Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE, “lupus”) is an autoimmune disease that can affect multiple body systems. Normally, theimmune system attacks foreign substances or organisms that invade the body. Autoimmune diseases occur when the immunesystem mistakenly attacks parts of the body. In SLE, multiple body tissues are targeted by the immune system. Susceptibility todeveloping SLE appears to be genetically determined, but environmental factors seem to trigger the onset of the disease. Somedrugs can trigger a disease similar to SLE. The role of environmental factors in the development of SLE remains underinvestigation. Overall, the features of SLE are very similar, and sometimes identical, to lupus in humans.
Symptoms can be extremely variable, and SLE is sometimes referred to as “the great impostor” because of the wide spectrum of symptoms it may cause. Symptoms vary depending upon the body systems affected. The joints, kidneys, and skin are often involved. Other systems, including the muscles, nervous system, heart, and lungs can also be affected. Affected pets may have a chronic fever, stiff gait or limping (lameness), joint swelling, weakness, skin changes, ulcers in the mouth, increased drinking and urination, and behavioral changes.