This is a rare disease of the immune system. In this disease, the immune system forms antibodies against the nuclear component of its own cells. This can cause a variety of effects but the most common ones are arthritis, kidney disease, skin disease and blood disorders (anemia and/or decreased in platelet numbers). A great number of other effects and side effects of this disease can occur so it is hard to rule in or rule out when faced with a multi-systemic disease. In general, this disease is not considered to be present unless testing to determine if antibodies against the nuclear elements of the cells are present (positive ANA test) AND clinical signs of at least two of the common disorders are present. Even then, it is hard to be sure that this disease is actually the problem.
Some drug reactions and cancers can produce almost identical clinical signs and many problems produce some of the clinical signs. Treatment usually involves the use of immunosuppressive medications, most commonly corticosteroids such as prednisone. Often, a second immunosuppressive agent must also be used. Azathioprine, cyclophosphamide and cyclosporine are examples of these medications. Lupus is not curable but it is often possible for a dog to live with it successfully. Some of the disorders that resemble lupus are curable, especially if a cause can be identified. Continuous monitoring of patients suspected of having lupus should be part of the treatment, due to the possibility of another problem, the multitude of side effects that can occur and the potential for problems from the medications used to treat it.