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Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE): An Autoimmune Disease Affecting the Nose of Dogs

Savvy, a female German Shepherd hasDiscoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE)

Our lovely resident, Savvy, has DLE.

What is Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE)?

Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE) in dogs is a skin disorder caused by the immune system attacking the skin, especially the nose, lips, and areas around the eyes. This condition causes long-lasting skin problems, such as red patches, scaling, sores, and crusts. The cause of DLE involves a mix of genetics, immune system problems, and environmental triggers. When examining the affected skin, veterinarians can see thickened skin, inflammation, and immune system cells in the affected areas. Different immune system problems contribute to the ongoing skin issues in dogs with DLE, including abnormal activation of certain immune cells, which release chemicals that attract more inflammatory cells. DLE should be differentially diagnosed from other canine dermatoses, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), pemphigus foliaceus (PF), or cutaneous leishmaniosis due to their overlapping clinical presentations. Prompt diagnosis relies on comprehensive clinical evaluation encompassing thorough physical examination along with histopathological analysis of skin biopsies.


  • Hair loss and thinning coat

  • Scaly and crusty skin lesions

  • Redness and inflammation on the nose, ears, lips, and face

  • Ulcers or sores on the skin

  • Itching and scratching

  • Sensitivity to sunlight

Causes and Risk Factors: The etiology and risk factors associated with Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE) in canines are multifactorial and complex. Certain dog breeds, like German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, Collies, and Shetland Sheepdogs, are more likely to have DLE because of their genes. This means that there may be specific gene differences that affect their immune system or how their skin cells work. Environmental triggers also significantly influence the onset and severity of DLE. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure has been identified as a prominent environmental factor leading to disease progression in dogs with DLE. The UV rays can induce DNA damage and trigger an inflammatory response within the skin, exacerbating the pathological changes associated with this condition. Furthermore, hormonal imbalances, specifically estrogen and progesterone fluctuations in female dogs, have been suggested as potential risk factors for developing DLE. These hormonal changes may modulate immune responses or alter keratinocyte function, contributing to the pathogenesis of the disease. Diagnosis and Treatment Options: To determine if you have DLE, your veterinarian will need to perform a skin biopsy. They will use a special tool called a punch biopsy to take a small sample from the affected area. This tool allows them to remove a tiny, circular section of your skin for examination. Treatment options for DLE in dogs aim to reduce inflammation, control immune responses, and manage bacterial infections. Topical therapies, like corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors, are commonly used as initial treatment. More severe cases may require medications taken orally, such as immunosuppressants, antibiotics, or retinoids. It is also important to protect the dog from sunlight and apply sunscreen to prevent the worsening of lesions caused by UV radiation. Prevention and Management Strategies: To prevent DLE, it is important to avoid things that can trigger it, like UV radiation and certain medications. Protecting your dog from the sun by using sunscreen and avoiding the sun during the hottest times of the day can help. It is also helpful to know if your breed is more likely to develop DLE, so genetic screening can be useful. To manage DLE in dogs, different treatments may be utilized. This includes medicines and other methods. One common medicine is corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation and help with healing. Dogs may also be given immunosuppressants like azathioprine or cyclosporine to control the immune response and improve symptoms. Alongside these treatments, adding omega-3 fatty acids to the dog's diet can help reduce inflammation caused by DLE. Overall, an integrated approach encompassing preventative measures alongside a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to individual cases holds substantial promise for efficiently managing Discoid Lupus Erythematosus in dogs. By adopting these strategies, veterinarians can provide optimal care and enhance the quality of life for canine patients affected by this challenge. Living with a Dog with DLE: Living with a canine companion diagnosed with Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE) poses unique challenges that necessitate a comprehensive understanding of this autoimmune disorder.

To effectively navigate life with a dog afflicted by DLE, owners must prioritize veterinary care. Regular consultations are essential for accurate diagnosis, assessment of lesion severity, and adjustment of treatment strategies to achieve optimal outcomes.

Additionally, to manage DLE, it's important to make changes in the living environment. Owners should try to reduce exposure to things that make symptoms worse and cause flare-ups. These things can include sunlight, hot or cold temperatures, allergens, and irritants in certain foods or chemicals. So, it's necessary to take preventive measures like providing shaded areas outside, wearing protective clothing or sunscreen when in the sun, keeping the indoor temperature comfortable, and using hypoallergenic grooming products. These measures help to lessen the impact of DLE.

Outlook for Dogs with DLE:

The prognosis for canines affected by Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE) is contingent upon various factors, including the severity and extent of the condition, individual response to treatment, and the presence of concurrent systemic lupus erythematosus.

Long-term care is important for dogs with DLE. Regular check-ups are needed to monitor the disease, see how the treatment is working, and make any necessary changes. Dog owners should watch out for complications like infections or systemic lupus erythematosus. Vets and caretakers need to work together to help dogs with DLE.

Savvy, a female German Shepherd has Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE)


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