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Panniculitis in Dogs… Symptoms, expectations and costs!

Panniculitis in dogs is a relatively uncommon condition.

It appears as pustules along the dog’s head, neck and back that come and go over time, often bursting to leave a clear fluid to drain.


While we must admit that this sounds completely 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.


To be completely honest, scientists aren’t very clear on this one and don’t really know very much about it.

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

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

Medically known as…

Sterile Nodular Panniculitis this condition is falls into the category of Idiopathic illness… which is an umbrella term scientist use for diseases that they don’t understand the method of contraction for.

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 adiposus, 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, as well as the rather obvious lumps that will grow from your dog’s head, neck and body. The dog may also have an accompanying exhaustion or fever when the lumps appear as well as an inability to eat much.

But don’t be alarmed…

As the nodules tend to come and go on their own… that being said you should always get a confirmed diagnosis from your vet to make sure it isn’t anything worse. As we know, lumps and bumps can sometimes be cancerous so they should always be checked out.


Infectious panniculitis is a lot 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 they are infected. It is also caused by the fatty tissues not receiving enough blood and can also 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 some kind of trauma to the fatty tissue layer of the skin 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 itself (in the case of Sterile Nodular Panniculitis) to ensure nothing has become infected or changed.

Affected Breeds

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

Keep in mind that the traumatic variant and the infectious variant may happen to any breed of dog at any time. 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. It is possible that surgery might be used to rid your dog of solitary lumps but for larger problems other treatment methods are employed. Niacin is one option, Vitamin E supplements another. Since not much is known about the Sterile version your vet is likely to 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 chance and get your fur baby treated!

Which brings us to…

Were we like to remind folks that we here at IndulgeYourPet are not doctors, veterinarians or medical professionals.  All we are is a bunch of folks who just happen to be 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 for that matter) the first thing that you’re going to want to do is have him or her check out by a vet ASAP!


The truth is, an early diagnosis will often lead to the “best” medical outcome for your pet regardless of what is bothering him or her, but beyond that diagnosing a medical condition early could save you a bundle in medical costs!

This is 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 right 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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