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Skin Ulcers and Depigmentation (Immune-Related) in Dogs

Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus in Dogs

Skin ulcers and depigmentation, which are immune-related, are common issues in dogs. One of the prevalent immune-mediated skin diseases in dogs is Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus. This condition occurs when the immune system becomes overactive and attacks the body’s own tissues.

Cutaneous lupus erythematosus can affect dogs of all ages but is more commonly seen in certain breeds such as Collies, German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, Shetland Sheepdogs, Alaskan Malamutes, Chow Chows, and their mixes. It is considered a milder form of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), another immune-mediated disease.


Symptoms associated with cutaneous lupus erythematosus can manifest differently depending on which areas of the body the immune system targets. These symptoms may appear, disappear, and vary in severity. Common signs observed in dogs include:

  • Depigmentation (loss of pigment) of the skin on the lip and nose tip
  • Development of erosions and ulcers following depigmentation
  • Tissue loss and subsequent scar formation to compensate for lost tissue
  • Presence of chronic, delicate lesions that may bleed spontaneously

Additionally, lesions related to this condition may affect the outer ear region and, less frequently, the paws and genital area.


While the disease is triggered by abnormal immune system activity, the precise reason for this overactivity remains unclear. Suspected factors that may contribute to the onset of the disease include drug reactions, viral infections, and exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.


To diagnose cutaneous lupus erythematosus in your dog, it’s essential to provide your veterinarian with a comprehensive history of your dog’s health, including details about when the symptoms began and their characteristics. Following this, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination along with a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count. Typically, the results of these tests appear normal. Additionally, your veterinarian may opt to take a small tissue sample from the affected area for further evaluation.


Cutaneous lupus erythematosus is typically not life-threatening, and in most cases, symptomatic treatment proves effective for managing the condition in animals. Common treatment approaches include the use of antibiotics, vitamin supplementation, and topical medications. However, more severe lesions may necessitate aggressive therapy to address disfiguration. In certain cases, medications aimed at suppressing the immune system are also utilized to mitigate its over-reactivity.

Living and Management

Adhere to your veterinarian’s instructions for managing skin lesions, as they may bleed spontaneously and require careful attention throughout the treatment process. It’s important to shield your dog from direct sun exposure, which may involve using sunblock.

Your veterinarian may schedule regular check-ups every 14 days following the start of treatment to assess the clinical response. Laboratory tests will also be conducted every three to six months to monitor the progression of the disease and the effectiveness of the treatment. While cutaneous lupus erythematosus tends to progress gradually, the majority of patients experience remission. However, if long-term immunosuppressive therapy is necessary, the prognosis may not be favorable.

Furthermore, due to the hereditary nature of the disease, your veterinarian will advise against breeding dogs with cutaneous lupus erythematosus.

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