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Puppy strangles or juvenile cellulitis is an uncommon skin condition of young dogs. It comes up suddenly, manifesting as marked swelling of the muzzle, eyelids, and face in a puppy. The owner may be inclined to think the puppy was bitten by a stinging insect or a spider.

The underlying cause of juvenile cellulitis has not yet been identified. This condition can be life-threatening ⁠— if they make the dog uncomfortable enough, the dog can stop eating or drinking.

Juvenile cellulitis most commonly affects young puppies, between one and six months of age. In rare cases, juvenile cellulitis can also affect young adult dogs and has been reported in dogs up to four years old.

Puppy strangles on the other hand is rare, usually affects one individual in a litter and has an autoimmune cause with a hereditary component. This means that the puppy’s immune system is attacking the puppy’s own skin, but the underlying cause of this immune attack has not yet been identified.

Dog breeds like Pointers, Golden Retrievers, Dachshunds, Gordon Setters and Beagles are the breeds in which it is most likely to occur.

If not treated quickly, cellulitis in dogs can result in severe scarring or even death. So if your dog is displaying symptoms, you should seek urgent advice from your vet or visit one of our outlets Nationwide.

Signs and Symptoms of Puppy Strangles

  • Swelling of the face (especially the eyelids, lips and muzzle)
  • It then develops into crusting and bleeding sores
  • Swelling and pus oozing from ear flaps and ear canals
  • Swollen lymph nodes (especially behind the jaw)
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Lameness
  • Lack of appetite

In severe cases, pups may also develop deeper skin lesions and inflammation of fat and joints underneath the skin.

Causes of Puppy Strangles

While this condition is idiopathic, meaning no cause has been clearly identified, evidence points to the disease as immune-mediated. It appears to be caused by immune dysfunction. Because it occurs more often in certain breeds, it is suspected that puppy strangles or a predisposition to puppy strangles has a genetic correlation.

Treatment of Puppy Strangles

Because the condition is believed to be a disease impacting the puppy’s immune system, the treatment is aimed at stopping the auto-immune reaction causing the puppy strangles.

While treatment can vary depending on the severity of the case, medications used to treat puppy strangles include: 

  • Immune suppression is the gold standard treatment for juvenile cellulitis. Oral steroids such as prednisone or prednisolone 
  • Topical medication to soothe painful skin
  • Antibiotics

Most cases of puppy strangles do not reoccur, but scarring can be permanent.


There is currently no known way of preventing this condition. However, when you are looking for a puppy, it’s always recommended to buy one from a trusted breeder or humane society.

Your veterinarian can help you determine if your dog has an underlying immune system disorder, and can advise you on the best treatment options in the event that your puppy shows symptoms.


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