Juvenile cellulitis, sometimes referred to as puppy strangles or juvenile pyoderma, is a relatively rare disorder that produces telltale facial and salivary gland swelling in puppies. Young puppies affected with this painful disorder often shun affection and have a difficult time eating due to facial tenderness.
Signs and Symptoms
Juvenile cellulitis is shocking in appearance. The skin on your puppy's muzzle and lips will appear quite pink and taut, and he may experience hair loss in the area. His eyelids and his ear flaps and canals may swell. Within 24 to 48 hours, he will develop pustules that look like similar to cystic acne in humans. His delicate facial area will go through an endless cycle of pustule development, eruption and crusting over until treated. Puppies affected with this disorder present swollen salivary lymph nodes; to the owner, this will look like two prominent ping-pong ball halves on either side of the puppy's throat. Fever, loss of appetite and, less commonly, pustules on the trunk and anus are also indicative of juvenile cellulitis.
Juvenile cellulitis primarily occurs in young puppies between 3 and 12 weeks of age. The precise cause of juvenile cellulitis is unknown, however, infection and hypersensitivity such as autoimmune or allergic skin disease are postulated as potential causes. Genetics may also play a role. The condition occurs in many breeds, but golden retrievers, dachshunds and Gordon setters appear predisposed.
Your veterinarian will perform a full physical examination on your puppy. A skin scraping of the affected area is necessary in order to rule out similar bacterial, fungal or parasitic skin problems. Your vet may inquire about your puppy's littermates. Juvenile cellulitis commonly affects more than one puppy in a litter.
Once a puppy is diagnosed with juvenile cellulitis, veterinarians work swiftly. Treatment involves short-term immunosuppression with oral corticosteroids. Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections. Meanwhile, you can use warm washcloth compresses to help drain the pustules and soften and remove any crusting; however, it may be painful for your pup, so take care to be gentle. Scarring is minimal if treated early and aggressively. Fortunately, most cases of juvenile cellulitis do not reoccur.
By Christina Stephens
About the Author
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.