I do not profess to be an expert in the field of canine diseases. I can only relate the circumstances surrounding my own experiences with juvenile cellulitis in my own puppy. Perhaps this tale may help someone whose puppy has been exhibiting the same symptoms or has already been diagnosed with this disease.
Juvenile cellulitis, or puppy strangles, is not breed or gender specific, although it seems that some breeds are more predisposed to it. For instance, the veterinarian with whom our vet had consulted, knew exactly what breed Gunner was when told about the symptoms. Gunner is a Weimaraner. Symptoms are usually noticed between 4 weeks to 4 months of age. Not all puppies in the litter are affected, but the entire litter can be involved.
The cause of the disease is debatable. A bacterial infection does not seem to be the culprit as antibiotic treatment alone does not seem effective. Recent research suspects an immune reaction. The disease seems to respond successfully to immunosuppresive therapy. Treatment consists of a combination of an antibiotic and a corticosteroid as well as keeping affected areas clean and dry.
The following relates Gunner's battle with juvenile cellulitis.
Gunner was the third of five puppies whelped by Misty on 6/12/95. He entered this world at 2:35 p.m., weighing in at 18 oz. He was a very active pup, had good sucking reflex and gained weight steadily. All the puppies had their first supplemental feeding of Gerber's Rice Cereal, milk replacer and yogurt on 7/3/95. Gunner caught on quickly and ate with gusto. During his first eight weeks of life he gave no indication of any impending illness. He was developing normally, both physically and mentally, as were all the puppies.
On 8/8/95, at eight weeks of age, all five puppies received their first shot with Fort Dodge Canine Distemper, Canine Adenovirus Type 2, Coronovirus, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus, Duramune DA2PP & CvK/LCI.
This vaccination is against canine distemper, infectious canine hepatitis, respiratory disease caused by adenovirus type 2, canine coronovirus, canine parainfluenza, canine parvovirus and leptospirosis*. Two days later, I noticed a swelling on Gunner at the location of the vaccination. Since there were no other symptoms, such as fever, we believed the swelling to be a normal reaction to the shot.
Within a few days, however, Gunner's ears began to appear red, swollen and very moist. He was started on 100 mg. of Amoxitabs, twice daily, but his symptoms persisted. His lymph nodes were swollen and he had lumps all over his body. His ears had become purulent (exuding pus). It seemed that all his exposed mucous membranes (eyes, ears, mouth, nose, rectum, penis) were becoming affected.
8/22/95 - Blood work shows nucleated red blood cells and lower than normal cell count, which may indicate a high mortality rate of red blood cells. RBC lose the nuclei before being released into the blood stream. Nucleated red blood cells are immature cells, which are being released before they are ready to make up for loss or body needing more at a higher rate.
Gunner was started on 250 mg. of Cephalexin, twice a day, then on Chloramphenical #15, 3 times a day. Our local veterinarian had not seen this type of condition so I phoned a breeder friend, who quickly diagnosed it as puppy strangles and recommended an aggresive treatment plan. Meanwhile our veterinarian had phoned a colleague in Maryland, who diagnosed the condition as juvenile cellulitis, a severe form of puppy strangles. Gunner was started on 1500 mg. of Cephalexin daily (500 mg 3 times a day) and 15 mg of Prednisone (5 mg 3 times a day).
By 8/29/95 Gunner seemed to have improved enough to be taken for a walk outside and was very active.
8/30/95 - Gunner is amazingly better, acting like a normal, busy puppy. He still exhibited some tenderness, especially in his right ear which still felt puffy. He was allowed to play outside with Smoky, a littermate.
8/31/95 - Gunner has improved even more and will run and play with Smoky. Spent his first day outside in puppy kennel.
9/6/95 - Last of Cephalexin.
9/7/95 - last of Prednisone.
9/9/95 - Gunner beginning to show slight symptoms of illness again, with tenderness and little swelling at base of ears and swelling in his shoulders.
9/11/95 - Started Gunner on a two week treatment of 500 mg Cephalexin 2 times a day and 5 mg Prednisone 2 times a day. He was given his second puppy shot, without the leptospirosis antigen. Gunner remained on a combination of Cephalexin and Prednisone for another two weeks until all symptoms had disappeared, then was gradually weaned off the medication.
10/10/95 - Gunner looks and acts well and is very active. He is now on 7½ mg of Prednisone a day.
10/11/95 - Symptoms are coming back. Eyes are watery, left lip and lower jaw are swollen and pussy. Increased Prednisone to 20 mg a day as anything less seemed to bring on the symptoms.
11/3/95 - Prednisone reduced to 1½ mg twice daily for ten days, then 1½ mg once daily for ten days.
11/23/95 - Predisone reduced to 1½ mg every other day until gone. Gunner remained on this dosage until 12/28/95 when he was given his last dose, while we all kept our fingers crossed and prayed that the symptoms would not return.
On 1/5/96, Gunner was given a clean bill of health and has remained symptom free.
I was told that Gunner's case of Juvenile Cellulitis was an extreme one. Most puppies who contract the disease recover within two to three weeks. In Gunner's case, it lasted from August through December, a period of four long months. Each time we tried to wean him off the medication, the symptoms would return, each successively worse than the last.
During most of his illness, I kept Gunner isolated and off the ground as Prednisone can compromise the immune system. I fixed an indoor kennel for him in the puppy room where he was born and paper trained him so he would not have to go outside to eliminate. No one but I was allowed inside the enclosure and I always took off my outside shoes before entering. Much of the time he was rather listless and slept a lot. There were times he seemed so ill I wasn't sure he was going to survive.
It seemed, though, no matter how sick he was, even if he could barely walk, he always wagged his little tail whenever he saw me. He always seemed to have a good appetite, although I knew it must have hurt for him to eat because of the tenderness in his mouth. I carried him whenever I had to take him outdoors and often carried him around the house so he could be with me. He slept in my lap in the evening while I read or watched television. I had to keep him wrapped in a blanket or towel because of the pus, but he didn't seem to mind.
Each time he seemed to be recovering I rejoiced and each time the symptoms returned it broke my heart. I decided, though, that if he had the courage to fight this disease, then I would have the courage to see him through it.
Gunner was very good about using the paper and not tearing it up. I tried to paper train Gunner's brother, Smoky, but that didn't work. Smoky was healthy and he was all puppy and enjoyed shredding the paper. Most of the time he had to be kept in an indoor/outdoor kennel when we were at work and was carefully supervised when he was indoors.
The first hint that Gunner was finally getting well was when I came home one day and found that he had torn his newspaper to shreds, overturned his water dish and was chewing on one of his toys. That was in December, four months after he had first begun to exhibit symptoms of the disease.
Since then Gunner has grown into a healthy, happy dog and a pleasure to have around. Perhaps it was the prolonged use of the Prednisone, I'm not sure, but Gunner did not mature normally. He has retained much of his puppy characteristics, especially in his face. His head still is shaped more like a puppy's than an adult's. He also did not grow much. He looks like a miniature Weimaraner, my Mini Weim. Actually he's just the right size for a house pet.
*Note: Some breeders and veterinarians believe that the leptospirosis vaccine can cause an allergic reaction in certain puppies, therefore they do not use vaccines that contain the leptospirosis antigen. I do not know if this was the cause of Gunner's illness, but I no longer vaccinate my puppies with vaccines that contain the lepto antigen.