You have probably heard about lupus in people, but did you know that dogs get lupus, too?

Lupus in dogs is a serious autoimmune disease that triggers a constellation of clinical signs and symptoms. Dog lupus is dangerous but manageable.

In this article, I, Ivana Crnec, DVM, will explain the basics of lupus in dogs.

I will also answer some popular questions, like “What is cutaneous lupus in dogs,” “How do dogs get lupus,” and “Is lupus in dogs contagious?”

Stop Googling - Ask a Real Vet


  1. Can Dogs Get Lupus
  2. Lupus in Dogs: Symptoms
  3. What Causes Lupus in Dogs
  4. Dog Lupus Nose Treatment
  5. Prognosis of Lupus in Dogs
  6. FAQs
  7. Conclusion

Can Dogs Get Lupus

Yes, dogs can get lupus. “Lupus erythematosus is a complex autoimmune condition,” says Malcolm Weir, DVM, MSc, MPH, in an article for VCA Animal Hospitals.

Dogs have two main forms of lupus: cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus (CLE)

Cutaneous lupus in dogs, as the name suggests, affects the dog’s skin, causing scabs, crusts, and pigmentation changes.

Dog CLE has three types, including discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE), vesicular cutaneous lupus erythematosus (VCLE), and exfoliative cutaneous lupus erythematosus (ECLE).

Discoid lupus erythematosus, or DLE, is the most common type and typically affects the dog’s nose.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

Systemic lupus erythematosus is a more severe form of the disease and affects various organs and systems, including skin, brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, joints, blood vessels, etc.

Systemic lupus in dogs often attacks different organs at the same time. Chronic inflammation is at the center of the disease.

Dog SLE mimics symptoms of other diseases and is therefore popularly known by the monicker “the great imitator.”

Lupus in Dogs: Symptoms

Sporadic fever and shifting lameness are the most common signs of systemic lupus in dogs. Other symptoms include muscle pain, anemia, neurological deficits, kidney problems, weight loss, etc.

Cutaneous lupus manifests with skin changes, typically affecting the nasal planum, the hairless area around the dog’s nostrils.

In some dogs, the skin changes spread and develop around the eyes, on the ear flaps, and near the genitals. Telltale skin changes in discoid (cutaneous) lupus include:

  • Erosions & Ulcers: Erosions are superficial, and ulcers are deep defects that damage the skin barrier, increasing the risk of infections.
  • Scabs or Crusts: Thick, raised, pink, and scaly lesions with a round shape (hence the name discoid) are typical for skin lupus in dogs.
  • Depigmentation: The hairless region surrounding the dog’s nostrils loses its pigment resulting in light discoloration.
  • Changes in Texture: The nasal planum loses its typical cobblestone-like texture and becomes smooth and leathery.
  • Heavy Bleeding: The nasal area has a well-developed network of blood vessels and if a lesion damages a vessel, it causes bleeding.

Dog lupus triggers a very broad spectrum of clinical signs. To keep a close eye on your dog and notice unusual symptoms early on, get the Petcube Pet Camera.

What Causes Lupus in Dogs

Lupus is an autoimmune condition in which the dog’s immune system misidentifies and attacks its own tissues and organs.

However, the exact answer to the “what causes lupus in dogs” question is unknown. Potential risk factors contributing to lupus development in dogs include:

  • Genetics: Certain breeds (Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, German Shepherds, Chow Chows, Brittanys, and Shetland Sheepdogs) are predisposed to canine lupus, suggesting a genetic component.
  • Stress: Stress is reported to worsen the symptoms of lupus in dogs and may increase the risk of lupus occurrence in the first place. Anxious dogs are a flight risk, and wearing a GPS tracker can be life-saving.
  • Environment: Exposure to UV light and cigarette smoke worsens and triggers lupus in predisposed dogs.
  • Infections and Meds: Infections of bacterial and viral origin and irresponsible use of medications are also suspected to increase the risk of lupus.

“Dogs are generally diagnosed when they are young or middle-age, so aging is not considered a risk factor,” says Stephanie Betbeze, DVM, in an article for PetMD.

Dog Lupus Nose Treatment

The dog lupus nose treatment includes topical steroid ointments or systemic medications, such as antibiotics, low doses of steroids, and immune suppressant drugs. Protecting the dog’s nose from UV light or using sunscreen is essential for successful treatment.

The treatment for dogs with systemic lupus depends on the extent of the disease, the severity of the symptoms, and the affected organs.

Managing a dog with lupus is expensive. Get the Petcube Emergency Fund and have your dog’s veterinary needs covered. The Petcube plan provides up to $3,000 for emergency vet bills and offers unlimited access to online vets.

We encourage owners to educate themselves on dog health. To reward you for reading this article, we are giving you 27% off the emergency fund by using this link. Keep learning!

Prognosis of Lupus in Dogs

“The long-term outcome for dogs with DLE is good, but a prognosis for a dog with SLE is difficult to assess with any certainty,” reports Adrienne Kruzer, RVT, in an article for The Spruce Pets.

In dogs with CLE, symptoms wax and wane, but consistent care ensures normal quality of life and longevity.

Dogs with SLE are hard to manage, and the prognosis is guarded. Systemic lupus reduces the dog’s life quality and shortens its lifespan.


What is the best canine lupus diet?

The best diet for canine lupus is raw meat, which is less inflammatory than commercial dog food formulas. Adding other anti-inflammatory foods, such as fatty fish, blueberries, leafy greens, and turmeric, to the menu is beneficial.

How is the canine lupus diagnosis made?

Making a canine lupus diagnosis is challenging. The vet considers the dog’s history and clinical presentation and orders different tests. Blood analysis and biopsy are helpful diagnostic tools.

Is the dog lupus nose protector helpful?

Yes, the dog lupus nose protector is helpful. It is perfect for dogs that do not tolerate sunscreen. The protector allows the lesions to heal and prevents UV light from causing flare-ups.


Lupus in dogs is an autoimmune disease with two forms: cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). CLE is more common than SLE.

Cutaneous lupus erythematosus affects the dog’s nasal planum. Common lupus nose lesions are erosions or ulcers, scabs or crusts, texture changes, depigmentation, and bleeding.

CLE is managed with topical or systemic medications and has a good prognosis, while SLE requires more complex treatment and has a guarded prognosis.

Was this article helpful?

Help us make our articles even better

Yes No

Thank you for your feedback