What you may not know as a dog owner is that dogs can suffer from a whole array of different autoimmune disorders including lupus (also known as systemic lupus erythematosus). Lupus can be a serious condition in dogs and should be taken quite seriously. However, because most dog owners do not know dogs can get lupus, they also do not know much about the condition or the signs and symptoms of it. Learn some of the important facts about lupus in dogs. Then, you can be sure you get to the veterinary clinic right away if your dog seems to be showing signs of this condition.
What Is Lupus?
Lupus is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the immune system essentially works against the body. The immune system starts attacking healthy cells in the body as if they were viruses or other intruders.
In the case of systemic lupus (there is also another less severe type of lupus found in dogs), the immune system might attack and affect virtually any area or organ of the body. This is why it is called systemic, because it can affect the whole body system.
What Dogs Develop Lupus?
Any dog can develop systemic lupus. Some dog breeds can be more prone to it, though. These dogs include beagles, German shepherds, collies, and poodles, among others.
Dogs who are over the age of five are also more likely to develop lupus than younger dogs. However, this does not mean that because your dog is younger that they won't develop the condition. It is possible for young dogs, even puppies, to develop systemic lupus.
What Are the Symptoms of Systemic Lupus?
There are many signs of systemic lupus to watch out for. Keep in mind, though, that lupus is often difficult to diagnose because it can appear with symptoms that are either generic or common of other conditions. As such, getting a lupus diagnosis can often take several trips to the veterinary clinic.
One of the most common symptoms of lupus is lethargy. When a dog's immune system is working in overdrive and is attacking the dog's own body, they can understandably be tired and under the weather. Dogs with lupus may also have a lowered appetite. They could have issues with muscle wasting or lameness that seems to move from leg to leg. Stiffness in the body is often common.
Other signs of lupus can include hair loss, skin sores and lesions, seizures, swollen lymph nodes, and more. Dogs can also have enlarged organs like liver or spleen, fever that doesn't respond to conventional treatments, and issues with the blood counts (including anemia).
What Should You Do?
If you suspect your dog might have lupus, you should go to the veterinary clinic for tests and diagnosis right away. Should they actually be diagnosed with systemic lupus, there are treatments available. There are dietary changes that can be made to support affected organs, for example.
Medications like corticosteroids and other immunosuppressant drugs can also be used. These medications may be necessary every day for the rest of the dog's life to get their immune system to stop attacking the body.
Now that you know more about lupus in dogs, you can be sure you get to the veterinary clinic as soon as possible if you notice this condition in your dog.