What is systemic lupus? Systemic lupus erythematosus, or simply called lupus, is a rare but life-threatening feline autoimmune disease. Sadly, cats with this disease have antibodies in their blood that combat their own body tissues. Lupus impacts the health of major body organs, including the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys as well as the joints, blood and nervous system. It is not unusual to have more than one organ affected or for anemia to occur as a result of the immune system attacking and destroying red blood cells.
How does my cat get systemic lupus? It is unclear how this autoimmune disease develops in cats, but it does seem to have a genetic propensity.
How do I know if my cat has systemic lupus? Lupus is presented in a wide range of clinical signs. Your cat may have a fever or act lethargic or not be hungry. You may notice scabs or sores on your cat’s mouth and paws or tips of the ears and tails. Some cats with lupus have difficulty walking or tend to bruise easily. Some start to lose hair or develop dandruff. During a physical exam, your veterinarian may detect enlarged lymph nodes, liver or spleen. Lupus can be challenging to identify because it shares many symptoms also associated with other diseases. However, a blood test is regarded as the most effective way to properly identify lupus in cats and gauge any liver or kidney damage. Other tests include a urinalysis, antinuclear (ANA) test (to identify the status of specific antibodies) and, possibly a skin biopsy.
What can I do about systemic lupus? This is a very serious condition and the majority of cats die within a year of diagnosis due to lupus or treatment complications. Treatment options depend on the severity of the lupus and any associated diseases. Some medications cause vomiting and diarrhea or loss of appetite. Therapy is life long.
Is there anything I can do to prevent my cat from getting systemic lupus? Sadly, there is no way to prevent systemic lupus at this time.
Are there certain breeds that get systemic lupusmore often? Yes. Himalayan, Persian and Siamese breeds are at increased risk for developing systemic lupus, However, it can affect any cat of any age or breed.