About Lupus In Dogs

Learn about lupus in dogs, the causes, symptoms, and options for treatment are included plus other important details.

Lupus is a condition in which your dog’s immune system begins to attack its own body. There are two different types of lupus which could affect your dog, firstly “Discoid Lupus Erythematosus” (DLE) which is a skin condition affecting the nose, mouth, ears and face area in general, sometimes spreading to the genital and paw region.

The other type of lupus, “Systemic Lupus Erythematosus” (SLE) is a more dangerous form of the disease which targets your dog’s organs, instead of affecting the skin only. Your dog may need serious medical intervention to prevent severe damage to vital organs. Basically, your dog’s antibodies begins to attack your pet as if his or her own self was an infectious entity.


The exact cause of lupus is, as of now, unknown, but many speculate genetic predisposition, as well as over-exposure to UV (ultraviolet) light. Because of the speculated genetic links, many experts suggest not breeding dogs who suffer from this disease.

Symptoms of lupus in dogs

Symptoms of DLE usually become obvious by sight. Your dog will lose hair around the nose (hence the disease’s nickname “collie nose”), and other parts of the face. If hair loss occurs on other parts of the body and is accompanied by itching and redness, it’s possible that your dog is instead suffering from mange.

You should also look out for signs of SLE (the more serious form of lupus), such as painful joints/muscles, lameness, skin lesions, ulcers around any of the body’s openings, enlargement of the liver/kidneys and swollen lymph nodes.


Lupus in dogs is diagnosed in different ways depending on the suspected condition. For DLE, the vet can usually tell by appearance, and will look for the characteristic hair loss around the face, as well as ulcers, crusting and depigmentation around the facial area.

When diagnosing SLE, because many other conditions can mimic the symptoms of this disease, your vet will need to carry out a full blood count, a chemical blood profile and testing of urine samples. In the blood tests your vet will be looking for a low platelet count and break down of red blood cells. You will also need to describe the condition and how it is affecting your dog in detail to the vet. Details you will need to give includes whether symptoms occurred all at once or began developing one at a time.


For the treatment of DLE, your vet may prescribe antibiotics, lotions and have you supplement your dog with Vitamin E for dogs.

A full cure is not possible for SLE at this current time, but there are many different treatment options which your vet is likely to try to stop symptoms from progressing and to protect your pet’s vital organs from further damage as much as possible. Your dog will usually be prescribed treatment with corticosteroid medicines such as prednisone for dogs with the goal of avoiding the defective immune system response.

You will be asked to keep your dog out of direct sunlight as much as possible, as UV light can exacerbate symptoms.


The best way to prevent your dog developing mange is to check the parent’s medical history. Most breeders will allow you to see the parents of a dog and you should be wary of any breeder who refuses. You should also try to avoid over-exposure to ultraviolet rays.

PetMD article about SLE