Lupus in Dogs (Canine Lupus)

Lupus in dogs is a condition in which the immune system attacks the body’s cells and the tissue itself. There are two forms of canine lupus, each of which has different symptoms and options for treatment.

Discoid lupus erythematosus is the most common type of lupus in dogs (DLE). The disorder is often referred to as “collie nose” or “nasal solar dermatitis” by individuals and affects the skin, often around the nose and face.

The other type is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), and it’s a much more severe disease. It can invadealmost any part of the body, and depending on the organs that are affected, and symptoms can differ. This can also mimic the effects of other conditions.

If you see symptoms of either type of lupus in your dog, you may need to see a veterinarian for appropriate care and diagnosis. Here’s what you should know about dogs’ symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and lupus care.

Symptoms Of Lupus In Dogs

In dogs, lupus symptoms depend on the type. DLE symptoms are typically mild and mostly affect the skin only, while SLE symptoms may be catastrophic.

Here are a few symptoms you can expect for each type of canine lupus:

Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE)

The ears face, lips, mouth, nose, or areas around the eyes are usually affected by DLE. It may occasionally cause symptoms in the feet or genitals.

Watch out for the following symptoms: 

  • Pale skin on the bridge of the nose
  • Scarring
  • Bacterial infections
  • Scaly, flaky, or crusty skin
  • Sores or ulcers
  • Pain at the affected sites
  • Itchiness or scratching at affected areas
  • Redness of the skin, especially the face, the nose, and lips.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

Most parts of the body can be affected by SLE, so symptoms can differ a lot and become life-threatening quickly. SLE is an immune disease in which the immune system tends to attack the body’s cells and tissues and can be very lethal, depending on which organs are affected.

Here are a few typical symptoms with SLE that you may see:

  • Shifting leg lameness
  • Arthritis, muscle pain, and stiffness
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Sores or lesions on the skin
  • Anemia
  • Hair loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Seizures
  • Enlarged liver, spleen, or kidneys
  • Increased thirst or urination

Causes Of Lupus In Dogs

“Lupus” is derived from the Latin word that translates to “wolf.” The disease was named after the rash that appeared on the faces of people with the disease that looked like the bite of a wolf, although, as some erroneously believe, it was not thought to be caused by the bite of a wolf.

The actual causes of lupus, even today, are still not well understood. A genetic component is likely to exist, and ultraviolet light exposure, stress, medication, and viral infections all contribute to the condition.

Some dogs have a higher risk of developing SLE. The illness tends to appear more frequently in middle-aged female dogs.

Certain breeds are also predisposed, including:

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

 Diagnosing Lupus in Dogs 

Because of the varied presentation of symptoms, lupus can be hard to diagnose. A veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam, obtain a medical history, check some blood work, and perform urine tests.

These tests will analyze platelets, white and red blood cell counts, kidney enzymes, protein content in the urine, and other results. A special test called an antinuclear antibody (ANA) titer may be performed if the symptoms and test results suggest a possibility of lupus.

A diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus is made if the test titers are positive.

Treatment For Lupus In Dogs

Lupus treatment in dogs also depends on the lupus type, although neither form is curable. This is why treatment focuses on symptom management and then continues for the rest of the lives of the dogs affected.

It is fairly easy to treat DLE, and your veterinarian will concentrate on healing and managing any sores, lesions, or ulcers that may appear. To suppress the response of the immune system and decrease inflammation, topical steroids are often used. Until the condition is under control, Prednisone or other oral steroids could be given.

It is also possible to give antibiotics and supplements, including B and E vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids. As this worsens the situation, owners must restrict their dogs’ exposure to ultraviolet light, including sunlight.

Depending on the affected organs, SLE treatments will vary. The objective of treatment is to reduce inflammation and suppress the harm-causing immune response. NSAIDs, immunosuppressive drugs, or steroids like Prednisone will likely be used.

Chemotherapy can suppress the activity of the negative immune system further and reduce pain. If there is a secondary infection that needs to be treated, antibiotics will also be prescribed. Exposure to sunlight must be restricted, as with DLE. For the rest of the dog’s life, this treatment must continue.

How to Prevent Lupus in Dogs

It is advisable for dogs that have been diagnosed with systemic lupus not to be used for breeding, as there may be some genetic factors that can cause lupus.

Otherwise, there is no good way to prevent it from occurring in a dog since no one knows exactly what causes lupus. Some veterinarians recommend that different supplements support the immune system or be careful not to over-stimulate the immune system with too many medications or vaccinations at one time or for prolonged periods.

Still, there is no definitive lupus prevention plan.

Is Lupus Contagious to Humans?

No, lupus is not a disease that is contagious or infectious to animals or humans.

Do you keep an eye out for health problems like your dog’s lupus? What are your tips for maintaining a healthy dog? In the comments below, let us know!


  • How to Treat Lupus in Dogs: Thesprucepets
  • Lupus In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, And Treatment: Dogtime
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