Inflammation of Body Blood Vessels in Dogs

By PetMD Editorial on Nov. 12, 2010

Systemic Vasculitis in Dogs

Systemic vasculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels that is usually the result of an injury to the endothelial cell layer, which covers the internal surfaces of heart, the lymph vessels, and the interior surface of the blood vessels. It can also be caused by infection or inflammation that has reached the endothelial cell layer from other parts of the body. For example, bacteria, viruses, toxins, parasites, or by-products of the immune system can accumulate at the endothelial layer and can lead to an inflammation response in multiple sites of the body

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms may vary depending on which of the various organs are involved -- such as the liver, kidneys or brain.

  • Skin ulcers
  • Patches of dead skin, including on the footpads
  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Pain
  • Weight loss
  • Inflammation of the interior of the eyes (uveitis)


Systemic vasculitis may be directly related to infections, including bacterial, viral, or parasitic. Some dogs may develop the disorder due to an immune-mediated disease, where the immune system over reacts and attacks its own body system. Other underlying causes for systemic vasculitis include:

  • Bad drug interactoin
  • Neoplasia – abnormal tissue growth, tumor
  • Kidney disease
  • Allergies to food or drugs
  • Joint disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis


Your doctor will begin with the standard fluid analyses, including complete blood count, biochemistry profile, electrolytes, and urinalysis. Any abnormalities that show up in the results of the laboratory tests will depend on the underlying disease or disorder. Your veterinarian may need to conduct various tests to conclusively diagnose the primary disease responsible for the symptoms.

Because this is a disorder of the internal organs, internal visual diagnostics will need to be used to judge the severity of the disorder and to determine a course of action. X-rays will be conducted to diagnose whether heartworm disease is the culprit, and your veterinarian may also take samples of skin tissue in order to diagnose inflammation of blood vessels, and what is present in the tissue to be causing the inflammatory response.

If food or drug allergy is suspected, the first recommendation is usually to discontinue the use of the suspected food or drug and to judge the response. If this is the case, your veterinarian will advise on the appropriate diet to change to for your dog while determining the cause. It is not advisable to make dramatic diet changes without the guidance of a health professional.



The primary goal of therapy is to treat the underlying condition responsible for the inflammation of the blood vessels. In cases of underlying immune-mediated disorder, your veterinarian will prescribe drugs for the suppression of the abnormal immune system response.

Living and Management

You may need to revisit your veterinarian at regular intervals for an evaluation of your dog's response to treatment and so that adjustments can be made as needed. Your veterinarian will probably need to run regular blood tests, especially early on in treatment. It is also critical to administer all of the prescribed drugs, at their prescribed doses and times, for the entirety of the time your doctor has ordered. Even a single missed dose can compromise the progress of the therapy.

While under medical care, your dog will need to be fed a diet based on optimum, well-balanced nutrition. The type of food that is appropriate during this time may be dependent on your dog's age, breed, and overall health status. Make sure to consult with your veterinarian if you have any questions, and stay to the treatment and diet guidelines as closely as possible.

If your dogs need to be treated with drugs to suppress the immune system, you will need to monitor the dog closely for any irregularities, change in health status, or new instances of illness. These types of drugs have the potential for serious side-effects, since the immune system is more vulnerable as a result of the immune suppression. You will need to do as much as possible to protect tour dog from any new infections, and provide for him a healthy diet and a stress-free living environment.

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