Canine Lupus

This page looks at the two forms of lupus in dogs - canine systemic lupus and canine discoid lupus. Specifically, the causes, signs and symptoms, and conventional treatment are discussed. Natural remedies that are beneficial to dogs with lupus are also suggested.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease in dogs in which the body's immune system attacks the body itself.

There are two forms of lupus in dogs - Systemic Lupus Erythmatosus (SLE) and Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus (CLE), also known as Discoid Lupus. The disease can be acute or chronic and the symptoms are varied, making diagnosis difficult.

Detailed Information on Canine Lupus

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Canine Systemic Lupus

Systemic Lupus Erythmatosus (aka canine systemic lupus, or simply canine lupus) is a rather rare form of autoimmune disease found only in dogs. Dogs with lupus have unusual antibodies in their blood that target different proteins in their own bodies. These antibodies circulate throughout the dog's body and systemically affect multiple organs (e.g. the skin, the heart, lungs and kidneys, joints, nervous system, blood), causing such ailments as arthritis and joint pain, kidney disease, anemia, and skin disease.

Symptoms

Canine systemic lupus causes a wide variety of symptoms depending on which part (or parts) of the body is under attack. Usually a dog with lupus has periods of flare-up and then remission. Some of the common symptoms that can be found in dogs with canine lupus include:

  • shifting lameness (caused by arthritis that may affect multiple joints)
  • multiple painful muscles
  • lethargy and weakness
  • pale gums (caused by anemia)
  • increased drinking and urination (caused by kidney disease)
  • skin irritations such as skin lesions and crusting
  • nasal scarring
  • alopecia (hair loss)

Diagnosis

As you can see from the above list of symptoms, canine lupus can affect many different body systems, making diagnosis difficult. If canine lupus is suspected, blood tests and biopsy for examination will be done to confirm the diagnosis.

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Canine Discoid Lupus

Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus, aka Canine discoid lupus, is also an autoimmune disease that is more common than canine systemic lupus. Unlike canine systemic lupus, discoid lupus affects mainly the nose and face.

For reason unknown, discoid lupus seems to be more common among dogs of certain breeds. Specifically, German Shepherds, Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, Siberian Huskies, and German Shorthaired Pointers are among those that are most vulnerable to this disease.

Symptoms

If you notice a loss of pigment around your dog's nose, it means your dog may be suffering from the onset of canine discoid lupus. Dogs normally have noses whose surface is not smooth (typically the surface has a "cobblestoned" appearance). However, the nose of a dog with discoid lupus progressively becomes smooth, followed by a destruction of the tissue cells. Ulcerations and crusts or scabs form when the condition becomes more advanced. You may also find red, scaling areas of inflammation on your dog's face. There may also be lesions on the ears and thickening of the footpads.

Exposure to ultraviolet light tends to worsen the condition, so discoid lupus is more common and severe in the summer.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of canine discoid lupus is by biopsy and examining the samples.

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Conventional Treatment for Canine Lupus

Weimaraner Conventional treatment for canine systemic lupus generally includes relatively high doses of steroids in combination with chemotherapy.

Regarding discoid lupus, conventional treatment involves life-long use of lower doses of steroids plus vitamin E and fatty acid supplements.

Since exposure to UV light worsens the skin lesions in both conditions (systemic and discoid lupus), veterinarians also advise the topical use of sunscreen on affected dogs, who should also be sheltered from peak sunlight hours.

Natural Remedies for Canine Lupus

Holistic veterinarians believe that long term use of steroids can only wreak further havoc to the immune system, leading to more physical problems down the road.

Therefore, holistic veterinarians prefer using natural remedies and supplements to moderate and calm the immune system so that it will eventually function normally again. To alleviate the pain and discomfort caused by the various symptoms of canine lupus, natural remedies such as herbs, homeopathic remedies, and natural supplements can be used.

Calming the Immune System

Useful natural supplements for autoimmune disease in dogs are plant sterols and sterolins, which are natural substances found in all fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. These plant nutrients have many unique health benefits and can calm an overactive immune system.

Antioxidants help strengthen the immune system because they are free radical scavengers. They help reduce oxidative stress without directly stimulating an immune response. Specific antioxidants that are effective against the effects of some autoimmune diseases include alpha-lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10, green tea, and systemic enzymes.

Specific Natural Treatment for Canine Discoid Lupus

Natural ointment that contains herbs that promote healing (such as calendula, aloe, and comfrey) is effective in helping to heal the cracked, irritated skin caused by discoid lupus.

An Effective Cream For Dogs With Discoid Lupus


This cream contains extracts healing herbs such as calendula, aloe, comfrey, and rosemary, as well as tea tree oil which is anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Antioxidants (vitamins C and E) are also included to promote healing.

Internally, homeopathic remedies are effective in treating canine discoid lupus.

Sulfur (30X) is most useful in treating chronic diseases and is appropriate for dogs with a poor immune system that simply cannot heal conditions which other healthy animals readily heal. If your dog has been diagnosed with canine discoid lupus, try using this remedy (2 tablets twice daily for a week).

Arum triphyllum (30X) is effective for mucous membrane inflammation, especially of the mouth and the nose. It is good for scabs, sores and cracked skin. Use 2 tablets 4 times daily for a week. If conditions improve, you can cut the dosage in half for the following week, and half again for 2 additional weeks.

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