Vasculitis in Dogs

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Vasculitis in dogs is an inflammatory condition that can affect the vasculature of the body.

It occurs when there is damage to the blood vessel walls, and it leads to swelling, redness and pain.

Here. we'll discuss vasculitis in dogs, including what causes vasculitis in dogs, symptoms of vasculitis in dogs and treatments for vasculitis in dogs.


What is vasculitis in dogs



Dog vasculitis is a condition that affects the vasculature of the body.

This means it can affect either small blood vessels or large ones, and may cause problems for different organs in the body.

Vasculitis occurs when there's damage to the walls of blood vessels.

When this happens, inflammatory cells move into the area where vasculitis occurred and begin attacking parts of your dog's circulatory system.

As you might expect from any kind of inflammation, vasculitis in dogs causes pain as well as swelling around affected areas.


You'll often see vasculitis being associated with other conditions such as autoimmune diseases, because they usually have similar symptoms.

Both involve an immune response gone wrong that leads to chronic inflammation throughout various organ systems.


Vasculitis can also be incredibly difficult to diagnose as a result, since it can cause a lot of symptoms that are seemingly unrelated to it.


For example, vasculitis can cause vestibular disease like symptoms, known as audiovestibular manifestations.

What happens is the sudden loss of hearing in a dog, as well as balance.

Possible symptoms include vertigo and nystagmus, which are usually associated with vestibular disease - but in this case, it's cause is due to something else entirely (source)


Other times, cutaneous vasculitis is also present on the dog's skin and fur, but with seemingly no known causes - the dog has not ingested anything wrong or done anything that could lead to the development of vasculitis.

That's what makes this disease difficult to diagnose - with the added problem of very varied symptoms of vasculitis itself (source)



Causes of vasculitis in dogs


Unfortunately, as mentioned, there is no one clear cause of vasculitis in dogs.

Instead, it's thought that a variety of factors may play a role in the development of this condition.


The root cause of vasculitis is still unknown, but it's believed that a combination of genetics and environmental factors may play a role.

Some dogs are more prone to developing vasculitis than others, but any dog can get the disease if they're exposed to the right triggers .

There are several things that could potentially lead to vasculitis in dogs:

  • Ingestion of toxins or drugs such as antifreeze, pesticides or certain NSAIDs (that your dog may be allergic to)
  • Infections such as parvovirus, leptospirosis or Lyme disease
  • Autoimmune diseases such as lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis or Sjogren's syndrome
  • Systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS)
  • Cancer


Symptoms of vasculitis in dogs


Because vasculitis can affect different parts of the body, it's not surprising that there are a variety of symptoms associated with this condition.

Some dogs may only experience a few mild symptoms, while others may become very ill. The most common symptoms of vasculitis in dogs include:

  • Swelling and redness around the eyes, nose or mouth
  • Painful inflammation in the joints
  • Difficulty breathing or coughing
  • Fever and general malaise
  • Poor appetite and weight loss
  • Skin lesions (source)


If you notice any of these signs in your dog, it's important to get them checked out by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Left untreated, vasculitis can lead to serious health problems and even death.


Prevention for Vasculitis in Dogs 


Because vasculitis can have so many different causes, it's difficult to say how you could prevent vasculitis in dogs.


  • Avoiding exposure to toxins or drugs that may lead to a vasculitis attack.

This is obviously one of the most important things you can do - If your dog ingests any toxin, contact your vet immediately!

An example of a very dangerous, but common household toxin for your dog to ingest is antifreeze, or even detergent.

Even some types of toxic food, such as chocolate can potentially cause vasculitis-like symptoms in your dog.


  • Getting vaccinations for all core vaccines and routine boosters.

This will help protect against diseases like parvovirus, leptospirosis, lyme disease and other harmful infections.

Dogs are more likely to develop vasculitis if they're dealing with an infection at the same time.


  • Keep track of your pup's overall health.

Watch out for any signs of autoimmune diseases, which may increase the risk for vasculitis.

You should also take note if your dog has any autoimmune diseases - if you're unsure, go ahead and talk to your vet about it, it may save your dog's life.


Extra pounds put stress on the body and can make it more susceptible to developing vasculitis.


  • Make sure your pup always has access to fresh water and plenty of clean, cool places to rest in summertime.

Heatstroke can be very dangerous for dogs with vasculitis.



Treatment for vasculitis in dogs


If vasculitis is caught early, it can usually be treated with a combination of medication and supportive care.

Unfortunately, vasculitis in dogs that's not diagnosed quickly or properly may lead to organ damage and even death.

In these cases, your dog will need additional treatments such as surgery or dialysis to keep them alive until the body heals itself over time.


In many vasculitis in dogs cases, treatment begins with medications for inflammation control.

NSAIDs

Anti-inflammatories are commonly prescribed by veterinarians working on vasculitis patients.

Usually vasculitis and NSAIDs (Non Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs) such as Rimadyl are often used because they have fewer side effects than steroids.

Simply reducing swelling should help improve symptoms dramatically.

However , if vasculitis is due to an autoimmune disease, the medications used to control that condition will also be necessary.


Immunosuppressive drugs


In some cases of vasculitis in dogs, immunosuppressive drugs may be prescribed in order to stop the body from attacking itself.

This type of treatment can be very effective but also comes with a number of risks, so it's important to weigh the pros and cons carefully before deciding if this is the right course for your dog.



If you're lucky enough to catch vasculitis early on, your pup's prognosis is likely good; most dogs respond well to treatment and eventually make a full recovery.

However, relapse is possible, so it's important to keep a close eye on your dog and bring them back in for follow-up appointments with the veterinarian.



Vasculitis and specific dog breeds


Vasculitis in dogs is a condition that can affect any dog, but certain breeds seem to be more predisposed to it.

In some research, German Shepherds and Rottweilers are suggested to be at an increased risk for vasculitis, as are Boxers and Bullmastiffs.

There are also some reports suggesting that some dogs may be allergic to some types of vaccines, and may develop cutaneous vasculitis when being vaccinated. (source)




Frequently asked questions about vasculitis in dogs


Is vasculitis fatal?


It can be fatal, depending on the cause.


Vasculitis in dogs can be fatal if it goes untreated for a long time, but vasculitis typically responds well to treatment and most dogs make full recoveries. (see vasculitis symptoms above)


For example, cutaneous vasculitis in dogs is usually seen on the skins and fur of dogs.

This is a very obvious sign of possible vasculitis (because it's on the skin, somewhere we can see).

If caught early, can be properly examined to determine the root cause of the cutaneous vasculitis (even if the actual problem is beyond skin deep)


Do vasculitis patients need surgery?


It really depends on the specific case of vasculitis as well as your dog.

Vasculitis treatment plans vary from case to case, so vasculitis surgery may be recommended in some cases.

But the general consensus is that surgery might do do very much to help any dog with vasculitis, since the root cause is also unknown sometimes.


Can vasculitis worsen?


It depends on the specific cause of vasculitis and how serious it is.

In many cases vasculitis can get better by itself; however, there are also several forms that require more examination.

Vasculitis is an overarching topic and there are many, many factors that can cause it, so this question is pretty hard to answer.


Conclusion


Vasculitis in dogs can have very serious consequences for your dog's health.

You should talk to a veterinarian if you believe that your pet has vasculitis so they can help determine the best treatment option.

Many veterinarians will prescribe steroids, antibiotics, and pain medication when treating vasculitis in dogs.

If your vet doesn't give you any of these medications and recommends something else make sure to ask why this is for a better understanding of how to help your dog with vasculitis.



about the author

Frank Harrigan

Frank loves tacos and dogs - the good, bad and ugly sides of dog ownership.


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