Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE) in Dogs

Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE) in Dogs

Health & Safety

Brittany Spaniels along with certain other dog breeds are predisposed to suffering from a common autoimmune skin disorder known as discoid lupus erythematosus or DLE for short. An autoimmune disorder develops when a dog's own immune system attacks healthy cells in their own bodies which as a result means they are predisposed to suffering from diseases and inflammation. When it comes to DLE, the condition typically affects the area around a dog's nose, but it could also develop around their lips, eyes and ears too. Discoid lupus erythematosus is different from other types of lupus seen in dogs which can often cause them to suffer from internal or systemic diseases as well as a more widespread type of skin disorder.

The cause of DLE in dogs

Unfortunately, the actual reasons why some breeds are predisposed to developing DLE remain unknown and more research is needed into the disorder. With this said, there is some belief that environmental, genetic and hormonal factors would be at play much as they are when people suffer from the human form of the disease. As such, it is thought that exposure to sunlight could cause lesions associated with discoid lupus erythematosus and that it could make the condition that much worse.

Symptoms associated with DLE

When a Brittany Spaniel develops DLE, the first signs of there being something wrong first become evident around their noses which start to turn a blueish/grey colour. A dog's nose starts to change in appearance too, with the typical cobblestone"" effect on them being lost thanks to the area becoming inflamed, ulcerated and crusted over. The lesions first start to develop where the hair meets a dog's nasal planum, but over time, lesions can extend right up to the bridge of a dog's nose. Bleeding often occurs if the lesions are more severe because they become ulcerated. Although, unsightly, dogs suffering from the condition do not appear to be affected in any way whatsoever.

Lesions have been seen to develop on a dog's legs as well as their footpads and sometimes around their anus, but this is extremely rare.

Diagnosing the problem

A vet would need to have a Brittany Spaniel's full medical history before thoroughly examining them. The only way a definitive diagnosis can be made is by doing a biopsy of an affected area of skin. This can prove quite challenging as the areas are often in the more sensitive parts of a dog's face. As such, a dog suspected of suffering from DLE would need to be put under general anaesthetic for the procedure to be safely carried out.

Treatment options

Because discoid lupus erythematosus develops as a result of an abnormal immune response, a vet would first want to reduce the amount of inflammation by prescribing specific topical medication. As such, a vet would not need to prescribe any sort of oral medication. The gels and ointments used to alleviate inflammation would contain steroids or calcineurin inhibitors which effectively manages and treats the condition without the risk of any side effects associated with oral medication and drugs.

Should a vet feel that oral medication should be necessary to control inflammation, they would prescribe specific drugs that are known not to have many side effects. They would also recommend that dogs be given vitamin supplements that could include the following:

  • Vitamin E
  • Fatty acids

Should a dog's condition be deemed very severe, a vet could prescribe oral steroids. A vet would also recommend that dogs with the condition should have sunscreen applied to affected areas to reduce the risk of a recurrence of the conditions


The prognosis for Brittany Spaniels suffering from DLE tends to be positive and affected areas are limited to specific places on their bodies, namely the nose. With this said, there is no cure for the condition and as such, it needs to be carefully managed which means long-term care, management, treatment and prevention.




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