Puppy strangles – What is it? What causes it?

Puppy strangles

By: Samantha Sommers

Puppy strangles, more formally known as Juvenile Cellulitis, is an uncommon skin condition that mostly affects young puppies. It is a painful disease that can be life-threatening if left untreated. 

The underlying cause of puppy strangles is currently unknown, but veterinarian experts believe it to be an immune system malfunction. The condition is not contagious to other dogs or humans. If left untreated, the skin lesions associated with puppy strangles may spread to other areas of the body. In severe cases, the condition may cause secondary infections that require additional treatment or cause so much discomfort that the puppy may stop eating and drinking altogether. 

The first symptom of puppy strangles is usually swelling around the face and muzzle, which can lead to raised pimple-like bumps around the face, muzzle, and ears. Other symptoms include:

  • Lethargy or depression 
  • Fever
  • Lameness
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Swelling of the face
  • Swelling of lymph nodes, especially on the side of the neck 

The good news is that once diagnosed, treatment of puppy strangles is very effective and most cases are resolved with a single course of oral steroid medication. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to treat any secondary infections caused by puppy strangles.

Fortunately, this disease is uncommon, but it does happen, and the signs are not always immediately obvious.

violeta’s story

Violeta was diagnosed with a rare disease that could have cost her her life without the watchful eye of her foster family.

On any given day, you would expect to find Violeta, a 9-month-old Shepard/Pit Bull mix playing in her pool, watching squirrels with her housemate, quietly chewing on her stuffies, or running like a deer in the yard – full of puppy energy and happiness! 

Here’s a video of Violeta enjoying her pool!

One day, Violeta’s foster family noticed something not quite right. She was lethargic, not eating, and didn’t have the same bursting energy as she usually would. At that time, they rushed her to Vet Partners in Plymouth, a partner clinic of Ruff Start. There, they took x-rays and blood samples, ruling out a foreign body being the root of the problem. A few days later, the symptoms were still apparent, and she had a fever. At that time, the vet had prescribed some antibiotics and pain medication in hopes of healing the problem.

Weeks later, the symptoms returned, along with some severe swelling around her neck. Feeling very concerned and uncertain, the foster returned to the vet with Violeta, knowing there must be something more to these recurring issues. At that time, it was time to consider all the options. The vet took a sample of the lump using a fine needle aspirate to rule out an abscess. Under careful examination of the sample, the vet determined that the swelling was inflammatory tissue and diagnosed Violetta with puppy strangles.

Puppy strangles is an uncommon skin condition that typically affects puppies four months or younger. It is a painful disease that can be life-threatening if left untreated. 

With steroids and the love of her foster home, Violeta is now on the mend for this extremely rare diagnosis. She is now resting, healing, and waiting to find her family! Apply to adopt Violeta today:  https://ruffstartrescue.org/view-pet?id=17849233

In rescue, we never know what to expect. We are lucky that our fosters, veterinarian team, and partner clinics are always willing to go the extra mile to ensure the health and safety of the animals in our care. If it’s within your means to help with Violeta’s medical costs and other animals in our care, please donate today! We couldn’t do this without your support.