Dog with lupus thrives at the Sanctuary

Treatment for autoimmune disease keeps lupus dog healthy and happy. He is taking medication for lupus and being monitored closely by veterinarians.
By  Christelle L. Del Prete

Digby the dog who has lupus at the Best Friends human resources officeWatching Digby expertly navigate a hiking trail might make you think that — aside from some patchy skin on the bridge of his nose and around his eyes — he’s just like any other dog. The good news is, you’d be right. Despite a chronic condition, Digby is feeling great and digging life.

Digby came to the Sanctuary from a rescue organization where he was having a hard time finding a new home. It may be because, at eight years old, he’s officially a senior, or because he has lupus. But Digby is living proof that, sometimes, medical conditions can sound scarier than they actually are.

A delicate balance for dog with lupus

Digby has a type of lupus that causes ulcer-like sores to form on the skin on the bridge of his nose and around his eyes. Because it’s an autoimmune disease, which means that Digby’s own immune system is attacking his skin, he’ll be on medication for the rest of his life. Best Friends veterinarians monitor Digby closely, and they have designed a treatment to lower his body’s immune response enough to control his symptoms, but not so much that he’ll get sick from other infections.

It’s a delicate balance, but it’s working. These days, Digby is healthy and he feels frisky enough to enjoy walks, hikes, outings and car rides. Recently, he went on a hike with a Best Friends staff member, who said, “He did better than my dog, who is the same age and doesn't have lupus.”

Of course, since Digby lives in the desert, where the sun is really strong, he has to take some precautions to protect his sensitive skin. But it’s really nothing more than a person who wants to avoid getting sunburned should do — wear broad-spectrum sunscreen and/or stay inside (or in the shade) during the times of day when the sun is the strongest.

A dog's favorite time of day

Digby the dog with lupus enjoys his job at the Best Friends human resources officeOther than getting medications, regular vet checkups and topical creams on his face, Digby’s life is pretty normal. He’s even landed a job in the Best Friends human resources office. For the past few months, he's been going there once a week. Though data entry and other office tasks don’t really seem to be his thing (he spends most of his time snoozing under a desk, or curled up in a cushy chair), Digby’s always wide awake when break time rolls around, because that’s when he gets to go outside for a walk.

“Mellow,” “affectionate” and “an overall delightful dog” are a few words his office mates use to describe Digby. They could add “compassionate” to that list, too. It may just be who he is, or because having a medical condition has made him more sensitive to how the people around him are feeling, but he seems to sense when someone is sick or having a rough day. When that happens, he’ll walk quietly up to the person, place his chin in his or her lap, and gaze up with his big, comforting brown eyes.

The treatment Digby’s getting at the Sanctuary is helping him to be his very best self. And that includes doing the things he loves the most — being around people and hitting the trails around Dogtown. All he asks for is some extra SPF, please.

To help more animals like Digby get the royal treatment they deserve, make a donation to Best Friends.

Learn more about Dogtown at Best Friends.

Photos by Kurt Budde and Molly Wald