Juvenile Cellulitis or Puppy Strangles


Juvenile Cellulitis or Puppy Strangles

Swollen lymph nodes in puppy (Puppy Strangles)

Q: Puppy of 8 weeks. I am contacting you from Nth Queensland in Australia about a puppy with a problem ...much loved & need a solution..can you help? The Grandmother there has been eye/ear infections which have been treated w/antibiotic successfully!! However problems of swelling have occured 24 hours after such treatment..the lymph system now appears to be swollen. Can you help? There is no known desease in the heritage of these dogs previously. If you have any suggestions they would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

A: G In a very young puppy with noticeably swollen lymph nodes the first problem that comes to mind is "puppy strangles" or juvenile cellulitis. This is also sometimes referred to as juvenile pyoderma. This is a disorder affecting puppies that causes swelling, pustules, hairloss and lymph node enlargement, often confined to the head and neck areas. It may cause generalized lymph node enlargment and sometimes the skin infection signs affect the trunk or feet as well as the face. It would be a good idea to ask your vet about the possibility of this problem is some of the other signs besides lymph node enlargement are present. There are other possible problems such as systemic infections which your vet will need to rule out. If juvenile cellulitis is the problem it is important to use corticosteroids to treat the problem even though it is very scary to do that with the signs of infection that are present. Antibiotics are also indicated for that condition. Mike Richards, DVM

Juvenile Cellulitis (puppy strangles)

Q: A friend's mastiff has been diagnosed with strangles. I remember others in that line having had it to varying degrees, simply that I heard puppy buyers talking about it, the breeder denied it in each case, even though the buyers took the pups to their vet. (This is over many generations of dogs.) What I want to know is, is there any evidence or belief in the vet community that this is hereditary, or that the susceptibility can be inherited like lack of resistance to Demodex?? Are they in any way associated? Both immune problems? Prone to occur in the same individuals? thanks in advance! Cheers, ... Laurie

A: Laurie- I can not find any indication that juvenile cellulitis (puppy strangles) has been proven to have a genetic component. My personal opinion is that it does but that doesn't mean much from a scientific standpoint! The tendency towards demodecosis seems to be induced by a lack of a specific T-cell line. The tendency towards juvenile cellulitis may be due to a deficiency in lymphocyte blastogenesis (development) in general (according to Danny Scott in Small Animal Dermatology). This is a pretty big difference in cause, even though both are effects on the white blood cell system. I would be reluctant to take a puppy from subsequent litters, especially if this has occurred in more than one litter as seems to be the case from your note. Mike Richards, DVM

Juvenile Cellulitis

Q: Abbot is 10 weeks old. He is a Newfoundland. Last Saturday I took him to the vet because he had a lump on his neck. The vet thought it might be a muscle. He also had an ear infection and a temp of 103. He was put on anti-biotics. I felt like he was not getting better so I took him back today (Thursday. They don't seem to know what is wrong. They sent off bloodwork but I'm getting very worried. He has blisters in his ears, eyes, lips and on his nose. His poor little neck and lower jaw is very swollen. His lymph nodes are huge, behind his knees and his neck. He seems to eat all right and plays but this isn't looking very well. PLEASE HELP

A: It sounds like your puppy has "strangles" or juvenile cellulitis, possibly. This condition can affect puppies from about 3 weeks of age to 16 weeks of age. Sometimes demodicosis and severe infections can cause similar signs. If skin scrapings are negative for Demodex mites and there are no signs of a widespread systemic infection other than the swollen lymph nodes, it is even more likely that this is juvenile cellulitis. It takes a great leap of faith, but the only really good way to treat juvenile cellulitis is with the use of corticosteroids in combination with antibiotics. If corticosteroids are not used early in this disease permanent scarring of the affected areas can occur and if they are never used, death is not uncommon. The swelling of the lymph nodes cuts off the puppy's ability to breath -- hence the common name of "puppy strangles". It is really scary to use immunosuppressive medications in the face of what appears to be a really severe infection but it is essential IF the condition is in fact juvenile cellulitis. Diagnosis of this can be confirmed by skin biopsy but it is usually best to make an educated guess and hope for the best, since biopsy results usually take a while to get back. Most puppies who are aggressively treated with appropriate corticosteroids and antibiotics will recover -- but permanent hairloss on affected areas or scarring is not uncommon. Good luck with this. Mike Richards, DVM

Last edited 12/16/02


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...