Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which means that a dog's immune system attacks his own tissues.
There are two types of lupus in dogs: systemic and discoid.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is fortunately fairly rare in dogs. The immune system of dogs suffering from SLE attacks various tissues in the body, including the kidneys, skin, heart, lungs, nervous system, blood and/or joints. It is a chronic and often fatal disease.
Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE), also known as collie nose, is a form of the same disease, but its impact is local, rather than systemic.
Even though both SLE and DLE can have similar skin symptoms, DLE only affects the skin and lesions are normally limited to the face and nose. Other diseases can also cause similar skin problems, so a biopsy is required to definitively diagnose DLE.
Breeds most commonly affected by discoid lupus are Collies, German Shepherds, Huskies, Shetland Sheepdogs, Brittany Spaniels and German Shorthaired Pointers. A genetic predisposition towards developing DLE is thought to be responsible for the increased incidence in these breeds.
The first signs are usually a loss of pigmentation around a dog's nose and an abnormal smoothness to the texture of the nose. In more advanced cases, y red and flaky skin, ulceration of the skin, open sores and crusts can develop. Affected areas most frequently include the nose, lips, ears, the skin around the eyes and sometimes the genital area. What all of these body parts have in common are a tendency to be sparsely covered with fur and to be exposed to sunlight.
Collie nose is aggravated by ultraviolet rays.
This makes the disease most likely to develop in dogs that live at high altitudes and to flare up during times of high sun exposure: either during the summer or with the increased glare off of a persistent snowpack.
Often, keeping the dog out of direct sunlight is all that is needed. Sunscreen protection is also helpful (use sunscreens made specifically for dogs. The Zinc Oxide that is included in many human sunscreens can be toxic to dogs if they lick it off). Supplements with anti-inflammatory action, such as omega-3 or vitamin E can also help.
Consult your veterinarian before using any supplements.
Immunosuppressive drugs, such as corticosteroids are also commonly used to treat DLE. Topical therapy may be sufficient, which significantly reduces the chances of unwanted side effects developing, but in severe cases systemic treatment and close monitoring for side effects may become necessary. Before I'd reach for any of these drugs, I would definitely want to consult a TCVM (Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine) or holistic veterinarian for alternative options first.
In rare cases, dogs with dle have gone on to develop a type of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, at the site of their skin lesions. It is thought that the increased tendency towards developing a sunburn (because of the loss of protective pigments) and chronic inflammation of these areas is to blame.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE)
Canine discoid lupus erythematosus
Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE) Overview