Puppy Strangles: What To Look For

PuppyStranglesPuppy strangles is an odd disease that many folks are not familiar with. It usually affects puppies younger than four months of age, and the symptoms often look like a bacterial infection. Some of the symptoms you might see include:

  • facial swelling
  • papules (small, solid, raised masses) around the face and ears
  • pustules (small pockets of pus) around the face and ears that usually rupture and crust over
  • enlarged lymph nodes behind the jaw that may rupture and drain
  • fever
  • poor appetite
  • lethargy
  • joint pain (less common)

Puppy strangles appears to primarily be an immune-mediated disease. It is seen more frequently in  specific breeds, such as golden retrievers, Gordon setters, miniature dachshunds, and Siberian huskies..

When a veterinarian suspects that a puppy is suffering from strangles, he or she will usually want to run a handful of tests before prescribing prednisone or other immunosuppressive drugs. Deep skin scrapings to look for the mites that cause demodectic mange, skin cytology and a fungal culture for ringworm are always a good idea since immunosuppression in the face of an infectious disease can be catastrophic. Skin biopsies and other tests may also be needed to reach a definitive diagnosis.


While puppy strangles is not very common, it is important to treat it right away but can lead to devastating scarring and even death if it is not treated. Get your puppy to the vet ASAP if you have reason to suspect that he or she is developing puppy strangles.


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