’t what causes pain in dogs itself, but rather the symptoms associated with the disease. Each type of lupus has its own symptoms and related issues, and they can lead to pain and discomfort for your pooch if not treated and managed.

With discoid lupus erythematosus, the irritation that comes from the lesions and sores is what causes the most discomfort. Not only will the skin be itchy for your pooch, but after scratching and gnawing at it, there’s the risk it can lead to infection which will cause other issues.

Systemic lupus erythematosus will be more uncomfortable and painful for your dog, which is why it needs to be diagnosed as quickly as possible. The symptoms of this type of lupus can significantly impact your dog’s quality of life and may cause lethargy, stiff joints, and an inability to eat or drink, which makes it severe and urgently require treatment.

The Most Susceptible Breeds

Lupus is a condition that is still relatively unknown in humans and dogs, and finding the true cause can be difficult.

There are some causes that might make a dog more likely to have lupus, however, these breeds seem to be more predisposed to develop SLE than others.

  • Beagles
  • Poodles
  • Irish Setters
  • German Shepherds
  • Rough Collies
  • Old English Sheepdogs
  • Shetland Sheepdogs
  • Afghan Hounds

In addition to being genetically predisposed, other causes like exposure to UV light, viral infections, and certain medications can also make a pooch more vulnerable. Therefore, a healthy lifestyle and regular check-ups with a veterinarian are key to reducing their risk and ensuring it is managed before it impacts their quality of life too significantly.

Treatments Available For Dog Lupus

The first step to treating dog lupus is having your dog examined by a veterinarian to determine whether they have it or not.

Once a diagnosis has been given for either type of lupus, they’ll inform you of the best treatment options. For discoid lupus erythematosus, tests may be needed of the skin to confirm it, and for systemic lupus erythematosus, it can be harder, with results from bloodwork being the best indicator.

Both forms of dog lupus are incurable, so your vet will work with you and your pooch to come up with ways to manage and live with the disease rather than cure it. The treatment will depend on the type of lupus your dog has and the other factors that the vet has to consider, like their symptoms and health status.

DLE is treated more easily with topical steroid creams that can reduce the lesions and irritation, otherwise oral steroids may be needed for more severe outbreaks. Your vet might also prescribe them antibiotics, vitamins, and other supplements that can bring the condition under control, and if an outbreak occurs in the future, they may need to repeat this type of treatment.

SLE is harder to control and the treatment will depend on where it’s affected and how severely. A vet might use a combination of methods like chemotherapy, as well as prescribing antibiotics and immunosuppressive drugs, to try and suppress the negative activity in their immune system.

Living With Lupus

treatment of lupus disease

Lupus is a common condition in dogs, with one type being more serious than the other, but both deserving of our attention.

With a better understanding of the common symptoms and knowing what to do to treat them, you’ll ensure you’re prepared for the worst should your dog develop either type of lupus.

Related Questions

There are many conditions and diseases that our dogs can get that we can too, and any way we can be prepared for them, we should be.

To find out more about common illnesses that could affect our beloved canines, we’ve answered some FAQs with more information to get you started.

Can Dogs Get Dementia?

Although dogs won’t be diagnosed with dementia as the same neurological disorder as humans, they can develop Canine Cognitive Dysfunction or CCD.

This is another degenerative neurological disorder that commonly occurs in older dogs and presents symptoms of cognitive decline just as you would see with a human sufferer of dementia.

Can Dogs Catch a Cold?

The viruses that cause the common cold in humans are very rarely transmitted to dogs, and the chance of infecting your dog with a cold you have is extremely low.

Dogs may be more prone to getting a condition called kennel cough which presents similarly to the common cold in humans and can be passed between canines.

Do Dogs Get Eczema?

Canines can get atopic dermatitis of eczema that may look similar to the human condition. A dog with eczema may have skin lesions, blisters, and a red rash on their skin, and can be present underneath their fur or on bare skin parts.

The severity and type of eczema differ but it usually requires treatment and medication to resolve.

Can A Dog Have Allergies?

Allergies are common in all breeds, sizes, and ages of dogs, with their first allergic reactions usually presenting around six months old.

Some allergies will be manageable on their own and may disappear eventually, whereas others require medication and ongoing treatment to live with comfortably, like topical steroids and oral drugs.


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