Discoid Lupus in Dogs

By Frank Will

Discoid lupus in dogs is not anywhere near as serious as the much more sinister Systemic lupus; however, it is still an autoimmune disease. Because of this, it can still be quite serious if it becomes severe. However, unlike the systemic form of lupus which attacks several of your dogs organs, this form of lupus zeros in one part of your dog; their skin. Its primary attack will be your dogs face and nose.

Understanding this disease:

Discoid lupus in dogs is an autoimmune disease which means that your dogs immune system basically attacks itself, exactly like systemic lupus does. However, it is considered by the vast majority of the medical community to be a benign form of systemic lupus because it limits itself to your dogs skin and has none of the classic signs of systemic lupus. Although it can and does affect all breeds and both males and females, it seems to be much more prevalent in females as well as certain breeds.

breeds most commonly affected include Collies, German Shepherds, Shetland Sheepdogs, Brittany Spaniels, and Siberian Huskies. It also attacks Shorthaired Pointer breeds.

Discoid lupus also has a couple of other common characteristics and this may be one of the reasons it affects these certain breeds. It seems to be much more prevalent at slightly higher attitudes that have a lot of direct sun exposure. This disease seems to be aggravated by exposure to direct sunlight or UV light.

However, this is where one of the major mysteries with this disease starts to surface. The antigens which the antibodies of your dogs own immune system attacks are not located in the skin, but rather in the immune complex deposits within the skin.

This leads to what is referred to as cutaneous lesions also known as type III hypersensitivity. Because of this, it is a theory, and it is important to stress just a theory, that sunlight may also induce nuclear and cytoplasmic antigens. When this occurs, your dogs system has very specific antibodies that bind to the surface of the basal cells and this then produces what is called a cytotoxic process, also known as type II hypersensitivity. This results in inflammation that begins to accumulate in your dogs skin, which is never a good sign.

However, this is when another mystery with this disease occurs. Although these types of hypersensitivity combined should affect all of your dogs skin, it is extremely rare for this to occur. Instead, the real damage seems to be isolated to just two parts of their skin; the face and the nose. If it is severe enough, it can also affect other parts of your dog including their lips, eyelids, and their pinnae, or ear flaps, as well as their pads.

Watch to watch for:

Discoid lupus in dogs almost always starts to show itself with the loss of pigmentation around your dogs nose. Once this develops, you may also start to see the development of scabby spores or some type of a scaling of their nasal tissues. Your dogs nose, under normal circumstances, will have what is referred to as a cobblestone type of appearance. But when this disease starts to develop, that will change to an also completely smooth surface. If you understand these few early warning signs, you can identify this disease very quickly.

Once the disease starts to develop into the next stages, it can cause deep sores on the borders of your dogs nose. These will appear where the nose meets normal skin and will than spread to the bridge of the nose. However, this is where yet another mystery with this disease takes hold. Some dogs will be extremely agitated and bothered by this stage of the disease; and some dogs will show very little or literally no reactions at all.

There is, however, one thing that is not a mystery with discoid lupus in dogs; exposure to ultraviolet light makes the sores much worse. If this depigmentation causes your dogs nose to become sunburned, there is a very good chance that squamous cell carcinoma may develop. If your see any of these signs developing in your dog, you need to seek professional help as well as keeping them out of peak sunlight hours until they have been treated.


Discoid lupus in dogs, unlike the much more sinister systemic lupus, has some very effective treatments and most of them have no real serious side effects that can cause further damage to your dog. If your dog has only a mild case of the disease, they may not need any treatments at all. In cases that are mild, simply avoiding the peak sunlight hours and applying a sunscreen may be the only treatment needed. Vitamin E dosages between 400 and 800 IU given twice daily may help in mild cases, but it will usually take several months for the vitamin to show any real affects.

If the disease is considered moderate, high doses of fatty acid supplements combined with Vitamin C can be very effective in most cases. If these treatments do not work, a combination of niacinamide, which is Vitamin B3 or Niacin, combined with tetracycline has shown to be extremely effective in over 70 percent of all cases. Dogs that weigh over 20 pounds will be given 500 mg of niacinamide and tetracycline three times a day, and dogs less than 20 pounds will be given 250 mg of the combination in the same increments.

It is not yet fully understood while this combination is so effective. However, it is believed that the anti-inflammatory properties of tetracycline when combined with the ability of niacinamide to stabilize mast cells help to prevent as well as reverse cell degranulation. Topical glucocorticoids may also be very effective. They are usually given twice a day for the first two weeks after diagnosis, and then once discoid lupus is in remission, it is given every other day.

In the most severe of cases, systematic glucocorticoids will be given combined with other autoimmune drugs, but this is very rare.


The treatments for Discoid lupus in dogs will always be followed up with blood tests just to make sure that your dogs cells counts do not decrease too much. It is only natural that there will be some decrease, but it most cases it can easily be controlled. Watching for the early warning signs, especially the loss of pigmentation in your dogs nose, can make the all the difference in the world with this disease.

I am an avid lover of pets and my wife and I have had several pets throughout our years. We are especially fond of dogs, and we have a 12 year old Dalmatian (our 3rd) and a “mutt” that we rescued when someone threw him away to die in a vacant field. He found us, nearly starved to death, and weighed about 2 pounds.

After severe bouts of mange and severe dehydration, and over 1,000.00 in veterinarian bills, we saved the little guys life, and he is one of the best, if not the best, dogs we have ever had and today is a muscular, fit, and firm 70 pound best friend. After finishing my MBA, which at middle age was not easy, I decided to keep the research work ethics that I acquired, and devote about two hours each night in understanding the health benefits of supplementation for both humans and pets and how they might strengthen our, as well as our pets, immune system in a pre-emptive approach to health rather than a reactionary approach.

Both of my daughters are avid cat lovers, and asked me to help them with health concerns and challenges with their cats. I am not a veterinarian nor claim to be, just a lover of pets that loves to research and pass on some knowledge that might be helpful, or at least stimulating to the thought process. Several of the articles that I have written can be found on my website; Liquid Vitamins & Minerals for Humans & Pets http://www.liquid-vitamins-minerals-humans-pets.com/

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Sep 15, 2010 | 3 | Dog health

3 Responses to “Discoid Lupus in Dogs”

  1. Jackie Says:

    Hi frank,
    Thank you so much for helping me to understand this condition that my beloved dog has just been diagnosed with.

  2. Karon Says:

    Thanks so much for the great information. It has been of great assistance as we nervously await our first set of blood test of our beloved 1 year old Bichon male. With all the information it appears our vet is spot on with his diagnosis.
    What makes it extra sad is our first 2 pups (brothers from same litter) were put down with hereditary leukaemia at 7 months of age after battling for a few months. We’re not have a very good run.

  3. Dog Lover Says:

    Hoping the news is good! Fingers and paws crossed!

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