Ulcerative Dermatosis in Dogs

Ulcerative Dermatosis in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What are Ulcerative Dermatosis?

Ulcerative dermatosis has been shown to develop in Shetland Sheepdogs and Collies most frequently; no other dog breed has been associated with this condition.  The exact cause is unknown and therefore it is unknown if there is a genetic component behind it.  Symptoms typically appear most commonly as ulcers in the inguinal area with possible secondary bacterial infection developing.  The only way to get a 100% diagnosis is a skin biopsy.  Treatment is typically provided with the use of an antibacterial medication as well as supplemental therapies.  If treated in a timely manner in accordance with your veterinarian’s instructions, the prognosis of recovery is good.

Dogs with ulcerative dermatosis present with bright red lesions and ulcers in their ventral abdominal and inguinal region. Having your dog evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible in order to initiate treatment is advised.

Symptoms of Ulcerative Dermatosis in Dogs

Symptoms of this condition can include:

  • Ulcers, commonly in the inguinal and ventral abdomen region but can be found anywhere
  • Alopecia¬†
  • Secondary bacterial infection
  • Bacteremia
  • Sepsis


Ulcerative dermatosis is an erosive skin disorder that can develop in dogs, specifically in Shetland Sheepdogs and Collies.  This condition is also associated as a type of etiology that may go by the name of systemic lupus erythematosus.  It was first thought to be the same a general dermatomyositis, but once more studies were conducted, it was made clear the conditions were two separate ailments.  The different versions tend to vary in the age of dog it affects, seasonal versus non-seasonal appearance, and the histopathology of each is different from the other.

Causes of Ulcerative Dermatosis in Dogs

The exact cause of ulcerative dermatosis is unknown.  The appearance and severity of the lesions may be triggered or worsened by estrus, trauma, or other diseases currently affecting your dog.  Since it only affects the two specific dog breeds, it is thought to possibly have a genetic component but this has not yet been proven.  For this reason, it is recommended to not breed dogs that have been diagnosed with this condition.

Diagnosis of Ulcerative Dermatosis in Dogs

Diagnosis of ulcerative dermatosis is typically based on the breed of the dog and the clinical signs.  The pustules typically erupt and evolve into ulcers most commonly in the inguinal area.  You may then see the lesions change into something with a high lymphocyte count in addition to folliculitis with vesiculation.  

Ruling out other possible causes of his symptoms will also help the veterinarian with her diagnosis.  For example, dogs with a similar condition known as dermatomyositis can have symptoms that may look like ulcerative dermatosis.  The location of the ulcers, the breed of your dog, his age at the time of sickness and all other factors can help determine the ailment he is experiencing.  

To get to her diagnosis, your veterinarian will want to begin with a complete physical examination.  She will check your canine’s body in its entirety to check for any symptoms of sickness.  Any additional symptom she discovers may be related to his condition or may have developed as a secondary issue.  She will also collect a verbal history from you as to when your dog’s symptoms appeared, if they have worsened, if you have tried treating them at home, and similar questions that will provide information on his condition.

Blood work will also be suggested to check for any secondary issues in addition to your dog’s presenting complaint.  A complete blood count (CBC) and chemistry panel will be performed to check for basic blood abnormalities.  The results will show how the organs are functioning and can provide information if there is a concurrent, secondary issue affecting your dog too.  This blood work can provide information on the liver and kidneys, in addition to other organs, as she will want to check for organ disease or failure.  

A skin biopsy is the best source of diagnostic test.  Your veterinarian will take a sample of the affected skin and send it for laboratory testing. This allows for microscopic testing and evaluation to determine the exact issue.  

Treatment of Ulcerative Dermatosis in Dogs

There is no exact treatment for ulcerative dermatosis.  Certain antibiotics have shown to help but the selection of the specific one can vary depending on the prescribing veterinarian.  A combination of doxycycline and niacinamide has been shown to have the most success in treating patients with this condition.

Other treatments will include supportive therapies and supplements to keep your dog healthy.  You need to ensure he continues to eat and drink regularly to keep his strength and hydration status at a good level.  If he is not eating regularly, it may be due to pain from his symptoms.  Pain medication can be prescribed in order to keep your dog comfortable during this time.

If he is experiencing any secondary illnesses, they will need to be treated appropriately as well.  The blood work results can give your veterinarian information on other ailments that need to be addressed and treated.  Each case of ulcerative dermatosis is unique so your dog with have a specific treatment plan created for him.

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Recovery of Ulcerative Dermatosis in Dogs

If treated properly, your dog should have a good prognosis for recovery.  If left untreated, his level of discomfort will increase making him miserable.  Also, since his immune system will be busy trying to heal the condition, it will be weakened and therefore he will have a higher chance of developing a secondary illness.  The best thing you can do for your dog is have him evaluated by his veterinarian as soon as possible so treatment can begin immediately.

Ulcerative Dermatosis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals






7 Years


1 found this helpful


1 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
My 7 year old male rough collie has just been diagnosed with Ulcerative Dermatosis by biopsy. He has just completed 1 week of Baytril followed by 2 weeks of Simplecef with no disable improvement. Should I ask my veterinarians to refer us to Texas A&M? Would the prognosis and treatment be more specialized?

April 19, 2018

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

1 Recommendations

If Stormy is not responding to treatment the way that she is expected to, a referral may be best. Some cases of ulcerative dermatitis can be quite challenging, and he may need further diagnostics or care. I hope that he recovers well.

April 19, 2018

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