Understanding Lupus in Dogs: Causes, Types, and Symptoms

Understanding Lupus in Dogs through this comprehensive article. Delve into the causes, and various types of lupus affecting our canine companions, and find answers to commonly asked questions about this autoimmune disease.


Lupus, a complex autoimmune disease, is not exclusive to humans; our canine companions can also be affected by different forms of lupus. This article aims to shed light on the causes, types, and common queries surrounding lupus in dogs.

Understanding Lupus in Dogs


The exact cause of lupus in dogs is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, environmental, and immune system factors. Some potential triggers include:


Certain breeds may be more predisposed to lupus. Breeds like Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, German Shepherds, and Afghan Hounds seem to be more commonly affected.

Environmental Factors:

Exposure to certain environmental factors, such as ultraviolet (UV) light, infections, and certain medications, may contribute to the development of lupus.

Immune System Dysfunction:

Lupus is an autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues. In lupus, the immune system mistakenly targets normal cells, leading to inflammation and damage.

Types of Lupus in Dogs:

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE):

This is a more widespread and severe form of lupus that can affect multiple organs, including the skin, joints, kidneys, heart, and blood cells.

Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE):

This form primarily affects the skin, causing skin lesions, ulcerations, and depigmentation. Unlike SLE, DLE is usually localized to the skin.

Symptoms of Lupus in Dogs:

Skin Lesions:

  • In discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE), skin lesions are common. These may include depigmentation, ulcerations, scaly patches, and crusting, especially on the face and ears.

Joint Pain and Lameness:

  • Dogs with lupus may experience joint pain, stiffness, and lameness. Swollen and painful joints are indicative of the autoimmune response affecting the musculoskeletal system.

Fever and Lethargy:

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) can cause systemic symptoms like fever and lethargy. Dogs may appear tired, reluctant to move, and may run a persistent low-grade fever.


  • Some dogs with lupus may be sensitive to sunlight (photosensitivity), leading to skin reactions or exacerbation of symptoms when exposed to UV light.

Mucous Membrane Involvement:

  • Ulcers or lesions may occur on the mucous membranes of the nose, mouth, or genital areas.

Renal Involvement:

  • In cases of SLE, the kidneys may be affected, leading to symptoms such as increased thirst, increased urination, or signs of kidney disease.

Blood Disorders:

  • Lupus can impact the blood, causing anemia, thrombocytopenia (low platelet count), and other hematological abnormalities.

Treatment for Lupus in Dogs:

Immunosuppressive Medications:

  • Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are often used to suppress the overactive immune response. Other immunosuppressive drugs like azathioprine or cyclosporine may be prescribed.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs):

  • NSAIDs can help manage pain and inflammation associated with joint involvement. However, they are used cautiously due to the potential for kidney involvement in lupus.

Topical Therapy:

  • For dogs with discoid lupus (DLE), topical medications like corticosteroid creams or ointments may be applied to affected skin areas.


  • Secondary bacterial infections in skin lesions may be treated with antibiotics.

Sun Protection:

  • For dogs with photosensitivity, protecting them from excessive sunlight is crucial. This may involve keeping them indoors during peak sun hours or using protective clothing.

Dietary Management:

  • A balanced and nutritious diet can support overall health. In some cases, dietary modifications may be recommended based on individual needs.

Monitoring and Regular Vet Check-ups:

  • Regular veterinary check-ups are essential for monitoring the dog’s condition, adjusting medications, and addressing any emerging issues promptly.

Supportive Care:

  • Providing supportive care, including a comfortable environment, proper nutrition, and attention to overall well-being, can contribute to a better quality of life for dogs with lupus.


Dog owners need to work closely with their veterinarians to develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to the specific needs of their dogs. Regular monitoring and adjustments to the treatment plan may be necessary to manage lupus effectively.

Read Also: Lupus in Dogs

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are the symptoms of lupus in dogs?

Symptoms can vary but may include skin lesions, joint pain, lameness, fever, lethargy, and swelling. In SLE, organs like the kidneys may also be affected.

How is lupus diagnosed in dogs?

Diagnosis involves a combination of clinical signs, blood tests, and sometimes a biopsy of affected tissues. Antinuclear antibody (ANA) tests are often used to detect autoimmune activity.

Can lupus in dogs be treated?

Treatment aims to manage symptoms and may include immunosuppressive medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, and supportive care. However, lupus can be challenging to manage, and the prognosis varies.

Is lupus in dogs contagious?

No, lupus is not contagious. It is an autoimmune disease and cannot be transmitted from one dog to another or from dogs to humans.

Leave a Comment