Puppy 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 problem. 

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. 

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