A PUPPY with an “exceptionally severe” case of a rare illness which left him unable to eat and in agony when touched has made a full recovery.
Unknown to owner Julie Greig, from Hamilton, black Labrador PJ was suffering from a potentially life-threatening case of a condition known as juvenile cellulitis at just 14 weeks old.
He was taken to specialists at the emergency unit of an animal hospital who made the diagnosis of the illness commonly known as puppy strangles, despite showing relatively few symptoms.
Ms Greig said: “I came home one Wednesday evening to find PJ hardly moving and extremely lethargic.
“He had always been unusually calm and subdued for a Labrador puppy, not at all what we had expected, but this was much worse. He could hardly stand up.”
Tobias Grave, veterinary specialist in emergency and critical care at Vets Now Referrals Hospital in Glasgow, said: “I’ve never seen such a severe case. It is not normally a fatal illness - but PJ was so badly affected that he couldn’t eat.”
He was treated straight away with steroid therapy to correct his autoimmune system which was attacking PJ’s body.
“It was a very difficult treatment – the steroid therapy is very aggressive. It took a while for PJ to be able to stand up, never mind walk. He was in agony when he was even touched,” Mr Grave added.
But after ten days he was allowed home to his delighted owners.
Ms Greig said: “It’s like having a different dog. He’s so happy and livelier than he ever was before – much more like a puppy. We realised after his treatment that puppies who suffer from juvenile cellulitis are often depressed. What we mistook for a quiet, listless personality was actually a symptom.
“Despite everything we’ve been through, it’s all been worth it to have the pet that we have now.”
Juvenile cellulitis – also known as puppy strangles or juvenile pyoderma – is a very rare, extremely painful and unsightly skin condition.
Puppies three weeks to six months of age are most commonly affected and it is only very rarely seen in adult dogs.
The face, ears, and salivary glands are the most common sites to be affected.
Initial signs include swelling of the face and the lymph nodes often become swollen, especially those behind the jaw.
The lesions may be painful and some puppies are lethargic, have a fever and won’t eat.
Although juvenile cellulitis can affect any breed, Golden retrievers, Dachshunds, and Labrador retrievers are predisposed.
One or more puppies in the litter may be affected.
The exact cause is unknown although there seems to be a dysfunction in the immune system of affected puppies, since they respond to medications which suppress the immune response.
It is believed that there is also a genetic component, as juvenile cellulitis is more common in certain breeds and families.
High doses of oral steroids are typically given until skin lesions have resolved.
The steroids are then slowly tapered to monitor for relapse. Severe cases may receive additional pain relief during this time. There are commonly secondary bacterial skin infections so antibiotics are also usually prescribed. Topical therapies such as warm water soaks can also be helpful. It may take several weeks to resolve.
With early and aggressive treatment the prognosis is good. Depending on the severity of disease, affected dogs are sometimes left with permanent scarring.