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What are Lupoid Dermatosis?

This condition is progressive and although it seems to only affect the skin at first, it spreads quickly to stage II and attacks the spleen, lymph nodes, and kidneys. Your dog may be fine one day with just a mild rash and then a few days later have lesions all over the body and be unable to get up due to joint pain and swelling. Therefore, if you have a German Shorthaired Pointer, it is important that you take your dog to see a veterinarian if your dog has any unexplained skin conditions. This is essential because the skin is one of the first indicators for this as well as other disorders. The symptoms of lupoid dermatosis are often sorted into stages one and two, depending on the severity of the condition and whether it affects the lymph nodes and kidneys.

Lupoid dermatosis (exfoliative cutaneous lupus erythematosus) is a serious degenerative disease that is only seen in German Shorthaired Pointers. It is usually noticed before the dog is six months of age when the skin starts getting crusty with scaling on the head, face, and torso. It quickly spreads to the rest of the body and the condition seems to be quite itchy. In addition, the joints are swollen and sore. If left untreated, stage II will incur, which attacks the lymph nodes and causes inflammation of the spleen, tonsils, and adenoids. In many dogs, renal failure occurs within the first year of life and many are euthanized within the first two years due to the poor quality of life from the painful infections and renal failure.

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Symptoms of Lupoid Dermatosis in Dogs

The signs of lupoid dermatosis in dogs are greatly varied as it seems to affect each dog in a different way. In some cases, the disease only affects the skin, but most of the time it will progress to stage II, in which the joints and kidneys are affected as well. The most often reported signs include:

Stage I

  • Scaly skin with lesions and blisters starting on the head and spreading to the rest of the body including the anus and inside the mouth
  • Bruising or red splotches
  • Retinal hemorrhage
  • Thickening of the skin
  • Changes in pigment
  • Hair loss
  • Stiff legs
  • Joint pain
  • Swelling of joints all over the body
  • Weakness
  • Weakened reflexes

Stage II

  • Increased body temperature
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Dehydration (dry skin, smacking lips)
  • Swollen lymph nodes including the spleen, tonsils, and adenoids
  • Increased heart rate and respirations
  • Kidney failure (swollen abdomen due to retained fluid, weakness, lack of urination)

Types

  • Stage I affects the skin, haircoat, and joints
  • Stage II includes more serious side effects such as fever, swollen lymph nodes, and kidney failure

Causes of Lupoid Dermatosis in Dogs

  • This is an autosomal recessive trait which is considered a systemic hereditary condition caused by a defect in the canine chromosome 18 gene
  • This condition is progressive
  • It is a serious degenerative disease that is only seen in German Shorthaired Pointers

Diagnosis of Lupoid Dermatosis in Dogs

If you have a German Shorthaired Pointer with a skin condition, the veterinarian will likely suspect lupoid dermatosis. However, it is always important for the veterinarian to do a complete body assessment including a comprehensive physical examination. This will probably include vital signs, overall coat condition, lameness evaluation, auscultation, and palpation. There are several laboratory tests that can help diagnose your dog such as a chemistry profile, blood count, and bacterial and fungal cultures. Clinical test results will likely show decreases in platelets and iron and increases in protein. 

The most effective way to diagnose lupoid dermatosis is skin scrapings and biopsies. These tests will likely reveal the detection of edema, hyperkeratosis, and degeneration of some skin cells. The veterinarian will probably also want to use indirect immunofluorescence to detect IgG of the basement membranes of the skin and sebaceous glands. In addition, an antinuclear antibody (AA) test is needed to confirm that this is an autoimmune disorder. Radiographs (x-rays) and ultrasound will be used to determine if there is any kidney involvement. An MRI or CT scan can also be helpful in this case.

Treatment of Lupoid Dermatosis in Dogs

Although this disease is considered to be untreatable, there are drugs that can be used to help slow the progression. In some cases, the disease seems to go into recession completely, but many are euthanized before their fifth year due to complications or kidney failure.

Medications

The most common drug that is used for treating lupoid dermatosis is cephalexin, but the drug hydroxychloroquine has recently been found to be more effective. Adalimumab has also been effective in treating the disease. In addition, prednisone is given to decrease inflammation, and antibiotics to prevent infections. Shampoo containing chlorhexidine may be suggested and NSAIDs to help with pain and inflammation of joints.

Recovery of Lupoid Dermatosis in Dogs

Unfortunately, the majority of dogs with lupoid dermatosis are euthanized if they progress to stage II due to the pain and kidney failure. It is important to continue to see the veterinarian on a regular basis to assess your dog’s quality of life and get laboratory tests done. Some medications require frequent kidney and liver function tests.