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Pemphigus in Dogs… Symptoms, expectations and costs!

Pemphigus in dogs is a fairly rare autoimmune disease.

It is a term that is actually used to encapsulate a variety or group of diseases, each of which has a different medical name. Canine Pemphigus Foliaceus is one of the most common of this rare bunch of variants and affects the dogs skin tissues.

Most often characterized by…

Unexplained blisters or lesions on your pup’s skin; it is thought to be a hereditary condition although not much else is known about the origins.

This unfortunate medical condition is…

Considered to be one of those conditions that is difficult to get rid of and that exposes your poor pooch to endless amounts of itching and suffering; this is one of those diseases that emphasize the importance of good medical care for your dog.

Which is why…

We wanted to take a moment and discuss exactly what Pemphigus is so that you as the caring owner will know what to look for and be able to get your pet to a trained professional at the first sign of trouble.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.

What is Pemphigus and what does it do?

As previously mentioned there are four variants of this condition, each of which is considered a hepatocutaneous syndrome (which basically means a skin condition that is so deeply ingrained in your dog it is doing periodic damage that will get worse over time if left untreated). Pemphigus Foliaceus comes on at around 4 years or older. Your dog will lose its appetite and will present with sore skin around its muzzle and paws. It may appear in other areas but these are the most common.

Pemphigus Erythematosus…

Is a variant of pemphigus that usually results from systemic Lupus Erythematosus crossing over with pemphigus foliaceus. All those huge words mean that your dog is more likely to get Pemphigus if they have Lupus.

Pemphigus Vulgaris…

Is the most common type of Pemphigus found in humans, but in our furry friends it is quite rare. This variant occurs when the immune system starts attacking the foliaceus virus because the body has detected that it is painful. When this happens, the disease starts to present as growths under the skin where excess cells are produced to combat the infection. This is known by the scholarly as immune-mediated Thrombocytopenia, just to further confuse us.

The fourth and final variety…

Of this ugly and painful condition is Pemphigus Vegetans. This is similar to the Vulagris type but only occurs in patches of lumps and doesn’t affect the whole body. It is also the easiest variant to wrap your head around.

As an additional…

You may have had the diagnosis of Hailey-Hailey disease. This is a chronic variation of any of the above that is considered passed down through the family. If your dog’s parents has any of the above then there is a high chance your dog will have Hailey-Hailey disease and you should get them checked as well. It may also be dormant and skip a generation, either way, prevention of this disease simply means not breeding affected lines.


Since these conditions are auto-immune diseases, it can be linked closely to other conditions such as immune-mediated Polyarthritis, Sebaceous Adenitis or autoimmune hemolytic anemia. All of these arise as a result of the dog producing too many IGG Autoantibodies, resulting in the poor pooch coming out in blisters and bumps all over.

And remember…

With all types of this disease the blistering and lesions occur as the dog produces antibodies to protect against an infection in the Dermoepidermal junction. It is itchy and incredibly painful the more the dog scratches. Seek treatment immediately so you can at least make your dog comfortable as it endures it.

Affected Breeds

Since this is a familial disease it is assumed to be inherited. Since this is so, we can summarize the majority of the breeds that we know are affected. Please do bear in mind that mixed breed dogs have no guarantees against inheritance of Pemphigus.

Known breeds affected are:

  • The Akita
  • The Bearded Collie
  • The Collie
  • The Doberman Pinscher
  • The German Shepherd Dog
  • The Newfoundland

Treatment Options

There aren’t any cures for the chronic type of this condition and that is mostly how it presents. You can manage the symptoms as best you can with ongoing medications and therapies but your dog is likely to suffer their whole lives, unfortunately.

Your veterinary surgeon…

Will want to verify diagnosis via a skin biopsy. Once done and the variant has been identified specific treatment can begin. Usually using immune-suppressing drugs for long periods of time. Topical creams and steroidal medications might also be employed to your dog’s benefit. However, since each variation responds differently to each medication or treatment; no official method of treating this condition exists. At most your vet will want to tackle the itching and protect the lesions from further infection. Even then, in chronic conditions this will do little against future recurrence.

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 pemphigus (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 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 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.

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