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Save the Snout: Discoid Lupus – The Diagnosis
I am a firm believer in knowledge is power. Although its been a bit of an emotional roller coaster for the past few days, I wanted to share with you the what I am learning about Canine Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE). On July 14, 2022, my sweet husky girl was diagnosed with this lifelong disease.
Canine Discoid Lupus – signs, symptoms, treatments and prognosis.
History of Nose Problems: from black to pink
From 2018 to now, my little girl went from a blacked nosed dog to a very light pink. Initially, I thought it was a common symptom amongst huskies called snow nose. Harmless. However, over time it developed scales and then started cracking and bleeding. Then I thought – “ok she’s always sticking her nose in places where it doesn’t belong… maybe she scratched it on the fence.” Self induced injury being a doggo.
Well, when it wouldn’t go away and extended for a period of time, it was time for a vet check up. Last fall during her comprehensive exam with Banfield hospital, they suspected possible autoimmune disease but advised we seek the treatment of a doggie dermatologist. Well, life got in the way with the holidays, work, COVID, and family. In her check up this week, a secondary vet confirmed. We are dealing with Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE).
We have a diagnosis. Now what??
When my daughter was diagnosed with Autism, my Mom brain kicked into overdrive. It has been no different with my dog. She is my baby. My questions in my head: What’s the treatment plan and the future will hold for my baby girl?
Just like my daughter, I know with any genetic related conditions, this WILL take time. It’s a battle with baby steps. It will take advocating with doctors, specialists and different therapeutic approaches. It will be throwing mud on the wall. So take a deep breath. First thing first. What I must do is take time to feed the Dog Mom brain. Educate myself in everything I can about this doggie disease.
I’ll be honest. When I heard this was Lupus, it scared me. Will she have a shortened life? So many questions. With Google at hand and reaching out to Facebook groups such as Husky Moms and my social network I have grown through Canine Crazies, I started to learn.
What is Canine Discoid Lupus?
Discoid Lupus, also known as cutaneous lupus, effects the skin. Rare in cats, it is common in collies, German shepherds, sheep dogs and Siberian Huskies. As with other forms of Lupus, Discoid Lupus occurs when the immune system attacks healthy tissue, resulting in inflammation and damage to cells in the skin, hair follicles, and mucous membranes such as those lining the nose or mouth (although it may also affect other tissues). Common symptoms include scaly skin lesions, hair loss, and itching. The exact cause of Discoid Lupus is unknown, but it is thought to be an autoimmune reaction to a variety of environmental triggers.
There are two main types of Lupus in dogs. System Lupus Erythermosus (SLE) which can impact a dog’s entire body. However, DLE just affects the skin. Although, there is no cure for canine lupus. I am thankfully. Koda doesn’t have the detrimental kind. We just have to manage the symptoms. So a sigh of relief despite the fact it’s still not great news.
What are the symptoms of Discoid Lupus
The most common symptom of Discoid Lupus is a rash that appears on the dog’s face, ears, or nose. The rash is typically circular and may be scaly or crusty. Other symptoms include hair loss, ulcers on the skin, and thickening of the skin. In severe cases, Discoid Lupus can lead to blindness.
Pictures of Discoid Lupus in dogs simply my heart broke. So many snouts with pink noses and scales. These poor pups! Not their fault and nothing they can do.
Life can be brutal and suffering can happen when you least expect even to our four legged friends. Yet, as I continued to read – I saw that some of these beautiful faces also returned to their beloved black noses. My girl’s condition isn’t nearly as bad as some of these pups struggles. So it gave me faith there is hope for my little girl.
Koda’s Discoid Lupus First Steps
Since she started having nose problems, I have tried many different balms and lotions. Like most pups, Koda girl has just licked it off. lol. She hasn’t wanted me to touch her nose and gets a bit grumpy every time I did. When I spoke with the Vet, she said we could try a steroid spray and see how that goes. So she prescribed her Gentacalm Topical Spray.
Used in the treatment of infected superficial skin lesions, it provides an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory for irritated and infected skin lesions. A mixture between antibiotic, gentamicin and steroid, my hope was at least this form of application maybe easier. One word of caution: I can’t get it into her eyes. With a blindfold and treats, we started her first treatment. She wasn’t happy about it at all.
Other Treatment for Discoid Lupus
When I reached out to different support groups, they also shared with me their experiences. It’s hit or miss. Some protocols work better than others for different dogs. It’s bit overwhelming, but at least it helps me build the framework of what to try. Options we can explore include:
Staying out of the sunlight as much as possible and protecting the snout with sunscreen such as Epi Pet K9 Care Ensure you use dog safe sunscreen that does not contain zinc oxide or PABA as it can be toxic for dogs.
Niacinamide – vitamin B3
Doxycycline – prescription antibiotic
Zymox Cream with hydrocortisone – topical cream without antibiotics
Atopica – prescription to treat the immune system for itching and skin infections
Prednisone – prescription corticosteroid to manage inflammation and weak immune system
Ideally, I would like to use as much non steroid treatments as possible due to the side effects. However to get it under control and manageable, I will do what is needed. Like my daughter, I am very blessed to have the knowledge to know what to advocate for the next time she is at her vet visit.
The most interesting fact I found was UV light can cause triggers. Hindsight is always 20/20. When I look back, it made sense. Snow nose typically is during the winter, but her worse conditions were the summertime. Being in sunny San Diego, she would love to sleep in her “box’ and sunbath.
Since the UV radiation is though to contribute to this condition, it’s a good thing our family is packing up and moving to Washington! With less sun and more rain, she wont be inclined to just sit in be a bathing beauty.
Future of Discoid Lupus for Koda
The prognosis for discoid lupus is generally good. However, the biggest concern I have is some dogs may develop the fatal kind of Lupus, which can cause kidney disease, anemia, and other serious health problems. For now, its only her nose and I know now what we are dealing with. I am VERY curious how our move to Washington state with less sun will help my little girl. So baby steps.
One treatment at a time. Measure and document her progress. As my ESA dog, husky girl has been there for me during times I needed the most. It’s time as her dog mom to be there for her. We will always be in it together, no matter what battles we face. I will continue to blog about updates in her progress and post more stories about her treatment at The Idiot Balls of Fluff Instagram.
Canine Lupus Resources
The American College of Veterinary Dermatology (ACVD) has a list of board-certified veterinary dermatologists for special treatments
Canine Lupus Support & Info Facebook page – advocate for dogs with Canine Lupus.
Wanna chat Live about dogs?
Come join Canine Crazies and my pack of dog friendly friends on Facebook at Canine Crazies in the Den. Let’s bond, connect, laugh and share the love of our four legged friends.
About the Author
Dog Mom, traveler, foodie and canine crafter. Kimberly is dedicated to enriching the lives of all dogs. She is inspired by her Two Idiot Balls of Fluff, a hyperactive white husky, Koda and her senior beagle, Winnie. Kimberly is passionate about sharing with you all the things she learned raising her two fur babies.