Vasculitis in Dogs

Vasculitis is thankfully, a fairly rare condition in dogs caused by  Inflammation within the blood vessels. The inflammation stops blood flow to the area causing the tissues in that area to die. Areas that are most severely affected have poor collateral perfusion such as the ears and tip of the tail. It is also reported on the lips, pads and nose.

Left ear flap
Left ear flap

Although the exact cause of vasculitis is unknown, it is thought to be an immune reaction. In primary vasculitis, the dog’s immune system mounted a response without any precipitating factor. In secondary vasculitis, the immune system was stimulated by something the dog encountered.  It has been associated with infections (bacterial, viral and tick borne), drugs, vaccines, food allergies and insect bites. When no precipitating cause is found, the disease is called idiopathic and assumed to be primary disease. I believe this classification will change as more research is done on this disease.

I see vasculitis most often on the ear tips of Dachshunds. It’s hard to miss the thick white crust that forms on the skin. When removed, bleeding is minimal. Usually, I find stiff gray colored skin. Other breeds that are reported to have vasculitis include Bichon frise, German shepherd dog, Greyhound, Jack Russel Terrier, Maltese, Pekingnese, Poodle, rottweiler, Scottish terrier, Silky terrier and Yorkshire terrier.

Right ear flap
Right ear flap

Treatment is aimed at removing the inciting cause and suppressing the inflammation. Although it sounds easy, removing the inciting cause is difficult. Identifying the trigger is the first problem because the inciting cause may have occurred quite awhile before the dermatitis is seen. If the cause is found, it can’t always been removed. For example vaccines and some venom from insect bites linger in the body for a long time. Diet trials take many weeks to complete. Steroids or pentoxifylline are used to suppress the inflammation.


-Holm, Kristin. “Vasculitis” VIN Associate, Last updated 12/5/2009.


Herding Trials for Dogs

Last weekend, I had the privilege of watching a herding trial at Double M Stock Dogs in Mayer, Arizona. I love watching these highly trained working dogs display their athletic ability. According to the American Kennel Club, “The purpose of the competitive herding trial program is to preserve and develop the herding skills inherent in the herding breeds, and to demonstrate that they can perform the useful functions for which they were originally bred.”  With help from their handler, the dog will guide a group of sheep, goats, cattle, ducks, turkeys or geese through a course in a set period of time while judges watch. After the performance is over, the dog is treated to a dip in a water tub to cool off.

danny-2The exercise starts with the dog waiting quietly for instructions. At the handler’s signal, the dog runs away from the handler to the stock and then gathers them into a compact group. In a controlled manner, the dog brings the animals back to the handler.  Now the handler and the dog work together to move the animals through a series of obstacles. Sometimes the pair work together to hold the animals in place or split an individual from the group in what is called ‘shedding’. These dogs are so intelligent that they understand the difference between moving clockwise with the command ‘come by’ and counterclockwise with the command ‘away’. A more detailed description including terms and definitions can be found at The Straight Poop. 


Many different breeds of dogs like to herd. The most common ones I see in Arizona are Border Collies, Australian cattle dogs, Australian shepherds, Australian kelpies and Catahoula leopard dogs although there are many more breeds that can herd. A complete list can be found at the American Kennel Club. For obvious safety concerns, deaf and/or visually impaired dogs are excluded from herding trials. Besides the AKC, more information can be found at: American Herding Breed Association, Australian Shepherd Club of America and National Cattledog Association

There’s even a fun blog about herding called Herding Dog USA!


The dog in the picture is Danny, a purebred border collie. Danny is competing in the advanced level of herding. Although he is good with sheep, he prefers herding geese or ducks. Danny came into the trial needing one more point in two days of competition to  attain his Herding Champion title. He clinched his title on Saturday and then went on to win High in Trial on Sunday with a score of 99 out of 100. Congrats to Danny, his handler/trainer, Molly Wisecarver and his owner, Judy Schrader!

danny-and-molly-5 More information about Molly and the Double M Stock Dogs can be found at or going to her Facebook page.

Surgical Repair With Drain Of A Dog’s Laceration

One of the most common surgeries performed in veterinary medicine is wound repair. Bites, punctures, foreign bodies and lacerations often cause severe wounds and require extensive treatment. Young animals seem to be more prone to these accidents than adults. Pictured below is the side of a young dog. She was playing with her litter mate when she ran into trouble in the form of a pole.


The first step in repair is cleaning the wound and surrounding tissues. Sterile lube was placed in the wound to keep hair from sticking then the entire area was shaved down to the dermis. The skin was scrubbed with an antiseptic solution then the entire area was rinsed with copious amounts of fluid.

After draping, the wound was debrided with a scalpel blade to remove any hair and debris still embedded in the wound. (See the upper left side of the laceration.) The unhealthy edges of the skin were also removed. This is done by cutting down to tissue that bleeds well.

With the wound clean, it was time to start the repair. As you can see from the photo, the wound has two flaps, the big one on top and a smaller one on the bottom. When these are sewn into place, there will be pockets created underneath. These pockets can fill with fluid or become infected. To prevent this, a drain is placed under the skin. The top end is sutured under the skin at the top of the incision. The bottom is exited through a stab incision in the skin just below the laceration and sutured in place.

Now, it was finally time to close the wound. The flaps were stretched into the proper position and tacked with a simple stitch to keep the flap in position and relieve tension on the incision. Next, a continuous line of suture was placed under the skin in the subcutaneous tissue.  This holds the entire wound together. Since this line of suture is critical to a successful repair, extra ties or throws are put into the knot and a thicker suture is used. Skin stitches are the final layer in closing a wound. Each stitch is tied individually and then cut to leave 1/2 inch ends. It is the black suture seen in the picture below.


I am happy to report that this puppy is healing well. I removed her drain four days post-op. She will come back in another week for removal of the dermal sutures. The subcutaneous suture does not need to be removed. It will dissolve by itself.

Update: Here’s a picture of the wound after the sutures were removed. I am pleased with how well this puppy healed!