What are Systemic Lupus Erythematous?
There are certain breeds that are considered to be more likely to be diagnosed with SLE. Those breeds include the Collie, Shetland Sheepdog, German Shepherd Dog, Malamute, Afghan Hound, Siberian Husky, Chow Chow and Beagle.
Systemic lupus erythematous or SLE is an autoimmune disease. It affects multiple systems in the body. It is still unknown why certain dogs develop SLE, some researchers believe that genetics is a major factor. Others believe that environment and nutrition play an important part in developing SLE.
Book First Walk Free!
Symptoms of Systemic Lupus Erythematous in Dogs
There are many symptoms of systemic lupus erythematous and many mimic other diseases. Your veterinarian will need to perform a thorough examination as well as tests if you notice any of these symptoms.
- Abnormal leg reflexes
- Abnormal behavior
- Changing habits
- Decreased mobility in the joints
- Dry skin or hair
- Lameness or stiffness
- Leg pain or swelling
- Face, tongue or jaw atrophy
- Increased breathing
- Infertility in males
- Ulcers in the nose or mouth
- Pelvic atrophy
- Brown or red urine
- Retinal hemorrhage or detachment
- Skin ulcers, pain, scales or swelling
- Vomiting or regurgitation
- Severe weight loss
Causes of Systemic Lupus Erythematous in Dogs
SLE has no exact known cause. It is been found that certain breeds are at a higher risk of developing systemic lupus erythematous. For that reason, many believe that SLE should be categorized as a genetic disease. However, there are studies that show extended exposure to the sun and its ultraviolet lights can trigger SLE as can intense hormonal activity.
Diagnosis of Systemic Lupus Erythematous in Dogs
Many times SLE is misdiagnosed due to the commonality of the symptoms, there being no definitive cause of SLE. Your veterinarian will have to rule out a number of other diseases that will mimic the symptoms of SLE.
SLE cannot be diagnosed with just one test. Your veterinarian will have to consider the symptoms, the medical history and any tests that are performed before fully diagnosing your dog with systemic lupus erythematous.
Routine blood tests and urinalyses, radiographs and the lupus erythematous test will aid in diagnosing SLE. If ulcers within the skin, mouth or nose are present then a biopsy of the skin cells can positively identify SLE. An ANA, or anti-nuclear antibody, test will be performed. A positive reading means that your dog may have SLE.
Treatment of Systemic Lupus Erythematous in Dogs
Treatment options for SLE will vary depending on how severe your dog is affected by the disease. Your veterinarian will implement a treatment plan to minimize the effects of SLE. Systemic lupus erythematous is incurable.
The main goal of treatments for SLE is to manage the symptoms. By treating the symptoms, quality of life for your dog is improved and they are kept comfortable. Symptoms of SLE will come and go in many dogs, therefore, aggressive treatments may not need to be ongoing. During flare ups of symptoms, aggressive treatments will be necessary.
Initial Supportive Care
If your dog has an acute onset of SLE, hospitalization may be required to stabilize his condition. Once they have been treated aggressively at the hospital and have shown improvement, he may be released to go home and continue their treatments at home.
Immunosupressants such as cyclophosphamides or corticosteroids are used to help elevate the red blood count and lower the white blood count. Immunosupressants have their downfall because that leaves your dog exposed to different viruses or diseases that his weakened immune system may not be able to fight off.
Anti-malaria drugs have also been successful in treating systemic lupus erythematous. NSAIDs or anti-inflammatory medications may also be prescribed to aid in reducing swelling for better mobility.
Applying a sunscreen to exposed areas, such as the muzzle, will help keep exposure to ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet light can cause flare ups of SLE and cause the disease to progress more rapidly.
Keeping your dog on medication should help keep the SLE in remission. Keeping your dog out of direct sunlight, applying sunscreen when outside and staying on the prescribed medications are all measures to take to help your dog stay in remission and live a longer life.
Recovery of Systemic Lupus Erythematous in Dogs
Systemic lupus erythematous is incurable but it does not have to be an immediate death sentence for your dog. Treatments can be given to improve the quality of life and lessen any pain that your dog is feeling.
SLE is progressively debilitating, but with preventative measures in place, the prognosis is guarded. Your veterinarian will continue to monitor your dog as the disease progresses and alter treatments as needed to ensure that quality of life is still maintained. Periodic tests will determine the disease’s progression as well as monitor any changes to the heart, kidneys or lungs.