Lupus or lupus erythematosus is a type of autoimmune disease, where the immune system starts attacking the healthy cells and tissues by mistaking them for foreign harmful microorganisms. This autoimmune disease can affect humans, dogs, as well as cats. However, it is more prevalent among dogs, as compared to cats. The disease can cause inflammation in any part of the body, including the heart, kidneys, lungs, and the joints.
Lupus in Canines
Lupus erythematosus in dogs can be of two types - systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE). SLE or systemic lupus can literally affect any part of the body, including the joints, skin, blood, and the kidneys. On the other hand, discoid lupus does not affect the entire body. It usually affects only the skin, especially of the face and the nose. Dogs are usually affected by discoid lupus.
What exactly causes this autoimmune disease is not known. However, both genetics and environmental factors can play an important role in the development of the disease. Experts are of the opinion that some dogs can have a genetic predisposition to develop this condition, especially when they are exposed to certain environmental factors, like sunlight, chemicals, etc. Dog breeds that have been observed to be more susceptible to develop this condition are, German Shepherd, Collie, Siberian Husky, and Sheltie.
The symptoms of this condition can be mild or severe, depending on the specific organ/organs affected. The symptoms have been observed to subside for a while, and then reappear, especially when the affected dog is exposed to ultraviolet radiation of the sun. SLE can cause lameness, joint inflammation or arthritis, muscle inflammation, anemia, skin lesions, infections, inflammation of the heart muscles, and hair loss in dogs.
Sometimes, fever, pale gums, and increased urination can also accompany the disease. As this condition affects the joints and muscles, the affected dog can become lethargic. The disease affects the major organs of the body, including the liver and the spleen. It can cause anorexia and the enlargement of the liver, spleen, and the lymph nodes. Confusion and seizures can also be observed in some dogs.
But discoid lupus usually affects the skin, particularly of the face and the nose. It can cause skin lesions. It can also change the appearance of the skin of the nose by causing depigmentation. Skin lesions or sores can develop on the nose. Gradually, the skin of the affected area may start to flake. Even mouth ulcers can develop frequently. Sunlight or ultraviolet radiation is the most important triggering factor for discoid, as well as systemic lupus erythematosus.
Diagnosis and Treatment
As this autoimmune disease affects multiple organs, a number of clinical tests are required for its diagnosis. The tests and examinations that are used for diagnosing this condition are, blood test, a complete blood count test, urinalysis, antinuclear antibody test, immunofluorescence test, and skin biopsy.
There is no cure for this condition, though it is possible to prevent and alleviate the symptoms and the complications. The treatment depends to a great extent on the organs affected by this condition, the severity of the disease, and the general health and well-being of the animal.
Both steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be required to reduce the inflammation caused by systemic lupus. But for a severe inflammation, immunosuppressant medications can be required. Immunosuppressants can suppress the immune system to alleviate the symptoms of this condition.
For discoid lupus, topical steroid ointments are used. Vitamin E supplements are often recommended by veterinarians to improve the condition of the skin, and prevent the development of secondary infections. Even topical creams containing vitamin E can help improve the condition of the skin.
With appropriate treatment, the symptoms of lupus can be controlled to a great extent, and a dog with this autoimmune disease can survive for several years. Early diagnosis and treatment can help a lot in preventing the complications associated with this disease. Dogs affected by this disease should be protected from sunlight or the ultraviolet radiation, which is the main triggering factor for this disease.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of a veterinarian.