Canine Discoid Lupus Erythematosus


Discoid lupus erythematosus (sometimes referred to as DLE) is an autoimmune disease that affects the skin. It is one of the most common immune diseases of the skin in dogs. Autoimmune diseases happen when the immune system, which normally protects the body from illnesses, attacks healthy tissues or cells. While we do not know what causes DLE, skin issues associated with it get worse with sun exposure.

Systemic lupus erythematosus is a similar disease, but it is more severe and affects many other organs within the body.

Symptoms and Identification

Symptoms of discoid lupus erythematosus are primarily related to the hairless portion of a dog’s nose. The nose will change color, ulcerate, ooze, and/or develop a crusty appearance. Nosebleeds may also occur.

Sometimes the skin around the eyes will be affected as well. Hairy portions of a dog can also be affected, but this is not common.

Biopsying diseased skin will aid in diagnosing the condition. Unfortunately, other conditions can appear similar, so symptoms and response to medications while waiting for biopsy results (which can take 1-2 weeks) are also needed. Culturing the affected skin (i.e. testing for bacteria) is commonly done to ensure that another type of infection is not occurring.

Affected Breeds

Some breeds may have an increased risk for developing DLE, including:

Dogs of any age or gender can be affected.


Antibiotics will likely be started while waiting on biopsy results. The way a dog responds will help the veterinarian determine what disease process is occurring. Topical medications to decrease inflammation and help with discomfort may also be prescribed.

Once DLE is confirmed, immunosuppressive medications such as steroids (e.g. prednisone, cyclosporine) or medications that help regulate the immune system (e.g. niacinamide) may be prescribed. Doses will be adjusted as needed by the veterinarian to ensure the pet is on the lowest effective dose of medication.

Veterinary Cost

Cost depends on which tests are run and which medications are necessary for treatment.

  • Biopsies can range from $250 to $500 depending on size of the patient and where the biopsy is taken

  • Culture ranges from $150 to $300

Medications vary widely with patient size and therapy choices but can range from $50 to $300 a month.


Nothing can be done to prevent DLE from happening. Some veterinarians recommend avoiding sun exposure as much as possible. Make sure to keep the vet aware if the skin does or does not improve with medications. This will minimize the chance of disease becoming too severe or uncomfortable for the pet.


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