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Puppy Strangles

By: Dr. Rosanna Marsalla

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Several names have been used to describe this disease. They include: puppy strangles, juvenile pyoderma, juvenile cellulitis, and juvenile sterile granulomatous dermatitis and lymphadenitis.

The observation of canine juvenile cellulitis in clusters of dogs between one and four months of age and its apparent systemic nature suggest an infectious cause. The condition occurs in young dogs (one to four months of age), but in rare cases, it could occur in older animals.

The exact cause is not known. Bacterial, fungal or viral agents have not been isolated from affected lymph nodes. Attempts to transfer the disease by inoculation of neonatal puppies with tissue from affected dogs have also been unsuccessful.

Golden retrievers, Gordon setters, yellow Labrador retrievers, and dachshunds seem to be predisposed. However, this condition has been described in a variety of breeds, including mixed-breed dogs. Familial history is present in many cases suggesting a hereditary component.

The good response to steroids suggests a hypersensitivity or immune dysfunction.

What to Watch For

  • Swelling and pustules are found around the mouth, eyes, inside the ears, on the chin and muzzle. Swelling of the muzzle may be severe.

  • Ear infection is commonly associated with pustules on the ear.

  • Scarring and hair loss are common consequences of this condition.

  • Mucocutaneous junctions like the edges of the lips may be affected. Lesions drain within 24 hours and scabs develop.

  • Lymphadenopathy, or swollen lymph nodes, is common. Swelling of the lymph nodes under the jaw may be observed even without any association with skin wounds.

  • Lethargy, fever and anorexia may be present but are not consistent findings.

  • Joints may be painful.

  • Nodules may be found on the body suggesting a concurrent hair follicle inflammation.

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