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Systemic Lupus Erythematosus In Dogs

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus In Dogs

What Is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus In Dogs?

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex, autoimmune, systemic disease with multi-systemic involvement. The condition has several variants, with diverse clinical presentations from mild mucocutaneous (discoid) manifestations to the severe central nervous system and multiorgan involvement. First described by Hargraves in 1948, several immunopathogenic pathways play a role in the development of SLE and since then, many pathogenic autoantibodies have been identified.

The hereditary inclination of undetermined modality is accountable for an immunological abnormality that allows the body to form immune complexes (protein clusters). When these clusters get trapped in certain organs of the body they're likely to get affected. The predominant locations are the skin, joints, nervous system, kidneys, and blood but it can damage any organ.

Despite recent advancements in veterinary science and knowledge of the pathological risk factors for SLE, the exact etiopathogenesis is still poorly understood. SLE diagnosis can be confusing and though several classification criteria have been put forward, their effectiveness in the veterinary setting is still a matter of debate.

Treatment of SLE is based on the severity of organ system involvement. In spite of several medications shown to be effective in treating SLE, the condition still poses considerable morbidity and mortality risk in dogs.

Symptoms Of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus In Dogs

  • Face, tongue, jaw, or pelvic atrophy
  • Arthritis (in several joints)
  • Abnormal leg reflexes
  • Decreased mobility in the joints
  • Lameness or stiffness
  • Ulcers in the nose or mouth
  • Retinal hemorrhage or detachment
  • Skin depigmentation
  • Erythema/ reddened patches
  • Dry skin/ hair
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Erosion, ulceration, and crusting of the affected region
  • Scaling/crusting as a skin developing dandruff

Treatment Options For Systemic Lupus Erythematosus In Dogs

  • Cephalexin 30 mg/kg/2 doses per day.
  • Prednisone/methylprednisolone alternatives - Celebrex, Mobic, Diclofenac, Naproxen, Ibuprofen and Celecoxib.
  • Corticosteroids and Immunosuppressive Agents - Cyclosporine (Atopica), Cortisone (dexamethasone, prednisone, prednisolone), Azathioprine, leflunomide, and mycophenolate mofetil.
  • Nonsteroidal immunosuppressive drugs - Azathioprine, cyclosporine, leflunomide or mycophenolate mofetil.
  • Antihistamines - Cyproheptadine, Chlorpheniramine, Cetirizine, Clemastine, Hydroxyzine and Trimeprazine.
  • Antipruritic drugs - Pentoxifylline (Trental), Misoprostol (CytotecR), Zileuton.
  • Antibiotics and Antifungal Medications - These are required to treat secondary infections.

Home Remedies For Systemic Lupus Erythematosus In Dogs

  1. Use pet-friendly Medicated baths (weekly or every other week) with medicated shampoos, and antimicrobial and antifungal agents.
  2. Use ointments/Creams to ease itching & irritation.
  3. Use Cold compresses when needed.

How To Prevent Systemic Lupus Erythematosus In Dogs?

  • Prevention is not possible for DLE.
  • Consult with your veterinarian dermatologist for hypoallergenic vaccinations.
  • The best way of Pyoderma prevention is to address skin inflammation and itching at its initial stages.
  • Use medicated wipes containing a skin disinfectant; keep the coat/ mouth/ jowls clean. Don’t forget to dry the area carefully after cleaning.

Affected Dog Breeds Of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Beagle, Afghan Hound, German Shepherd, Irish Setter,Old English Sheepdog, Poodle, Collie, Shetland Sheepdog, Young Dog

Causes And Prognosis For Systemic Lupus Erythematosus In Dogs

1. Causes:

  • Mostly congenital/ idiopathic
  • Immunosuppression/ autoimmune disorders

2. Mortality:

SLE is not a potentially life-threatening disease in dogs and the mortality rate of dogs is not documented.

3. Diagnosis:

  • Routine hematology/Urinalysis
  • Surgical biopsy
  • Histopathological examination of the skin
  • Specialized blood tests (IgE blood tests).
  • Intradermal testing (IDT)
  • Serological allergy testing using ELISA

4. Differential diagnosis:

  • Cutaneous lymphoma
  • Pemphigus complex
  • Acantholytic actinic keratosis
  • Mucocutaneous pyoderma
  • Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome
  • Uveodermatologic syndrome
  • Solar dermatitis (collie nose)

5. Prognosis:

The prognosis for recovery of SLE varies ranging from good to guarded. In genetically predisposed dogs, the Scaling/crusting/ erosions tend to relapse after treatment, meanwhile, dogs that have only a single episode of SLE have an excellent prognosis.

When To See A Vet For Systemic Lupus Erythematosus In Dogs?

Time to visit the vet clinic for an examination, if you notice any of the following:

  • Face, tongue, jaw, or pelvic atrophy
  • Arthritis (in several joints)
  • Depigmentation
  • Skin erosions and crusts

Food Suggestions For Systemic Lupus Erythematosus In Dogs

  • Pick wholesome foods that are free of additives, chemicals, and other preservatives
  • Add foods that provide plenty of antioxidants (combat free radicals)
  • Provide a hypoallergenic (allergen free), balanced diet ( check for additives, coatings, flavors)
  • Lean meats, such as 90 % leaner Ground meat (beef, bison, chicken, turkey)
  • Low fat, high protein foods - Turkey, pork loin, fresh fish, salmon, shrimp, canned tuna Skinless, Beans, split Peas, and Lentils
  • Omega3 fatty acids - Mackerel, tuna, sardines, Salmon, Herring, flaxseed, chia seeds, etc
  • Leafy green vegetables such as Spinach, Green Beans. Broccoli, cauliflower, etc


The recovery time for SLE is different for every dog. Treatment may need to be evaluated often to stop recurrence. The prognosis is excellent when it is diagnosed early. Usually, the prognosis for dogs with SLE remains good depending on co-morbidities and adverse response to treatment.

Only in genetically predisposed dogs, it is usually a permanent condition requiring continuous management.

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