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Panniculitis in Dogs… Symptoms, expectations and costs!

Panniculitis in dogs is a relatively uncommon condition.  It appears as bumps along the dog’s head, neck, and back that come and go over time, often bursting to leave a clear fluid to drain.  Now while we must admit that this sounds utterly disgusting to your dog, this condition doesn’t seem to affect them all that much and is often more upsetting to the owners, who need to keep the wounds clean.

Which is why…

As far as we can discern, this condition is more “ugly” and a bit “gross” than anything else, and, apart from the risk of infection in all of those open sores, it is usually reasonably harmless.  It occurs when the blood capillaries under the skin fail to reach the fat layer, thus meaning oxygen isn’t getting into those areas and producing these little lumps…at least, that’s what researchers and medical professionals think that’s what causes it.  But honestly, scientists aren’t apparent and don’t know much about it.

So, what is Panniculitis, and where does it come from?

Erm… nobody knows. As quite a rare condition, only a little research has gone into it. Various vets have tried multiple treatments with varying degrees of success. It is argued that conditions such as pancreatitis may contribute to it – as can medications, inherited DNA (although they’re not sure which DNA), and just sheer dumb luck.

Medically known as…

Sterile Nodular Panniculitis falls into the category of Idiopathic illness… which is an umbrella term scientists use for diseases they don’t understand the method of contraction.  At any rate, Nodular Panniculitis presents itself as numerous lesions on the skin, and what we do know about it is that it creates little nodules in the subcutaneous fat layer (or the Panniculus adiposis, if you want to be correct about things) that will eventually burst like spots.

In some cases…

Infection of the lesions may lead to inflammation and swelling; painful itching is another clinical sign and the rather apparent lumps that will grow from your dog’s head, neck, and body. The dog may also have an accompanying exhaustion or fever when the bubbles appear and an inability to eat much.

But don’t be too alarmed…

As the nodules tend to come and go on their own, you should always get a confirmed diagnosis from your vet to make sure it isn’t anything worse. Lumps and bumps can sometimes be cancerous, so they should always be checked out.  Infectious panniculitis is much less rare than the sterile version but has the same symptoms and treatments. The only difference is that this variant can spread between dogs, so if you have more than one, someone has to go into quarantine… It is also better to keep them away from other animals if infected. It is also caused by the fatty tissues not receiving enough blood and can be brought on by diseases such as Pancreatic disease or Lupus Erythematosus.

The third variation of Canine Panniculitis…

Comes in the form of traumatic panniculitis. This variant has occurred through trauma to the skin’s fatty tissue layer, resulting in subcutaneous nodules growing there. In all three variants, treatment options are the same.  Your vet will likely want to make a diagnosis via skin biopsy. They may also want to check in with your pet every time the disease presents (in the case of Sterile Nodular Panniculitis) to ensure nothing has become infected or changed.

Most Commonly Affected Breeds

Even though we don’t quite know how they inherit it, a few dog breeds seem predisposed towards contracting this condition. The ones that we know of are:

The traumatic and infectious variants may happen to any dog breed. Luckily this disease tends to clear itself up. Unluckily if you have more than one dog in the household, it will likely make its way through them all.

Treatment Options

Your vet will decide what is best for your pet. Surgery might be used to rid your dog of solitary lumps, but other treatment methods are employed for more significant problems. Niacin is one option, Vitamin E supplements another. Since only a little is known about the Sterile version, your vet will likely try a range of medications until they find one that works for your pet.

While this is the best way…

To treat this condition, you will find that the costs of the medications quickly add up. An uninsured owner is likely to leave the pet to it instead of taking up these options but remember how disgusting it is and how high the chance of infection is before you consider taking this path. Infection can lead to sepsis and even death, so don’t take the opportunity and get your fur baby treated!

This brings us to…

Were we like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians, or medical professionals.  We are all a bunch of folks passionate about animals and only want what’s best for them.  This is why if you feel like your pet may have Panniculitis (or any other health issue), you will want to have them checked out by a vet ASAP!


An early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering them, but beyond that, diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!  This is also why we here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now will a pet insurance policy be suitable for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Diane G May 26, 2022, 2:44 pm

    I have a rescue, standard poodle, male, neutered, age almost 7 now. He was diagnosed by a veterinary dermatologist in 2018 just after he turned 3 with Sterile Nodular Panniculitis. I have been giving Vitamin E but do not notice much. I believe he’s had 2 outbreaks before the official diagnosis, both when he was under huge stress. He has VERY tender paws, an insatiable appetite and despite being fed raw at 2% of his body weight continues to gain too much weight. He overheats easily. With all of these issues he’s tough to get to exercise.
    He was on Cyclosporine for 3.5 years. I have taken him off the drug and no outbreaks have occurred in the 3 months.
    I am most concerned about his feet at this this.
    Any suggestions?
    Diane G

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