Lupus in dogs: Lupus is a disease that affects a dog’s immune system by attacking its tissues. This can be a frightening illness for a dog owner due to the wide variety of life-threatening symptoms it can cause. Because of this, it is important for a dog owner to be familiar with lupus and its treatment.
What is lupus in dogs?
Lupus is an autoimmune or immune-mediated disease, and there are two main types of disease in dogs: systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE). Other species, including humans, can develop lupus as well.
Discoid lupus erythematosus is also known as skin or facial lupus erythematosus, and there are also several forms of DLE that affect the skin, nasal planum, and mucous membranes or gums of dogs. Systemic lupus erythematosus, on the other hand, affects more than just a dog’s external tissue. SLE attacks the inner tissue and therefore affects several body systems and functions.
It can vary from dog to dog depending on which part of the body the immune system is attacking, but it can affect different organs, muscles, skin, glands, and more in a dog.
Systemic lupus erythematosus can cause a number of symptoms because it can affect so many different parts of the body.
Signs of lupus in dogs
- Decreased appetite
- Limping, changing legs
- Reddening of the skin
- Skin thinning
- Skin and lip ulcers
- Loss of skin pigment
- Thinning or loss of fur
- Enlarged lymph nodes
- Reduced muscle size
- Crying at the pet
Lethargy and a decrease in appetite may be seen due to the general discomfort and malaise in dogs with lupus. Lupus can also cause muscle pain, which can cause a dog to hobble and cry when trying to stand or walk. The limp can alternate between legs because the muscle pain is often in more than one place, and attempting to stroke a dog with lupus can even cause a dog to cry if it hurts enough. The muscles also seem to shrink over time, leading to muscle atrophy.
Skin and coat changes are common in dogs with lupus. Thinning of the fur and skin, loss of fur, a decrease in skin pigmentation, and even reddening of the skin can occur. Many dogs also have ulcers on their skin and in the corners of their mouths. Finally, in a dog with systemic lupus erythematosus, enlarged lymph nodes may be seen or felt in the neck, armpits, and other regions.
Causes of Lupus in Dogs
Systemic lupus erythematosus is considered an immune-mediated or autoimmune disease. This is because no one knows why the immune system attacks a dog’s tissues with lupus. Numerous causes for this condition have been suggested and include genetic factors, viruses, various immunological disorders, various drugs, and even environmental factors, but the cause remains unknown.
Diagnosing lupus in dogs
Lupus can be difficult to diagnose because of the different ways in which symptoms appear. A veterinarian will first do a full physical exam, get a medical history, do some blood tests, and do urine tests. The platelets, white and red blood cell counts, kidney enzymes, protein content in the urine, and other results are analyzed from these tests. If symptoms and test results suggest a possibility of lupus, a special test called an antinuclear antibody (ANA) titer may be done. If this test titer is positive, a diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus is made.
Treatment of Lupus in Dogs
Various drugs can be used to treat systemic lupus erythematosus to relieve symptoms and suppress the immune system. Prednisone, prednisolone, azathioprine, and cyclophosphamide are most commonly used in lupus patients, but Thymosin Fraction V and Levimasol can also be tried if the other drugs don’t help. If a dog with SLE also has anemia, surgical removal of the spleen may be required.
Specific diets, supplements, and other treatments may also be recommended, depending on the specific symptoms that each lupus patient experiences. Unless the kidneys are badly damaged, most dogs can be treated with long-term medication. Unfortunately, when there is kidney damage, it leads to kidney failure and is fatal.
How to prevent lupus in dogs
Because there can be some genetic factors that can cause lupus, dogs diagnosed with systemic lupus should not be used for breeding. Otherwise, there is no good way to prevent lupus from occurring in a dog because no one knows exactly what causes lupus. Some vets recommend using various supplements to support the immune system or being careful not to stimulate the immune system with too many drugs or vaccinations at once or for a long period of time, but there is no definitive prevention plan for lupus.
Is Lupus Contagious to Humans?
Lupus is not a contagious or contagious disease for animals or humans.