Ginger lives down the street with my neighbors, Dave, Debbie, and a black cat. I have enjoyed watching Ginger run and play on our beach. Bud and Ginger are friends. Ginger is quite active; she runs and jumps for her toy. I was saddened to hear that Ginger has Lupus. I had never heard about it. The vets are treating her, and her owners are taking steps to help her. It must be hard for her to not get out too much on sunny days. I invited her to come over for a play date with Bud.
Here is more information on Lupus:
What is Canine Lupus?
Canine Lupis is an autoimmune disease in which the body literally attacks itself. The disease takes two forms, Systemic Lupus Erythmatosus and Discoid Lupus. Lupus can cause widespread systemic disease of the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, joints, and nervous system, as well as blood. Symptoms of lupus are greatly varied and may be acute (sudden onset and short duration) or chronic (of long duration and recurring) and are usually cyclic (recurring in a specific pattern or cycle).
Canine Lupus and Auto-Immune Disease
Canine Lupus: In Latin, "Lupus" means wolf, and the disease Lupus is aptly named; Lupus, in both humans and canines, is the disease in which the body literally attacks itself. The disease takes two forms, Systemic Lupus Erythmatosus and Discoid Lupus.Discoid Lupus
Discoid Lupus is an immune-mediated skin disease that is probably related to SLE, but instead of affecting the whole body, as SLE does, it primarily affects the nose and face. There is no known cause of this problem, but it does seem more common in dogs of the German Shepherd, Collie, Brittany Spaniel, Shetland Sheepdog, Siberian Husky, and German Shorthaired Pointer breeds.
Discoid Lupus is also called Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus (CLE).
Symptoms of Discoid Lupus
The disease normally starts as a loss of pigment around the nose. There may be scabby sores or just scaling of the nasal tissue. The surface of the nose may change from its typical "cobbletoned" appearance to a smooth surface. As this disease progresses it can cause deep sores on the borders of the nose, where it meets normal skin. Eventually, the sores start to progress up the bridge of the nose.
(Note: Nasal scarring is common with both SLE and CLE. Exposure to ultraviolet light is a factor (especially in CLE), so the condition is seen more often and is more severe in the summer and in sunny parts of the world.)
Ultraviolet light seems to make the sores worse, so the disease may appear to be seasonal. It is more common in areas in which exposure to ultraviolet light is increased, such as high altitudes. If the depigmentation leads to sunburn, squamous cell carcinoma becomes more likely than in other dogs. Topical sunscreens can be very beneficial, although it is hard to get dogs to leave them on. Keeping the dog indoors during peak sunlight hours is probably the most effective way to prevent excessive exposure to UV light.
CLE is diagnosed through examination of biopsy samples, and by histopathologic and immunopathologic evaluation.
Exposure to ultraviolet radiation worsens the skin lesions in both conditions, so sunscreen is advisable and dogs should be sheltered from peak sunlight (approximately 10:00 am to 3:00 pm).
One should note that for many breeds and many disorders, the studies to determine the mode of inheritance or the frequency in the breed have not been carried out, or are inconclusive. Listed here are breeds for which there is a consensus among those investigating in this field and among veterinary practitioners that the condition is significant in this breed.
This, too, is important: Although the mode of inheritance is not known for either discoid or SLE, these conditions run in families. Affected animals should not be bred, and it is prudent to avoid breeding their close relatives as well.
Treatment Options – Discoid Lupus Erythematosus
Discoid lupus erythematosus cannot be cured but is more manageable than the systemic form of the disease. The goals of treating DLE are to control and resolve the facial skin lesions, particularly on the hairless areas of the top of the muzzle. Treatment protocols may include oral or topical antibiotics, topical lotions or ointments, oral vitamin E, oral fatty acid supplements and oral or topical corticosteroids. Affected dogs should be kept out of the sun as much as possible, because the symptoms of DLE worsen with exposure to ultraviolet light. Owners can apply waterproof, high SPF sunscreen to their dog’s face and ears to slow the progression of the disease. Dogs with DLE should be checked by a veterinarian regularly to assess their progress and to monitor the success of treatment. These dogs should not be used for breeding.
So How Do I Treat it?
Once you have determined that your dog has discoid lupus, there are a few different methods of treatment. I had to start my dog out on a prescription steroid cream twice a day, because we did not get a correct diagnosis early on. It is expensive, but well worth the money. Once is major ulcers started healing, we were able to switch over to an over the counter diaper ointment cream. It took awhile to find one that did not have zinc in it, since zinc is toxic to dogs. Ingredients change often, so always read the labels, even with a familiar product.
Vitamins Are For The Dogs
I also immediately started him on a regimen of fish oil and vitamin E on recommendation from my vet. Originally I had the liquid oil, but it was too messy, so I switched to two 1200 mg caplets of fish oil and one 400 IU of Vitamen E a day. I smothered them in peanut butter to ease his suspicious mind. But he soon found he liked the taste of the fish oil, and he eats all three like candy now. The vitamins are supposed to boost his immune system and help fight the lupus from within.
Suncreen is for the Dogs
Also, for any dog with lupus, sun protection is a must. The sun causes an allergic reaction in canines with the disease, and even an unprotected twenty minutes can cause a minor flare up. In the summer I try to keep him indoors between 10:00 and 4:00 p.m. He has gotten into a rhythm and does not seem to mind the activity later in the evening. I am a little more lenient in the winter. But whenever he goes outside and it is sunny, he gets a good spray of sunscreenabout fifteen minutes ahead of time.
When looking for sunscreen, you have to remember once again to look for one that does not contain zinc, or zinc oxide. I have tried all different kinds of sunscreen with him, including dog sunscreen, and have only found one that he does not immediately lick off. It was a happy day when we found Aveeno’s Continuous Protections Sunblock Spray for humans. It is lightweight enough that an immediate distraction makes him forget all about licking his snout. I use an SPF of 70 in the summer, but a 50 SPF works well enough for the winter.
Moisturize Those Rough Spots
And finally, the last magical ingredient that has made our life so much easier is a product that is found in the cooking aisle of all places. Coconut oil has a natural antiseptic quality and moisturizes all at once, working double duty on a scuffy nose. A little bit goes a long ways, and you can just rub it on gently over soars and rough skin alike, once or twice a day. Even though my dog is not to fond of having his sensitive snout rubbed, he likes the taste and lets me rub his lips in it, which also have recently begun to get a little chapped. I have abandoned the diaper ointment in favor of the coconut oil, because the results are so similar, and I prefer the cheaper and natural alternative.
So even though my dog has never completely healed from his lupus, with this daily regimen, we have managed to keep his flairs to a minimum, and he gets three extra treats a day. Not so bad from a dog’s point of view!