Lymphedema, which may be primary (idiopathic) or secondary, is a clinical symptom rather than a disease per se and is usually caused by a blockage of peripheral lymphatic ducts of the limbs.
This condition may occur as a congenital disease due to developmental abnormalities and is characterized by soft, non painful edema of one or more extremities. Generally the disorder is recognized by the breeder between birth and 12 weeks of age.
Affected dogs present with visible swelling of limbs and pitting edema which may be localized to the limbs or involve the ventral trunk as well.
Diagnosis is usually based on presenting clinical signs and hematological analysis to determine a cause of this clinical symptom.
Primary lymphedema can appear histopathologically either as lymphatic hypoplasia or lymphatic hyperplasia and dilatation. While mild extravasation of erythrocytes can be a feature of primary lymphedema, marked purpura associated with edema is more commonly described in association with vasculitis syndromes.
Secondary lymphedema has also been reported due to hematological disturbances associated with lymphangiosarcoma, chylothorax, following mastectomy after removal of mammary tumors and thoracic duct ligation, as well as infections with the parasite Brugia pahangi.
Omental transfer treatments have been effective in dogs with lymphedema due to thoracic duct obstructions and prednisolone has shown to be effective in remedial therapy of this condition in dogs with other causes.
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