Molly was a cute wee 10 week old Labrador pup when she came to the clinic for a red inflamed rash around her eyes and muzzle. She was given a course of antibiotics for a suspected bacterial pyoderma (skin infection) but there was no improvement and after a few days her owners noticed that the lymph nodes under her jaw had become very swollen.
Mental gears whirred and lightbulbs clicked, and it was decided that Molly most likely had a condition called puppy Strangles (also known as juvenile cellulitis, juvenile pyoderma, and juvenile sterile granulomatous dermatitis and lymphadenitis). This is an uncommon disease which affects young dogs between three weeks and four months of age. It results in enlarged lymph nodes of the head, and moist papular dermatitis of the muzzle, around the eyes and inside the ears.
The exact cause of puppy Strangles is unknown. The name is the only thing it has in common with equine Strangles. It may have a genetic component as the disease can run in certain lines of dogs, and some breeds (including Labradors) are more commonly affected than others. It doesn’t appear to be contagious between dogs, so a bacterial or viral cause seems less likely. It responds well to immunosuppressive doses of steroids so it is likely that an immune system dysfunction is at the bottom of it. Some researchers have suggested it may be triggered by vaccination. Is that a good reason to avoid vaccinations? Not at all. Of the three vets in the clinic that day, we had only seen two cases each, in the course of more than 45 years of practicing. Compare this to parvo where we see several cases each year!
Molly visited again three days after starting her prednisone (steroid) course, and is well on the way to recovery.