Definition of Lupus
Lupus is a disease that involves the immune system attacking its own body. There are two types of lupus in dogs. Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE), sometimes called “collie nose” or “nasal solar dermatitis,” is a common immune-mediated skin disease that usually affects the face, bridge of the nose, ears, lips, mouth and occasionally the genitalia, feet and skin around the eyes. Dogs with DLE have hair loss, skin scaling and sometimes skin sores but typically are otherwise healthy. Sunlight worsens the symptoms of DLE, which tends to develop mostly in sunny summer months. Dogs with DLE sometimes spontaneously go into remission. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a much more serious condition. It targets the skin, kidneys, liver, lungs, heart and joints but can show up anywhere. Basically, SLE causes a dog’s body to attack itself from the inside out. Affected animals have shifting lameness, painful swollen joints, thickened foot pads and a stiff gait. They become weak, lethargic and depressed and can develop an array of other symptoms. Both forms of lupus probably are strongly genetic.