Puppy Strangles


Overview of Puppy Strangles

Puppy strangles is a disorder that affects pups less than four months of age and is not completely understood. Several names have been used. They include juvenile pyoderma, juvenile cellulitis and lymphadenitis, juvenile sterile glaucomatous dermatitis and lymphadentitis, and puppy strangles.

The disorder is a pustular and crusting dermatitis or skin inflammation that occurs in puppies less than three to four months of age. Pustules are usually present on the muzzle, inside the ear and on the lip margins. Swelling of the muzzle may be severe. The wounds begin draining after a few days and are replaced by scabs. Many dogs also develop swollen lymph nodes.

Puppies feel depressed and may have a fever and joint pain. This condition is not a bacterial infection but more a type of hypersensitivity or immune dysfunction although a secondary bacterial infection is possible. It does not respond to antibiotic therapy alone. A good response is usually seen with antibiotics and high doses of steroids.

A familial history exists and golden retrievers, Gordon setters and dachshunds seem to be predisposed.

It is important to rule out other diseases that may appear similar to puppy strangles so the puppy receives proper treatment. The main disease to rule out is demodicosis. This type of mange can occur in young animals causing lesions of their face and high doses of steroids would be highly contraindicated.

Diagnosis of Puppy Strangles

Early diagnosis and treatment are important with this condition, as scarring can be severe.

  • Deep skin scrapings are necessary to rule out demodicosis.
  • Skin biopsies are necessary to establish a final diagnosis. Samples are used for histopathology to detect specific changes in the tissues and for cultures to ensure that infections are not missed. Failure to do so may have severe consequences.
  • Skin biopsies are generally taken under sedation to minimize the discomfort and stitches are placed to ensure proper healing.
  • Treatment of Puppy Strangles

    Treatment will usually include high doses of steroids such as prednisone and antibiotics as coverage to prevent development of secondary bacterial infections. You will be required to administer oral medications several times a day.

    The most severe adverse effect of high doses of steroids is the development of gastrointestinal ulcers. It is important that you monitor the appetite of your pet, the development of vomiting and the appearance of the stools. If diarrhea develops or if the color of the stool changes to dark brown or black, your veterinarian needs to be informed as it may be a sign of an ulcer.

    Relapse after discontinuation of therapy is not common and it is often due to a rapid and premature decrease in the dose of steroids. Rarely it has been reported that some dogs relapse multiple times despite appropriate therapy and more aggressive immunosuppressive therapy is required.

    Scarring is very common consequence of this disease. Avoid any aggressive topical treatment of the area.

    No prevention exists. Relapses after treatment are very uncommon.

    In-depth Information on Puppy Strangles

    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 with Puppy Strangles

  • 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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