Skin problems

Juvenile Cellulitis in Dogs - Symptoms and Treatment

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. April 25, 2023
Juvenile Cellulitis in Dogs - Symptoms and Treatment
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Commonly known as puppy strangles, juvenile cellulitis is a disease that is characterized by producing severe inflammation of the skin and lymph nodes of dogs. It is a rare, immune-mediated disease of unknown origin. Despite our lack of understanding concerning its causes, there are effective treatments available. These treatments are vital since untreated puppy strangles in dogs can be fatal. The risk is exacerbated by the young age of the dogs.

Since cases of juvenile cellulitis in dogs are so dangerous, AnimalWised shares the symptoms and treatment of puppy strangles. In doing so, you can recognize the early signs of this disease and know what to expert in terms of diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.

You may also be interested in: Feline Acne - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


  1. What is juvenile cellulitis in dogs?
  2. Symptoms of juvenile cellulitis in dogs
  3. Causes of juvenile cellulite in dogs
  4. Diagnosis of juvenile cellulitis in dogs
  5. Juvenile cellulitis in dogs treatment

What is juvenile cellulitis in dogs?

Despite being a relatively rare condition, juvenile cellulitis in dogs is known by different names. Its scientific description is sterile granulomatous dermatitis and lymphadenitis (SGDL), but it is also known as juvenile pyoderma in dogs and, colloquially, as puppy strangles. Although rare, it is a serious condition which has a rapid evolution after the first onset of symptoms.

It is a sterile (i.e. non-infectious) inflammatory disease that affects the skin of the face and lymph nodes of canines. As its name indicates, it is a disease that generally affects puppies and young dogs. In most cases, the dogs range from a few weeks to one year of age. Although with few reported cases, cellulitis has also been described in adult and geriatric dogs. For this reason, it is a differential diagnosis that should be taken into account in dogs of all ages[1].

There are certain breeds predisposed to suffering from this disease. Breeds predisposed to juvenile cellulitis include:

  • Dachshund
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Golden Retriever
  • English Pointer
  • Lhasa Apso

Although it is particularly common in these breeds, juvenile cellulite can appear in any breed and also in mixed-breed dogs.

Symptoms of juvenile cellulitis in dogs

Canine juvenile cellulitis is characterized by producing severe inflammation of the lymph nodes and skin. As a type of pyoderma in dogs, it produces pustules which can evolve rapidly. Skin lesions generally appear on the face, especially around the eyes, lips and ears. Other areas may be affected in exceptional cases, including the hind limbs, genital and perianal areas. The most common clinical signs are:

  • Edema (swelling due to accumulation of inflammatory fluid)
  • Erythema (redness)
  • Papules (raised lesion with solid content, less than one centimeter in diameter)
  • Pustules (raised, pus-filled lesion)
  • Scabs
  • External otitis
  • Mucopurulent ocular discharge

In general, skin lesions are painful, but do not itch. Lymph nodes in the area are often very reactive enlarged, and hard. It is one of the reasons you may feel a lump in the dog's neck. Sometimes, abscesses form in the lymph nodes which can rupture. When this happens, fistulas form that drain the purulent content to the outside. Learn more with our guide to dog abscesses causes and treatment.

In addition to skin and lymph lesions, it is also common for juvenile cellulitis in puppies to cause systemic signs that affect the central nervous system. These include lethargy, depression, hyperthermia, anorexia and joint pain.

Juvenile Cellulitis in Dogs - Symptoms and Treatment - Symptoms of juvenile cellulitis in dogs
Image: Airport Veterinary Clinic

Causes of juvenile cellulite in dogs

Canine juvenile cellulitis is considered an idiopathic disease, meaning it is of unknown origin. However, although the etiopathogenesis of this disease is still not well defined, it is known that it has a clear immunological influence. We know this because affected animals respond well to immunosuppressive treatment with corticosteroids for dogs. Furthermore, the fact that there are some breeds predisposed to suffering from this disease suggests the existence of some hereditary factor.

Learn about another skin disease related to immunosuppression with our article on calcinosis cutis in dogs.

Diagnosis of juvenile cellulitis in dogs

Knowing the clinical signs that we have mentioned above, it is possible to make a presumptive diagnosis of juvenile cellulitis. However, we must take into account that these symptoms can be common to various diseases. For a veterinarian to confirm the diagnosis it is necessary to perform additional tests.

The specific diagnosis of puppy strangles in dogs is a biopsy of the skin and/or affected lymph nodes. This will then be sent for histopathological analysis. The existence of a pyogranulomatous inflammation, without microorganisms involved, will allow the diagnosis of juvenile cellulitis[2].

Juvenile cellulitis in dogs treatment

Puppy strangles is a very serious disease with a rapid onset. Since puppies do not yet have a fully developed immune systems, they are particularly vulnerable. However, the treatment will be the same for puppies and adult dogs.

As it is an immune-mediated disease, affected dogs usually respond well to immunosuppressive doses of glucocorticoids. This therapy must be carried out as soon as possible. it will require aggressive treatment to resolve the systemic effects of the disease and achieve remission of skin lesions. In the absence of treatment, the disease can be fatal, especially in puppies.

Treatment with corticosteroids should be maintained until the disappearance of all symptoms. In any case, corticosteroid therapy should be withdrawn gradually to avoid serious adverse reactions.

In addition to corticosteroids, it is common to establish antibiotic therapy in parallel. Although we have mentioned that juvenile cellulite is a sterile disease in which no bacterial microorganism is involved, complications often occur in the form of secondary bacterial infection. The open and purulent sores can be easily infected. Antibiotics are then required to achieve total healing of the lesions.

Learn more about giving antibiotics to dogs with our related article.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Juvenile Cellulitis in Dogs - Symptoms and Treatment, we recommend you visit our Skin problems category.


1. Inga, A., Griffeth, G. C., Drobatz, K. J., Goldschmidt, K. H., & Mauldin, E. A. (2020). Sterile granulomatous dermatitis and lymphadenitis (juvenile cellulitis) in adult dogs: a retrospective analysis of 90 cases (2004-2018). Veterinary dermatology, 31(3), 219–e47.

2. Hutchings S. M. (2003). Juvenile cellulitis in a puppy. The Canadian veterinary journal = La revue veterinaire canadienne, 44(5), 418–419.

  • Marti, S., & Lizana, I. (2018). Canine Clinical Pediatrics. Veterinary Portal.
  • Hairstyle, S., Lezcano, E., Medina, C., & Ferrer, O. (n.d.). Canine juvenile cellulite. Clinical case. Canarian magazine of veterinary sciences.
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