Inflammation of the Skin Blood Vessels in Dogs

Cutaneous vasculitis is the inflammation of the blood vessels, that typically affects the skin. Vasculitis is a general term that describes inflammation of a blood vessel or vessels. Blood vessels include the huge network of arteries and veins that deliver blood from the heart to all of the organs and tissues throughout the body and then return the blood back to the heart. Vasculitis occurs due to proliferation of white blood cells. It can be neutrophilic (leukoclastic/non-leukoclastic), lymphocytic, eosinophilic, granulomatous or mixed cell type. 

Inflammation caused by vasculitis can affect lining of the blood vessels or its walls, causing the vessel to become thickened, weakend, narrowed, or scarred. The damaged vessel may not function normally, which can affect blood flow to the tissues that the vessel normally serves. Damaged blood vessels can lead to decreased blood flow, partial or complete organ failure due to lack of blood flow, or bleeding into the skin or other part of the body due to rupture of the blood vessel wall. This damage is sometimes permanent.

The condition can occur in any dog but certain breeds are at a higher risk of this condition. These include dachshunds, collies, Shetland sheepdogs, German shepherds, and rottweilers.

Common symptoms associated with cutaneous vasculitis include

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


Elevated body temperature

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