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Puppy Strangles

Strangles in puppies (aka juvenile pyoderma and juvenile cellulitis) is a serious dog skin condition that affects puppies 4-16 weeks of age. Some breeds of dogs are predisposed of this condition. This page looks at the symptoms, causes, and treatment of this puppy skin condition.

Puppy Strangles
Juvenile cellulitis, juvenile pyoderma, and puppy strangles all refer to the same skin condition that affects young puppies between 4 and 16 weeks of age. Usually, several puppies in the same litter are affected.

Golden Retrievers, Gordon Setters, Yellow Labrador Retrievers, and Dachshunds seem to be predisposed although it can affect other breeds, including mix-breed dogs as well.

The exact cause of juvenile cellulitis is not clear, although it is suspected to be an immune system abnormality. Most cases of juvenile cellulitis are considered to be an inflammatory immune process of unknown cause.

Symptoms of Puppy Strangles

Typically, you will see sudden swelling on the face, lips, ear flaps, or eyelids if your young puppy has this problem. The swelling is then followed by the rapid development of pimple-like pustules, which rupture and bleed, forming skin ulcers and crusts. Usually, the inner surface of the ear flaps are involved as well and occasionally lesions in other body areas occur. These lesions can be painful.

As well, there may be swelling and enlargement of the lymph nodes beneath the chin. Sometimes the puppy may have difficulty eating and swallowing because of the enlarged lymph nodes.

Other symptoms associated with this puppy skin condition include: If untreated, serious scarring and permanent hair loss can result. In addition, puppies with juvenile pyoderma can be quite sick and the condition can be life-threatening. Therefore, they must be treated by a veterinarian immediately.

Don't Squeeze!

Do not try to squeeze the pus from the sores - scarring will likely result if you do that!

Conventional Treatment

Because this condition is believed to be an immune-mediated disease, i.e. the puppy's immune system is overly-active, high doses of oral corticosteroids (such as prednisone) are usually given to suppress the immune system. In most cases, the puppy will respond after several days of treatment. The condition generally resolves in 10 to 14 days. However, steroid treatment cannot be stopped abruptly even though improvement is seen, so treatment is normally continued for 3-4 weeks, with gradual tapering of the dose.

Antibiotics may be needed for any secondary infection. However, please note that antibiotics alone are not effective and cannot treat this condition.

Relapse of the condition after treatment is rare.
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