Inflammation of the Skin Blood Vessels in Dogs

By PetMD Editorial on Nov. 12, 2010

Vasculitis Cutaneous in Dogs

Cutaneous vasculitis is inflammation of the blood vessels due to a proliferation of neutrophils, lymphocytes, or, rarely, with eosinophil deposition. Neutrophils, lymphocytes and eosinophils are types of white blood cells that are important components of the immune system.

Dog of any age, gender, and breed may be affected. However, dachshunds, collies, Shetland sheepdogs, German shepherds, and rottweilers are at high risk.

Symptoms and Types

  • Purplish-red spots on the skin
  • Small vesicles filled with watery fluid on the skin
  • Painful areas, especially the paws, ears, lips, tail and oral membranes
  • Edema (fluid swelling) of the legs, which may form pits when pressed with the finger
  • Itchy skin
  • Skin ulcers (in some areas the tissue may be dead)
  • Lack of appetite
  • Depression
  • Elevated body temperature


  • Unknown (idiopathic)
  • Bad drug interaction
  • Bad vaccine interaction
  • Food allergy
  • Abnormal tissue growth, tumor (neoplasia)
  • Tick borne diseases


Your veterinarian will begin by taking the normal fluid samples, followed by samples of the affected tissue for analysis. The results of the laboratory tests, including the complete blood count, biochemistry profile, electrolyte panel, and urinalysis, are usually found to be within normal ranges. Your veterinarian may order more specific tests to rule out any other diseases that are known to cause similar symptoms.

Sample from the upper layers of the skin will need to be taken for laboratory analysis, and your doctor may need to enlist the assistance of a veterinary pathologist to determine if there are true abnormalities. The veterinary pathologist may need to examine several layers of skin to determine the nature and types of changes, such as whether deposition of single or mixed type of white blood cells (WBCs) -- neutrophils, lymphocytes, or eiosinophils -- are gathering in and around the blood vessels.

The pathologist may also observe necrotized (dead) blood vessels, hemorrhages, or edema within the skin layers. In cases with systemic infections underlying this disorder, further laboratory testing may be ordered to isolate the causative infectious organism.


Treating the underlying disease is of prime importance in resolving the symptoms. Antibiotics will be administered if infection is present, and intravenous fluids will be given if your dog is dehydrated. In cases of immune-mediated diseases (in which the body's immune system attacks its own tissues), drugs for suppressing the abnormal immune system response will be given.

Living and Management

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.

Follow-up examinations will be conducted around every two weeks to monitor the progress of therapy and make adjustments as needed. Routine laboratory testing and monitoring the level of immune system suppression is also required for these patients. The doses of drugs being used to suppress the immune system will be reduced if there is too much suppression and the dog is suffering as a result.

The overall prognosis largely depends on the successful treatment of the underlying disease. If the underlying disease cannot be diagnosed and treated, the prognosis is generally not good.

Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Get Instant Vet Help Via Chat or Video. Connect with a Vet. Chewy Health