Daisy the dog with Lupus

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Leeton Veterinary Hospital
41 Yanco Avenue
NSW 2705

02 6953 3111
02 6953 2793

This beautiful Border Collie “Daisy” has been coming to us since she was just a few months old and she is now just over 2yrs of age.

About 6mths ago, she came to see us with scabs on her nose. Being an active dog that loves her basketball & spends time in the sun, we thought she may have just got a little burnt or hurt herself playing. A test that we ran at the time she came in just showed some white blood cells so her body was trying to heal itself & we gave her Mum some lotion to put on it to help it heal.

The lotion helped for a while but then it got worse again. This time it was also around her eyes & she had a couple of scabs in her ears. We took some biopsies of her nose and sent them away for testing. The result that came back surprised us all.

“Daisy” was diagnosed with Discoid Lupus Erythematosus. This is an autoimmune disease where a dog becomes allergic to its own tissues. “Daisy” will need treatment for the rest of her life and will need to avoid spending too much time in the sun but we know she is being looked after very well by her family.

Discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE) is an autoimmune disease wherein a dog becomes allergic to its own tissues. This disease results in crusting, depigmentation, redness, and ulceration of the nose. Lesions may also appear around the eyes, ears, limbs, and other areas. DLE can occur at any age, and is seen more often in such breeds as Collies, German shepherds, Shelties, and Siberian huskies.

Exposure to U-V light (e.g. sunlight) can exacerbate or even precipitate this condition. This is why it tends to be more severe in summer or in sunny climates. Depigmentation of the nose will also make your dog more susceptible to sunburns.

Fortunately, the prognosis for this disease is usually good, although treatment must usually be continued for life. DLE can get better or worse on its own, such that there may be times when no treatment is necessary. In some chronic cases, DLE can develop into a malignant type of cancer called A squamous cell carcinoma, although this happens rarely.

Treatment and correction of DLE involves two steps. First, an accurate diagnosis must be made, since nasal depigmentation and/or ulceration can have many causes. This can be done via blood tests and skin biopsies. Because the nose is a very sensitive and vascular area, a general anaesthetic is required to take a proper biopsy.

Secondly, once a diagnosis of DLE has been made, treatment involves avoiding intense sunlight, various topical and systemic medications and, in extreme cases, surgical correction. In some cases, applying a sunscreen to the depigmented areas may prove helpful. Keeping the patient indoors during the day and allowing generous access outdoors at night instead can also minimise clinical signs.

Topically, creams or ointments containing Vitamin E or steroids may also prove helpful. Oral Vitamin E has proven to be beneficial as well. Severe cases respond to corticosteroid therapy.

Finally, recent reports have described good success in using reconstructive surgery to correct the nasal area. The depigmented, ulcerated areas are excised and replaced (by means of a surgical skin graft) with normal skin. Our veterinarians can suggest which treatment options are most effective.

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