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.


Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.

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