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SLE: Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in Dogs

SLE is systemic lupus in dogs.

SLE, more commonly referred to as lupus, is an autoimmune condition in dogs that negatively affects many body systems.

Another condition, DLE, or discoid lupus erythematosus, is confined to the skin and is more common than SLE in dogs. Learn more: "DLE: Discoid Lupus Erythematosus in Dogs."

Causes of SLE in Dogs

It isn't known precisely what mechanism triggers systemic lupus in dogs. Somehow, a problem with the immune system's self-regulation results in antibodies being produced against the body's own tissues. As those antibodies begin to attack the body, the result is tissue injury.

Some dog breeds are diagnosed more often with SLE than others, and they include:

  • German shepherds
  • Shelties and Collies
  • Beagles
  • Poodles

The most common body systems negatively affected by lupus in dogs include:

  • Musculoskeletal
  • Skin
  • Kidneys
  • Circulatory
  • Lymphatic

Other organs can also be affected.

Signs of Canine Lupus

Signs of SLE in dogs can come on quite suddenly or be more vague and slower to develop.

Signs of the condition depend upon which sites of the body the antibodies have targeted, but the following signs may all be noticed:

  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Shifting leg lameness
  • Sores on the skin
  • Strange behavior
  • Painful, swollen joints
  • Fever
  • Heart murmur or irregular heartbeat
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Enlarged liver and/or spleen
  • Muscle wasting

The signs of SLE tend to be what veterinarians call "waxing and waning," which means they come and go.

Diagnosis of Lupus in Dogs

When a veterinarian suspects that a dog may be suffering from SLE, he or she will do a complete blood panel, including a CBC and chemistries. The results will vary depending on the body systems involved.

An ANA test (anti-nuclear antibody) looks for antibodies in the dog's blood that indicate autoimmune dysfunction. If the test is positive and there are also clinical signs of SLE, the condition is diagnosed.

Treatment of Canine SLE

SLE in dogs is treated with supportive care. Rest and pain medications may be necessary for joint pain. Fluids or transfusions may be required for some dogs. When SLE attacks a dog's kidneys, low protein diet and medications to support kidney function could be necessary.

Corticosteroids (prednisone, most commonly) to decrease the immune system's over-response are usually given orally, and stronger immunosuppressive drugs may be required.

The prognosis for dogs with systemic lupus is guarded. It is a progressive, long-term, unpredictable condition that can have devastating effects. Also, the treatment, suppression of the immune system, can create or exacerbate other conditions.

You May Also Like These Articles:

DLE: Discoid (Cutaneous) Lupus Erythematosus in Dogs

Ehrlichiosis in Dogs

Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia in Dogs

Pemphigus in Dogs


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