strangles (Juvenile cellulitis) is a misnamed disease suggesting
respiratory difficulty. The term cellulitis more appropriately
describes the condition. Pups begin to have noticeable skin
trouble at about five weeks of age. One or more pups in a
litter may be affected. What the veterinarian sees at examination
is usually a well fed, otherwise healthy pup that has massively
enlarged lymph nodes, swelling of the skin and often wet oozing
sores. Marked swelling is usually most pronounced around the
head and neck and the ears (pinnas) are thickened, scabs form
and a thin fluid seeps from the pathologic tissues. In some
cases the skin will crack open the swelling is so severe.
The lymph nodes under the jaw (submandibular lymph nodes)
become extremely swollen and painful and may actually drain
to the skin surface.
Cultures of these open sores rarely indicate a bacterial component
and newer research seems to point to an immune dysfunction
as the root cause of the puppy’s uncomfortable medical condition.
Since bacterial origins seldom play a role, administering
antibiotics rarely has any effect on the condition. Instead,
treatment with Prednisone, an cortisone-like drug, works very
well if given in higher than usual doses for two weeks, then
the dose is tapered off as the dog matures and the condition
resolves. Sometimes dramatic improvement is noted after just
a few doses of the Prednisone.
Therapy also entails routine cleaning of the skin and hydrotherapy
where the pup is soaked in warm water with just a small amount
of antiseptic added. If a particular case seems to have a
secondary bacterial infection, which might be expected with
such skin stress and exudative material present on the skin,
antibiotics may be needed to assist resolution of the overall
Fluid therapy and Vitamin administration may be helpful for
pups that are dehydrated and not eating well. And a high quality,
meat-based diet is indispensable in helping the pup to recover
from Juvenile Cellulitis. Almost all pups will recover but
permanent scarring, lack of hair production and pigment changes
can be a reminder of this nasty puppy skin disease.