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Discoid Lupus Erythematosus in Dogs

Discoid lupus erthematosus

Discoid Lupus Erythematosus, or DLE, is an autoimmune skin disease. This means the dog’s own immune system is attacking other cells in the body. While the exact underlying cause is still unknown, this condition is worsened by UV light exposure and is more common in sunnier climates. DLE causes skin lesions and does not involve other organs of the body. Continue reading to learn more about DLE, clinical symptoms, testing, and treatment options!

Symptoms of Discoid Lupus Erythematosus in Dogs

  • Raw, ulcerated areas on the skin
  • Loss of color/pigmentation to the nose
  • Loss of bumps/cobblestone appearance to the nose
  • Loss of color/pigmentation around the eyes
  • Skin ulcers and crusted lesions can be all over the body or mainly localized to the face, ears, and genital area
  • German Shepherds often have more severe lesions
  • More common in German Shepherds, Collies, Shelties, and Huskies

How is Discoid Lupus Erythematosus diagnosed in dogs?

There are other conditions such as pemphigus, mucocutaneous pyoderma, and leishmaniasis that can cause similar appearing lesions, so testing is needed to determine what is causing the skin issue.

A skin biopsy (ideally multiple samples from various lesions on the body) is the best test to diagnose DLE. This often requires sedation or anesthesia.

Bacterial culture and sensitivity testing may be recommended at the same time or before the biopsy to help rule out mucocutaneous pyoderma. Secondary bacterial or yeast infections should be treated before obtaining the biopsy sample.

My dog’s biopsy confirmed DLE. How can she be treated?

It’s important to know that DLE is considered a chronic condition, so it will take long-term treatment to keep this under control. Using topical treatments to avoid the side effects of systemic therapy is ideal if your dog has localized lesions and will tolerate topical therapies.

Local lesions can be treated with topical immunosuppressive medications, such as Tacrolimus. Gloves should be worn when applying this and your dog should not be allowed to lick the treated area for at least 10 minutes, so a muzzle, game time, or other distraction will be needed.

Topical steroids can also be used, but avoid any that contain alcohol as this can be very irritating to the raw skin lesions. Long-term use of steroids can cause the skin to become thinner and weaker, so it may not be ideal for dogs with severely ulcerated lesions. Gloves should be worn when using topical steroids.

Oral treatment/systemic treatment is another option. Often, a combination of a tetracycline class of antibiotics and niacinamide is used to modulate the immune system. Oral steroids can also be used at an anti-inflammatory dose. Cyclosporine is another immunosuppressive option.

Minimize UV light exposure with sunscreen, UV blocking doggy clothing, keeping them indoors as much as possible, and not allowing your dog to sunbathe in the windows.

Untreated DLE can progress into cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma.

Read more:

Ditch the Itch: Skin Allergies in Dogs

Sunburn in Dogs and Cats

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your dog’s skin or another condition?

Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.

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