Vasculitis in dogs: signs, diagnosis and treatment methods

Skin diseases in dogs are almost always quickly detected even by inattentive owners, since one does not have to suspect a patient's bald, scabbed and ulcerated pet - one should try hard. So the owners notice vasculitis in dogs almost immediately, but few people know how dangerous redness and alopecia of small skin areas can be ...

What it is?

Vasculitis is an inflammation of blood vessels leading to serious damage to their walls. Inflammation is caused by an autoimmune reaction when the body's defense mechanisms begin to destroy its own tissues and cells. There are many causes of vasculitis: infections (bacterial, viral, fungal), reactions to drugs and some vaccines, neoplasia, and certain, primary autoimmune diseases.

Vasculitis itself is an inflammation of the inner layer of the vessel, that is, the endothelium. Often this happens with viral diseases, when the parasite infects blood vessels. Because of this, the immune system begins to destroy them, subsequently "switching" even to healthy tissue (autoimmune vasculitis in dogs).

In dogs, this disease is not too common, but pathology can affect animals of all ages, breeds, it does not depend on gender and physiological condition. Other causes for systemic vasculitis include:

  • “Wrong,” unpredictable interaction between drugs. This often happens when the owners decide to independently "treat" their pet, stuffing it with drugs without regard to their compatibility. No one reads the instructions.
  • Neoplasia - pathological tissue growth, tumor.
  • Oddly enough, kidney disease.
  • Allergic reactions. The more dogs predisposed to them, the higher the risk of developing vasculitis or another autoimmune disease.
  • Chronic joint diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Clinical signs and diagnosis

Since the disease can affect almost all organs and tissues (which is not surprising, since there are vessels everywhere), the symptoms in different cases are strikingly different. For example, with vasculitis due to an inadequate response to the vaccine, a strong inflammatory reaction and hair loss at the injection site are observed.

It is very simple to distinguish this phenomenon from the usual side effects or infection brought in if the rules of asepsis and antiseptic are not observed: it develops two to three months after vaccination.

Other symptoms of vasculitis in dogs may include:

  • Ulcers on the skin, especially on the ears, lips, in the mouth, on the legs, tail and scrotum.
  • On the limbs you can see places that seem to be bruised, although everything was in order with the dog in the evening, and she physically could not hit so hard.
  • Spots of dead skin, especially clearly visible on the paw pads.
  • Unconditional, sudden bleeding.
  • Affected areas swell, although there may be no clear signs of inflammation.
  • Lethargic, febrile conditions.
  • The dog experiences pain, her appetite is reduced, and progressive weight loss is observed.
  • Permanent conjunctivitis (pictured).
  • Chronic arthritis and bursitis, and all tests show that in the animal’s body there are no traces of pathogens of infectious diseases and parasites.

The veterinarian will begin with a standard diagnostic test, which involves a complete blood count, its biochemistry, and urinalysis. The more methods were used, the more accurate the diagnosis. Radiography and ultrasound are also used: with their help, lesions of internal organs are detected. The Gold Standard for the diagnosis of vasculitis is a skin biopsy.

If an allergic reaction to food, drugs, care products is suspected, then for some time it is advisable to exclude them. In the case when they were the cause of the poor health of the animal, it will be possible to do without potent drugs. The prognosis for this disease depends on many factors: the root cause, the localization of the main morphofunctional disorders (on the skin or in the internal organs - the difference is big), the neglect of the case.

Therapeutic Techniques

The main goal of therapy is to eliminate the root cause leading to the development of an autoimmune reaction. Of course, this is true only for those cases when it was generally possible to install it.

Usually, treatment of vasculitis in dogs involves the use of the following drugs:

  • Corticosteroids, including prednisone.
  • Pentoxifylline.
  • The combination of tetracycline antibiotics and niacin (nicotinic acid).
  • Dapson.
  • Sulfasalazine.
  • Cyclosporins.
  • Imuran.

As a rule, combined treatment is required. In some cases, the dog will have to sit on medication for life, while other dogs heal relatively quickly. Relapses are possible, and their appearance does not depend on the time of termination of active treatment.

“Non-standard” methods of therapy include massage. It is known to reduce inflammation and increase blood circulation. Since vasculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels and in many cases implies "side effects" arising from this soil, manual therapy will be useful in many situations.

Massage is also beneficial for dogs with vasculitis who are prescribed prednisone. The fact is that one of the side effects of this drug is overweight, and manual therapy helps maintain muscle tone.

But! If the dog clearly manifests symptoms of vasculitis, including inflammation and even tissue necrosis, massage is strictly contraindicated, as it can contribute to a worsening of the animal’s condition, and one should not forget about severe pain. This technique should be used only (!) As a supplement to drug treatment, and only after the decay of pronounced symptoms. In addition, massage can be useful as a measure of preventing relapse of the disease (with the exception of the periods of relapse).


Remember - the more often you show a dog with vasculitis to your veterinarian, the more carefully the latter will be able to control the treatment process and, if necessary, make adjustments to it. It is very important (especially at the beginning of therapy) to constantly check blood counts. It is critical that you follow your veterinarian's instructions exactly.

Since the drugs used in treatment suppress the immune system, you will need to constantly monitor the condition of your pet, identifying the slightest deviations from the norm. If any signs of infection appear, report this to your veterinarian immediately. In many dogs, with prednisone, the immune system almost does not work, so any pathogen can be deadly.

Do not treat vasculitis in the dog yourself, as you can only make the animal worse! Many of the drugs that are used for this are very dangerous in themselves, only a specialist should deal with their appointment and administration.

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