Skin Disease, Autoimmune (Pemphigus) in Dogs

Pemphigus is Latin for "Blistering Skin" and is used to describe a group of autoimmune skin diseases involving ulceration and crusting of the skin, as well as the formation of fluid-filled sacs and cysts (vesicles), and pus filled lesions (pustules). Some types of pemphigus can also affect the skin tissue of the gums

An autoimmune disease is a condition in which autoantibodies are produced by immune system but they act against the body's healthy cells and tissues. In effect, the body is attacking itself. The hallmark sign of pemphigus is a condition called acantholysis, where the skin cells separate and break down because of tissue-bound antibody deposits in the space between cells.

Pemphigus disorder can be divided into four types.

1) Pemphigus foliaceus: the autoantibodies are deposited in the outermost layers of the epidermis, and blisters form on otherwise healthy skin. 

2) Pemphigus erythematosus: more common and similar to pemphigus foliaceus but less afflictive.

3) Pemphigus vulgaris: It has deeper and more sever ulcers because autoantibodies deposite deep in the skin.

4) Pemphigus vegetans: the rarest form of pemphigus with milder ulcers

Symptoms are common as well as specific in all four forms. They are


Scales, crust, pustules, shallow ulcers, redness, and itching of the skin

Footpad overgrowth and cracking

Fluid-filled sacs/cysts in the skin (or vesicles)

The head, ears, and footpads are the most commonly affected; this often becomes generalized over the body

Gums and lips may be affected

Swollen lymph nodes, generalized swelling, depression, fever, and lameness (if footpads are involved); however, patients often are in good health otherwise

Variable pain and itchy skin

Secondary bacterial infection is possible because of cracked or ulcerated skin


Mainly the same as for pemphigus foliaceus

Lesions are usually confined to the head, face, and footpads

Loss of color in lips is more common than with other pemphigus forms


The most serious of the pemphigus types

More severe than pemphigus foliaceus and erythematosus



Anorexia may occur if the animal has mouth ulcers

Ulcers, both shallow and deep, blisters, crusted skin

Affects gums, lips, and skin; may become generalized over the body

The underarm and groin areas are often involved

Itchy skin and pain

Secondary bacterial infections are common


Pustule groups join to form larger patches of oozing lesions

Mouth is not usually affected

Few symptoms of general illness (fever, depression, etc.)

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