What is Skin Ulcer and Depigmentation (Immune-Related)?
Skin diseases that are immune-related can bring serious consequences and must not be left untreated. Diseases caused by an immune system that is mistakenly destroying the skin’s tissues are capable of causing havoc with your pet’s health in general. Skin ulcers and depigmentation can lead to great distress for your canine companion and the risk of infection is always present. Some immune-related skin disorders have an age and breed disposition, while others can affect canines of any breed or sex at any time, whether young or old. Medical aid is available to either heal the skin ulcers or at the very least provide relief and keep the condition under control. Consultation with your veterinarian is key to keeping your pet comfortable and as healthy as possible.
When a skin condition is immune-related it is classified as such because the body’s own immune system is attacking itself, in this case causing the destruction of cells and the degeneration of the skin. Most diseases rendering ulcers and depigmentation are relatively rare in the canine, though there are a few disorders that do seem to be prominent in this field of study.
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Symptoms of Skin Ulcer and Depigmentation (Immune-Related) in Dogs
A furry family member with a skin problem is hard to miss. Unfortunately, not only will your pet look uncomfortable, he will feel it, too. Signs of an immune-related skin disorder may present as follows.
- There will be crusting and scabbing
- The skin may scale
- The ulcers may weep then dry to crust
- Ulcerations can be found in many locations including the groin, ears, and bridge of nose
- Lesions can be found in the mucus membranes of the nasal cavity, the bridge of the nose, and the footpads which can make walking difficult
- Ulcers can be chronic or acute
- Depigmentation is often on the nose and muzzle
- The skin may be sensitive to the sun
- Some lesions may be painful
- The feet may crack and the skin on the feet can be thick
The two most common immune-related causes of skin ulcers and depigmentation are described here.
Discoid Lupus Erythematosus
- There is loss of pigment around the nose
- The nose can also become smooth and shiny
- Scaling and depigmentation are the main symptoms
- Scarring often occurs
- UV rays may play a role
- Breed disposition is seen in the Brittany Spaniel, Collie, German Shorthaired Pointer, Shetland Sheepdog, Australian Shepherd, and Siberian Husky
- This is the most common immune-related disorder of the skin
- It can appear without an apparent cause
- The average age for canines with pemphigus foliaceus is 4 years old
- The disease first shows up on the ears and face
- Breeds that are prone are the Chow Chow, Doberman, Dachshund, Newfoundland, Bearded Collie, and Akita
Causes of Skin Ulcer and Depigmentation (Immune-Related) in Dogs
The main reason for immune-related skin conditions is the immune system itself mistakenly attacking the body and destroying normal skin tissue. Other reasons why it is believed that the immune system changes the focus from protecting the body to attacking the body are genetics, drugs and medications, chronic skin issues, and environmental pollutants. In addition, studies have not been able to conclusively determine causes, meaning that the reason that your furry family member has skin issues is not entirely understood.
Diagnosis of Skin Ulcer and Depigmentation (Immune-Related) in Dogs
If you feel that your beloved pet is suffering from a skin disorder that is causing him irritation and distress, contact your veterinary clinic for a consultation without delay. There are many serious systemic illnesses that show symptoms in the skin; you will want to rule these out.
Your veterinarian will ask for a recent history reflecting the health of your pet. His diet, exercise regimen, urinary and bowel habits, and recent illnesses are all important pieces of the puzzle for the veterinary team as they work to diagnose the ulcers and depigmentation that is present on your dog’s skin. Standard testing is always included in the diagnostic process. Urinalysis, complete blood count and biochemistry profile are useful tools for the veterinarian as she studies the general health of your dog.
As she delves further into the search for answers, your veterinarian may need to schedule a biopsy for your dog. This involves a general anesthesia procedure; a biopsy will be done and since your pet is already under sedation, skin scrapings can be taken in addition to the biopsy to rule out the presence of bacteria or fungus. The biopsy will be examined on a slide (histopathology) and skin cells from the scrapings will be studied with this method also.
Treatment of Skin Ulcer and Depigmentation (Immune-Related) in Dogs
Treatment for skin ulcer and depigmentation (immune-related) can be challenging to pinpoint at best. This is because the causes vary somewhat and need to be confirmed as truly immune-related. There are many skin disorders that plague our pets, a few which are tied to the immune system.
Most therapies for skin ulcers and depigmentation disorders under the immune-related umbrella are aimed at immunosuppression. Antibiotics (to eliminate infection), vitamin E supplementation, Omega 3 fatty acids, prednisone (in addition to sun restriction this seems to work well), glucocorticoids, and regular sunscreen use are all treatments and advisories that can be used alone or in combination together to try and eradicate the problem of serious skin issues and loss of normal pigmentation.
Recovery of Skin Ulcer and Depigmentation (Immune-Related) in Dogs
Skin ulcers and depigmentation can be controlled. Complete resolution is not always possible but the disorder can be kept at bay, and your pet can resume a somewhat normal life. Partial remission is sometimes the case; therefore, communication with your veterinarian at all times is important. A pet who has an immune-related disorder needs to be monitored carefully. Adhere to all instructions provided by the veterinary team. Compliance with medication instructions is very important, as is being careful of the sun exposure you allow your dog. In many cases, life-long immunosuppression therapy is a necessity.