Canine Lupus Diagnosis

Lupus diagnosis is a complicated procedure, as the disease may not cause clear symptoms from its inception. There are a few tests that can be performed in humans, and these can also be applied to canines in order to diagnose lupus.

Symptoms of Canine Lupus

The symptoms displayed by a dog may help in diagnosing the condition. However, the symptoms are often misleading, which results in misdiagnosis. In some cases, a dog with lupus may display a few symptoms that indicate he is affected by this autoimmune condition. Lupus in dogs may manifest through the production of some antibodies that cause tissue and joint swelling. Common lupus symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Skin rashes, especially on the face and sometimes in the shape of a butterfly
  • Scars, causing hair loss
  • Ring-shaped lesions on mucous membranes
  • Swollen joints, causing pain and difficulties in moving
  • Anorexia
  • Coughing, if the lung lining is affected
  • Constipation or diarrhea if the intestinal lining is affected
  • Poor blood circulation, causing pale gums and cold limbs
  • Muscle pain
  • Lethargy

There may also be different organ dysfunctions if the disease affects an organ.

Clinical Tests

Lupus in canines can be confirmed if the dog has a specific antibody in the blood. The ANA test will reveal if the dog has antinuclear antibodies. However, the test may be negative for these antibodies and the dog may still have lupus.

For this reason, the vet will need to perform additional blood tests and rule out other possible conditions that may cause similar symptoms. A few x-rays and ultrasounds are necessary to test the condition of the internal organs and to see if their lining is inflamed.

A urine test can give a hint as to whether the dog is affected by lupus. A high amount of proteins will be eliminated in the urine, due to the swollen lining of the kidneys.

If the vet determines the dog is not affected by a different disease, he may suspect lupus. There are also a few criteria vets use to diagnose lupus.

Additional Criteria to Diagnose Canine Lupus

In humans, there a few criteria that are used to detect if a patient has lupus. These criteria may be applied in veterinary medicine as well and include:

  • The skin rashes on the face
  • Ring shaped lesions on mucous membranes, especially the nose and mouth
  • Sensitivity to light
  • The swelling of the heart lining or the lining of other organs
  • Urine rich in proteins
  • Low red cell count and increased white cells
  • False positive for the syphilis test
  • Immunologic tests with abnormal values

If the dog fulfills four or more of the above criteria, the vet may settle for the diagnosis of lupus. Lupus is typically treated with immunosuppressant medication.