Is Canine Lupus Hereditary?

Canine lupus, formally known as systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE, appears to have a hereditary component in the lines of certain purebred dogs. That doesn't mean mixed breeds and other purebred dogs can't be affected; but, since SLE symptoms mimic those of other diseases, a vet might suspect SLE faster in dogs breeds with a known predisposition.


Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

SLE is an autoimmune disease, one in which a dog's body manufactures antibodies attacking itself. SLE's antibodies go after many of the body's systems, which is one reason why the disease is often misdiagnosed. While symptoms can be treated, affected dogs require lifelong medication. SLE can prove fatal. According to the Vetstreet website, SLE is believed hereditary, but "the exact mode of genetic transmission is not known."

Affected Breeds

While any dog might be diagnosed with SLE, certain breeds are prone to the disease with a potential a hereditary component. These include the German shepherd, Afghan hound, chow, poodle, beagle, collie, Shetland sheepdog, Old English sheepdog and Irish setter. Males and females are equally affected. Symptoms usually appear at about the age of 6.


Dogs afflicted with SLE might go lame, develop fevers and lose their appetites. The joints swell up and are quite painful. Dogs might also exhibit lymph node swelling. Skin lesions develop, leading to hair loss and ulceration, especially in the mouth and anus. Some dogs might experience seizures.


Your vet might prescribe steroids to reduce inflammation, along with other immunosuppressant medications. Since SLE affects various organs, treatment depends on which systems are particularly involved. For example, your vet might recommend dietary changes if SLE targets your dog's kidneys. Dogs diagnosed with SLE should avoid sunlight and get as much rest as possible.

Discoid Lupus Erythematosus

Discoid lupus erythematosis, or DLE, is a different, less severe form of the disease. DLE affects the skin on the nose. It also goes by the term "collie nose," as this breed is prone to the condition. Lesions might extend onto the bridge of the nose and occasionally into the mouth. Loss of nasal pigment is the initial sign of DLE, with scaling and ulceration following. Your vet might prescribe various medications to treat DLE, including oral steroids and topical corticosteroids. She might also recommend a dietary supplement for the skin. Dogs with DLE must stay out of strong sunlight.

By Jane Meggitt

About the Author
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.