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Whippet Health

a resource for whippet owners & breeders

Systemic Lupus

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)  is a fairly rare chronic and often fatal disease. The immune system targets several organs or more, these can include skin, kidneys, joints, blood & the nervous system. Lupus cannot be cured but can be managed.

Diagnosis of Lupus can be difficult as the symptoms mimic other diseases, commonly a blood test which shows anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA) along with at least two other signs will be considered a positive diagnosis.

The most common significant signs are polyarthritis (lameness in several joints) shifting lameness,  skin sores, blood  disorders & fevers.

Treatment is usually steroids and sometimes a second immune- suppressing drug such as Azathioprine will be necessary .  The secondary problems such as kidney damage will also need to be treated.

The prognosis is fair but owners must expect their dog to be on lifetime medication which unfortunately has its own side effects  

Quality rather than length of life should be the priority and although the treatment may shorten life expectancy it will keep the dog free of painful distressing symptoms


Symptoms include:


Arthritis (rheumatoid) in several joints - see above - most common presenting sign

Skin disease - second most common presenting sign

Bilaterally symmetrical loss of hair and production of scurf (scale or dandruff) 

Ulcerations and crusting form in severe cases - often affecting the ears, feet and head

High body temperature - does not respond to antibiotics, does respond to corticosteroids  

Lack of appetite

Anaemia - causes lethargy. Positive Coombs test.

Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count - less than 50,000 per cubic mm - may lead to haemorrhages

Neutropenia - low white cell count (neutrophils)  

Kidney disease - glomerulonephritis - protein leaks into urine.

Weight loss 

High total serum protein

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