Lupus Erythematosis in Dogs

Lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune condition that can affect dogs. Lupus erythematosus is a type of lupus that affects mainly the skin of the dog, but may also be accompanied by a few additional symptoms. The condition doesn't have a cure, but may be manageable.

Causes of Lupus Erythematosus

The causes of lupus erythematosus are not known. The disease may be hereditary, but it may also be set off by a few environmental factors:

  • Drugs
  • Vaccines
  • Sun
  • Chemicals

The lupus erythematosus disease will cause the production of auto antibodies, secreted by the immune system. These auto antibodies will start attacking the dog's skin and body.

Symptoms of Lupus Erythematosus

A dog with lupus erythematosus will present symptoms mostly on the skin, but may also have other symptoms pointing to an autoimmune disease. The skin symptoms of lupus erythematosus include:

  • Rashes, especially on the face, often butterfly shaped (often the fur covers it so it is not noticeable)
  • Skin and mucous membrane lesions
  • Depigmentation on the nose or paws

Other symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Lack of appetite and weight loss
  • Joint pain and swelling

Lupus Erythematosus Diagnosis

The easiest way to detect lupus erythematosus is to perform an antinuclear antibody test (ANA), which is the only test that is specific to lupus. However, some dogs with lupus may not test positive when getting the ANA test, especially if the disease is not active. The vet will perform additional blood tests to determine if the dog is affected by lupus erythematosus. Often, the vet will only reach the conclusion that the dog has lupus after ruling out all other possible diseases that can cause similar symptoms.

Treatment Options

The lupus erythematosus disease is immune system mediated and occurs when the immune system is overly active. The typical course of treatment includes corticosteroids, which will suppress the immune system and inhibit the production of auto antibodies.

Prednisone can be administered and will be dosed according to the dog's body weight. The treatment may be discontinued if the disease is in remission and the dog doesn't show any symptoms of lupus erythematosus. However, prednisone shouldn't be abruptly discontinued, as it may lead to adrenal insufficiency.

When the dog is not under medication, he should be closely monitored to to make sure the lupus stays inactive. The dog should receive topical treatment for the lesions and rashes and should always wear sunscreen. If not detected and managed, lupus erythematosus may progress into system lupus and affect the internal organs of the dog.

Preventing Lupus Outbreaks

The lupus erythematosus diseases may have active periods or periods of remission. If the pet is in remission there are a few ways to prevent outbreaks of lupus. The dog should avoid:

  • Sun exposure and should wear sunscreen whenever outdoors
  • Chemicals
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Drugs
  • Vaccines that are not necessary