Juvenile Cellulitis (Puppy Strangles)
Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.
Race Foster, DVM

Labrador Retriever PuppyThis is a serious condition which affects the face, ears, and submandibular lymph nodes (those located near the corner of the jaw). The cause of this condition is unknown, but is thought to be an immune system abnormality. There is some evidence that the condition can be hereditary.

What are the symptoms?

Juvenile cellulitis develops in puppies 3-24 weeks of age. It is more common in Golden Retrievers and certain lines of Dachshunds, Siberian Huskies, and Gordon Setters.

The face, muzzle, lips, and eyelids become swollen. Pustules (large pimples) develop, break open, and crusts and small ulcers form. The submandibular lymph nodes enlarge and may abscess and drain. Sometimes, the puppy has difficulty eating and swallowing because of the enlarged lymph nodes. Puppies often have a fever, are depressed, and will not eat.

What are the risks?

If left untreated, some puppies can die from this condition. Scarring and permanent hair loss can occur.

What is the management?

Puppies with juvenile cellulitis should be treated as soon as possible to avoid scarring. Relatively high doses of a corticosteroid are given. Usually, the puppy will respond after several days of treatment, but the treatment is continued for 3-4 weeks, gradually tapering the dose. Antibiotics are given, if a secondary bacterial infection is suspected. Your veterinarian may also recommend gently soaking the area with dilute chlorhexidine or aluminum acetate (Burow's solution).

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