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What are Juvenile Cellulitis?

Juvenile cellulitis, often referred to as Puppy Strangles, is a skin condition characterized by nodules and pustules on the skin. This disorder typically affects puppies that are between one and four months of age, and the lesions commonly appear around the outer ear and the lymph nodes in the salivary gland. They can also occur on the feet, around the anal area, vulva, and the abdominal area.

This disease is immune-mediated, which signifies that the immune system is attacking its own antigens that normally occur in the body and system of dogs.  This type of autoimmune disease is characterized by pus-filled pimple-like bumps on certain parts of the dogs. This disease may also be predisposed in certain breeds.  The skin may be quite painful to dogs, but will not be itchy to them.

Certain breeds may be predisposed to this condition, such as Golden Retrievers, Dachshunds, Gordon Setters, and Siberian Huskies.

Juvenile Cellulitis in dogs, otherwise known as Puppy Strangles, is an autoimmune disorder which may be predisposed in certain breeds. Puppies with this condition look as if they have pimples on certain parts of their body.

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Symptoms of Juvenile Cellulitis in Dogs

If your puppy exhibits the following symptoms of juvenile cellulitis, make an appointment with your veterinarian. 

  • Fever
  • Malaise
  • Swollen face, lips, eyelids
  • Joint pain
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Abscessing and draining lymph nodes
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty eating
  • Depression
  • Large pimples, or pustules
  • Ulcerations


There are other names of this disease that a veterinarian may use in his diagnoses. Other name types for juvenile cellulitis in dogs are:

  • Puppy strangles
  • Juvenile pyoderma
  • Lymphadenitis
  • Juvenile sterile granulomatous dermatitis

Causes of Juvenile Cellulitis in Dogs

Puppy strangles is an immune-mediated disease. Specific causes of this disease include:

  • Genetics or predisposition in certain breeds
  • Immune-mediated
  • Possible environmental pollutants
  • Possible overexposure to the sun

Diagnosis of Juvenile Cellulitis in Dogs

If your dog is showing signs of a skin reaction, namely pimple-like bumps in specific areas, contact your veterinarian for an appointment. Your veterinarian will perform a complete examination of your puppy and take a closer look at his symptoms. He will want to know as much information from you as he can gather about when the symptoms started, as well as the severity of his symptoms, your dog’s home environment and lifestyle, and his age. Your veterinarian may then perform baseline laboratory testing, which may include blood work, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile. This will be beneficial as he is a puppy and the data can be compared with future laboratory results.

Your medical professional will examine your pet’s skin very closely. In order to make a definitive diagnosis, he will need to perform a biopsy of the skin. A local anesthetic will be used for the veterinarian to scrape off a small piece, or very small section, of the skin. This may be accomplished by using an instrument known as a punch biopsy. Your puppy may require sedation for this procedure. The sample of the skin will be sent to a pathologic veterinarian to read the results. This is the one single test that can diagnose your puppy with this condition.

Performing a skin biopsy will also rule out other other diseases that have similar symptoms, such as pemphigus foliaceous or juvenile pyoderma caused by a staph infection.

Treatment of Juvenile Cellulitis in Dogs

In order to successfully treat puppy strangles, your veterinarian will outline a treatment plan for you to carefully follow. Treatment is more successful if this is caught in the early stages. Treatment methods may consist of the following:


If your dog has developed a secondary infection due to his puppy strangles, your veterinarian may bathe him in chlorhexidine to help stop it from spreading, or to prevent it altogether.


Corticosteroids will be given in order to help your dog’s skin heal and to avoid any scarring. These will be given aggressively and in high dose amounts. After a few days of treatment, your puppy should begin to respond. This treatment will be given for approximately one month and will be tapered down until he is finished with the medication. Antibiotics will also be administered each day to prevent or to treat any bacterial infections caused by juvenile cellulitis.

Recovery of Juvenile Cellulitis in Dogs

Juvenile cellulitis is a treatable condition; however, treatment must be proactive in minimizing flare-ups. It will be important to follow the instructions given to your by your veterinarian in terms of the administration of oral and topical medications for your dog’s health and well-being. If you stop giving your dog the medication without the consultation of your veterinarian, your companion’s condition will reoccur. As your dog is finishing up his medication, be sure to taper him off of it as advised by your medical professional.

Once your puppy is finished with the medication, it will be important to remain proactive and watch for any new symptoms to occur. If you see your puppy developing any new skin irritations, pimples, or lesions, contact your veterinarian.

Juvenile Cellulitis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

14 Weeks
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Swollen Lymph Nodes
Reduced appetite
reduced energy

Medication Used

Clindamycin Hydrochloride
amoxicillin clavulanate

Baloo, our 15-week-old goldendoodle has been diagnosed with a "mild" case of juvenile cellulitis. When he was diagnosed, he had pustules that had started oozing/crusting on his muzzle (around nose, chin, and lips) that seem to hurt when touched, as well as swollen lymph nodes in his neck (about the size of golf balls). He has a reduced appetite and less energy than usual. The first vet we saw put him on amoxicillin-clavulanate and said it was probably "just allergies or acne" (he has been on this for 6 days). The second vet we saw diagnosed it as Puppy Strangles and put him on Metronidazole and Clindamycin in addition to the amoxicillin-clavulanate. He has been taking these for about 4 days now. He has now developed a few pustules on his eyelids which have been goopier than usual. When I called to ask about this new development and asked about if he should start steroids since JC is an autoimmune disease, she said that antibiotics should get rid of the problem and I should "just wait" and maybe try to schedule an appointment with a veterinary dermatologist. This concerned me. Is it true that antibiotics alone can cure puppy strangles? Am I just overreacting? I mean he isn't suffocating, and he still has energy (not his usual amount but still wants to play). It clear that he is in pain as he doesn't want me touching his face and he is often trying to scratch his face and shake his head (I think this is because of the ear pustules). I just want my puppy to be healthy again. I would appreciate any advice.

We have a 10 mo Havanese puppy that first showed a small pimple on her chin. Vet diagnosed bacterial infection and put her on antibiotics. 5 days later she was worse with eyes, nose and lips with pus and ozzing from all swollen areas. Vet suggested going Off antibiotic for 1wk then doing a biopsy to determine exact bacteria present. In that week she got worse giving her Benadryl for itching. So much pain it was hard for her to drink if whiskers touched bowl. After a week wait the biopsy was done then another week for results which came back as bacteria- staph infection. She was out on another, lab suggested, antibiotic but again it continued to worsen. Vet contacted lab and a dog dermatologist and both thought it was juvenile cellulitis. We have just started treatment with steroid and antibiotic. So happy to say after over a month of surfing she has improved in just two days of this combination. Vet said it could be a month or more to get closure. She has lost hair around eyes, muzzle and chin area which we are not sure will grow back.

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Labrador Retriever
7 Weeks
Mild condition
2 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Facial pustules

We are buying a 7 week old puppy that had just been diagnosed with JC. Is it safe to get him after he finishes his treatment? What are the chances of a relapse? We do not mind if there is scaring, we just want to make sure he will grow up to be a healthy dog (we are first time owners without much experience). Is it true that it only strikes once in their lifetime ? (No relapses?) Are there any other secondary effects we should expect later on in his life?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
Puppies that are treated for this condition tend to do well, and do not typically have recurrence of this disease. You should not have any doubts about adopting him.

Thanks so much for your prompt response. It really gives us peace of mind :) We have decided to go ahead with the adoption and he is doing much better now with the treatment. Looking forward to a wonderful life together :)

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Baby dog
German Shepherd
7 Weeks
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms


Good afternoon! We're adopting a German Shepherd of 7 weeks who has just been diagniscated wirth juvenile cellulitis. W're afraid of what might be the after effects of the disease. It is a immune system defect. So will he be more prone to all sorts of illnesses? Will he have growth troubles? Can he be deaf (otitits). Can that condition have effects all his life and is his life expenctancy compromised? Thank you!

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1611 Recommendations
That condition typically resolves with treatment and does not have ongoing results. Some dogs do have some scarring from the lesions, but if Baby Dog is treated quickly and responds, those should be minimal.

Thank you so much for your help. Our Puppy is at home right now. He's brave and funny. He also achez a lot when cleaning his little ears. Our big fear is that he does not seem to hear us. He does not react to noises... The vet told use his ears were very infected, with a lot of pus. We're afraid he could be deaf...

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German shepherd mix
11 Months
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Medication Used

Simplacef, prednisone

My puppy has puppy strangles that isn't going away. Had it since 7 weeks old. Raw face area, chewed bald spots on butt and feet, and is itchy. Is it puppy strangles or something else?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
3320 Recommendations
Puppy strangles is a relatively easy diagnosis to make based on symptoms and the age of the patient; other causes may be parasites, fungal infections etc… High dose corticosteroids (to suppress the immune system) along with antibiotics (for secondary infection) is the treatment of choice; if there is no improvement in symptoms then dexamethasone or cyclosporine may be given but would need to be discussed with your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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