Pemphigus Foliaceus in Dogs

Overview of Canine Pemphigus Foliaceus

Pemphigus foliaceus is a severe skin disease that is characterized by pustules and blisters that rupture, causing damage to the skin of the face, ears, feet and eventually the entire skin in dogs. Pemphigus Foliaceus in dogs is commonly shortened and referred to as just “Pemphigus”.

This disease results when the animal recognizes a specific component of his own skin (desmoglein I) as foreign and makes antibodies against that component. Desmoglein I is important in attaching skin cells to each other. Lack of this component causes the outer layer of the skin to split apart and fill with fluid and cells leading to a blister or pustule. This abnormality of the immune system is an example of an autoimmune disorder.

Middle aged to older dogs are more prone to this disease. It is seen more commonly in akitas, Doberman pinschers, chows, dachshunds, Newfoundlands, bearded collies and schipperkes, but can be seen in other breeds.

This disease has a severe health impact on the animal and can be fatal if not treated aggressively.

What to Watch For

Dogs with Pemphigus Foliaceus in Dogs may have signs that include:

Diagnosis of Pemphigus Foliaceus in Dogs

Treatment of Pemphigus Foliaceus in Dogs

Home Care and Prevention

Give all medications as directed. Follow up appointments with your veterinarian are critical to allow for adjustment of drug dosages to maximize efficacy and minimize side effects.

There is no known way to prevent the development of this disease.

In-depth Information on Pemphigus Foliaceus in Dogs

Pemphigus foliaceus is an autoimmune disease. In other words, it is caused by the animal’s own immune system. In this case, the body recognizes a glycoprotein, desmoglein I, found in the skin as foreign and mounts an antibody response against it. This glycoprotein is involved in the attachment of one skin cell to another within the outer layer of the skin (epidermis).

The result of the antibody binding to desmoglein I is a loss of attachment leading to a cleft within the epidermis. This cleft fills with fluid and white blood cells called neutrophils, which is the pustule that we see. Cells that are losing their ability to attach to one another round up and float into the middle of the fluid. These large, round cells are called acanthocytes. The pustules are very fragile and rupture easily leaving a lesion in the epidermis that is covered by a crust.

This disease tends to begin on the bridge of the nose and the ears and progress to the feet, including the footpads, and legs. Eventually the skin of the trunk and the rest of the body are affected. Often the lesions will cross from the skin on the bridge of the nose to the nose itself causing a loss of the normal cobblestone appearance and loss of pigmentation. Skin lesions that involve the nose are seen almost exclusively with autoimmune skin diseases. Animals with pemphigus foliaceus may have a fever and refuse to eat.

Other diseases that may be confused with pemphigus foliaceus are those that also have pustules as their major lesion. These include:

Diagnosis In-depth of Pemphigus Foliaceus in Dogs

Therapy In-depth of Pemphigus Foliaceus in Dogs

Follow-up Care for Dogs with Pemphigus Foliaceus

Optimal treatment for your dog requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow–up can be critical, especially if your dog does not rapidly improve. Administer all prescribed medication as directed. Alert your veterinarian if you are experiencing problems treating your dog.

Medication adjustments are critical to management of pemphigus foliaceus and to avoidance of side effects. Thus, it is critical to keep recheck appointments.

The pet owner must observe the animal carefully for response to treatment and for side effects and communicate closely with the veterinarian.

A periodic CBC will be done if immunosuppressive drugs like azathioprine are used.