Lupus is an autoimmune disorder,
meaning that the body mounts an inappropriate immune
response to some part of itself.
Systemic lupus erythematosus
(SLE) is an uncommon but severe disorder in which
the inappropriate immune response is widespread
in the body, and can cause arthritis, kidney disease,
anemia, and skin disease. Cutaneous lupus erythematosus
(CLE) is thought to be a milder variant of SLE,
and the problems are confined to the skin. CLE is
also called discoid lupus erythematosus
What breeds are affected
by lupus erythematosus?
CLE is seen more often than SLE, although both
conditions are uncommon. There is a breed predisposition
for the collie, Shetland sheepdog, and German shepherd,
as well as crosses of these breeds.
For many breeds and many disorders,
the studies to determine the mode of inheritance
or the frequency in the breed have not been carried
out, or are inconclusive. We have listed breeds
for which there is a consensus among those investigating
in this field and among veterinary practitioners,
that the condition is significant in this breed.
What does lupus erythematosus
mean to your dog & you?
SLE most commonly affects joints, muscle, skin,
blood, and/or kidneys. The condition tends to wax
and wane, so your dog will have periods of remission
and of flare-up. The kinds of problems you may notice
include shifting lameness (ie varies depending on
which joint is affected at any time), weakness and
pale gums (due to anemia), and/or increased drinking
and urination (kidney disease). The face and the
feet are the areas of the skin most often affected,
with ulcers and loss of pigment on the nose, and
ulceration and thickening of the footpads.
With CLE, you are most likely
to see red, scaling areas of inflammation on your
dog's face, and loss of pigment from the nose. There
may also be lesions on the ears and thickening of
the footpads. Affected dogs are otherwise healthy.
Nasal scarring is common with
both SLE and CLE. Exposure to ultraviolet light
is a factor (especially in CLE), and so the condition
is seen more often and is more severe in the summer
and in sunny parts of the world.
How is lupus erythematosus
Because SLE can affect many different body systems,
diagnosis is challenging. (In fact it is sometimes
called, "the great imitator"). Once suspected,
diagnosis is confirmed by specific blood tests and
biopsy for examination by a veterinary pathologist.
CLE is diagnosed through examination
of biopsy samples.Diagnosis of CLE is by histopathologic
and immunopathologic evaluation.
How is lupus erythematosus
Treatment for SLE generally requires relatively
high doses of steroids in combination with chemotherapy.
In general, dogs with joint, muscle, or skin disease
seem to respond better to medication, and have longer
periods of remission, than those with severe blood
or kidney problems. Unfortunately, many dogs with
SLE die or are euthanized within a year of diagnosis,
either due to the disease itself, the inability
to control it, and/or unacceptable drug reactions.
In other dogs, the disease can be well-controlled
with medication for several years.
CLE is treated with relatively
lower doses of steroids plus vitamin E and fatty
acid supplements. Treatment generally needs to be
lifelong, and dogs usually do well on it.
Exposure to ultraviolet radiation
worsens the skin lesions in both conditions, so
sunscreen is adviseable and dogs should be sheltered
from peak sunlight (approximately 10:00 to 3:00).