Dogs are a part of our families. It is overwhelming to imagine the never-ending list of canine diseases and how they can affect your dog's health. Canine lupus is one such auto-immune disease that has been bothering pet parents for a long time. The word lupus originates from the Latin word, wolf because Lupus disease was first considered to be a result of a wolf's bite.

But what causes Lupus disease in dogs?

What Causes Lupus Disease in Dogs?

Canine lupus disease is a result of several factors. With no definitive cause behind the disease, there is a list of factors that might cause Lupus in canines. Some believe it is an inherent disease, while the others think it due to increased sun exposure, reaction to medications and viral infections that could have caused lupus disease in dogs.  Since there are no definitive causes behind the disease, pet owners should take certain measures and make sure their dog stays in a healthy environment and that he is vaccinated properly.

Types of Lupus Diseases in Dogs

Here's an overview of the two common types of Lupus diseases in dogs.

Discoid Lupus Erythematosus

Discoid Lupus is the most common type of Canine lupus disease in dogs. It is an auto-immune disease that affects the skin. As a pet owner, you should be aware of Discoid Lupus because of its consequences. It usually affects the face, nose, lips, and eyes. The symptoms you should be watched out for include, lesions, depigmentation and crusting.

You should also watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Pale, depigmented skin on the bridge of the nose
  • Redness of the nose, lips, and face
  • Scaly, flaky, or crusty skin
  • Sores or ulcers
  • Itchiness or scratching on the areas of redness.
  • Bacterial infections

Extended exposure to sunlight makes DLE worse. Make sure you provide sun protection to the affected dog when you take it outside. The sun rays delay the recovery and inflame the skin even more.

Dog breeds predisposed to DLE are German Shepherds, Siberian Husky, Chow Chows, Brittany Spaniels, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Alaskan Malamutes to name a few. Dogs tend to develop Lupus over 6 years of age, but this is an average estimation, and the disease can happen at any point of time in life.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Systemic Lupus is a serious affair. It can affect any part of your dog's body and has more potential to attack the dog's body in different ways. Joints, Kidneys, and Skin are most commonly affected by SLE.

SLE is a life-threatening disease where the immune system starts attacking the body cells and tissues instead of supporting them. This is dangerous considering the organs that are affected. If the organs involved are kidneys or liver, then it can lead to death.

Here are some  symptoms of SLE

  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Stiffness or lameness in the legs
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hair loss
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Seizures
  • Enlarged liver, spleen, or kidneys
  • Increased thirst or urination

Dog breeds that pose a higher risk of SLE are Shetland Sheepdogs, Old English Sheepdogs, Hounds, Beagles, Collies, Irish Setters and Poodles.

Diagnosing Lupus Disease in Dogs

The symptoms of Lupus disease in dogs is similar to other auto-immune diseases. Therefore, they can't solely rely upon for treatment. You should consult a vet who will perform a detailed diagnosis of your dog.

  • DLE is easier to diagnose. It is only confined to the skin and therefore, by taking a biopsy of the affected skin region, the diagnosis can be made.
  • SLE, as mentioned earlier, is a difficult affair. It is difficult to diagnose too. It mimics the symptoms of various other autoimmune diseases like cancer, kidney disease and poor reaction to medicines. Diagnosing SLE will require blood tests and an antinuclear antibodies (ANA) test. A positive result can prove to be the differentiating factor between Lupus and other diseases.

How to Treat Lupus Disease

By now you must have understood the gravity of Lupus disease. It can be fatal but can also be treated. The treatment depends on the type of Lupus, though neither form is curable. The disease will require a change in the lifestyle of the dog to minimize and control the pain and discomfort in dogs.

  • DLE requires controlling the sore and lesions and focus on healing them. Topical corticosteroids are prescribed to suppress the immune system's response and reduce redness. Prednisone is another oral steroid that is recommended to avoid infections. Limiting the exposure to UV rays and sun is a must.
  • SLE treatments can vary from dog to dog. It depends upon the organ that is affected. The common prescriptions medicines used are NSAIDs, immunosuppressive drugs and Prednisone. In severe cases of SLE, Chemotherapy is used to suppress the immune system's response.
  • Other traditional methods to treat Lupus are acupuncture, massage therapy, taking health supplements that consist of Vitamin E and Omega fatty acids like Omega 3 and Omega 6.

How to Care for a Dog Suffering From Lupus?

Care is the ultimate factor that will raise the chances of recovery in Canine Lupus. A dog suffering from lupus should be looked after by its owner as the owner will understand the dog better than anyone.

You will see recovery for a short period of time before there will be no more changes in the health of your dog. Worry not, your dog is better than what it when you started, so trust the process and stick to it. Comfort is important for a dog dealing with Lupus so set up a space that is comfortable for your dog. Make necessary changes in its diet and add exercise and daily activities in its routine.


You play an important role in your dog’s treatment. Look after your dog and keep a check on any unusual changes that might occur during the treatment. Remember that your dog’s immunity is not supporting and it’s prone to various infections and diseases. Your dog will depend on you for mental and emotional support, so give it all the love and support you can.