What Is Puppy Strangles?

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Sometimes, things just don’t go as planned. Our four-legged friends sometimes suffer from conditions that can’t really be explained. Such are things in the pet parenting world from time to time- unexpected and scary. The so-called “puppy strangles” are a rare skin condition, but a dangerous one nonetheless. Known also as juvenile cellulitis, and juvenile pyoderma, this mean disease usually targets puppies that are only growing up – between one and six months. Sometimes – even more rarely – strangles affect adult dogs, up to four years of age. Now, even though this condition is very rare, it is nonetheless quite dangerous, and dog owners should know all about it. 

Curiously, no one knows why puppy strangles appear. It’s one of those enigmatic illnesses that has experts baffled. Some suggest that it has something to do with imbalances of the immune system in newborn puppies, due to the fact that usually just one puppy from the litter will have it. But, still, nothing is known for certain. There is also an interesting observation that strangles often appear in certain mixed breeds, and in particular amongst Dachshunds, Setters, Beagles, Pointers, and Golden Retrievers. 

One of the first signs of puppy strangles is the swelling of the puppy’s face, chin, muzzle, eyelids, and lips. In just 48 hours, these swellings will develop crusty bulbs, known as pustules, which may contain pus and bleed if irritated. These are mixed in with pimples and other crusty growths, and should not be touched. If irritated, they can leave permanent scarring on your dog. As strangles is an inflammatory process in general, the puppy’s lymph nodes will also be swollen, as a clear sign that the immune system is under attack. 

The swelling is severe and affects the puppies in numerous ways. One of the first symptoms is lethargy, with significantly decreased energy levels. Fever also appears soon after, and there is a possibility of severe joint pain that limits the puppy’s mobility. In general, strangles are dangerous as they make the dog ill, lethargic, and uncomfortable, further limiting their appetite and the ability to eat properly due to extreme swelling. This means that if strangles are left unchecked, your puppy may die of starvation and weakness. 

Of course, if you notice any of the signs, you should seek immediate veterinary help. There are a number of ways in which strangles are dealt with, but the main approach is to suppress the auto-immune reaction that triggers the swelling. To do this, your vet will likely prescribe immunosuppressive drugs, to be taken for several weeks. Antibiotics are also often prescribed in order to limit scabbing and possible infections from broken pustules and pimples. Antibiotics also make the ordeal much easier for your dog. Some special ointments can also be used to treat the affected skin and soothe the oozing scabs. 

In the end, things can work out well. With your prompt reaction and professional care, your puppy can fight through the strangles and continue to thrive and grow into a healthy, happy adult.