Cutaneous vasculitis

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Dermal arteritis in a Rhodesian Ridgeback dog[1]
Secondary cutaneous vasculitis in the tail tip a dog due to Leishmania spp[2]
Secondary cutaneous vasculitis in a dog due to drug reaction[3]

Primary cutaneous vasculitis is a rare immune-mediated disease of blood vessels.

The pathology is a result of peripheral ischemia as a result of vasculitis or vasculopathy.

In dogs, this disease is characterized by an ischemic dermatopathy which manifests as purpura, wheals, edema, plaques, alopecia and scarring of the extremities.

Familial cutaneous vasculopathy has been reported in the German Shepherd, presenting in young puppies as fever, lethargy, footpad swelling and depigmentation, and skin crusting and ulceration[4].

Dermal arteritis, an immune-mediated genetic disease, has been reported as a breed-specific nasal philtrum disease in the Rhodesian Ridgeback, St. Bernard and Giant Schnauzer[5].

Greater than 50% of cases are idiopathic, the remainder induced by such things as endo- and ecto-parasites and vaccine and drug/food reactions[6].

Vaccines-induced vasculitis is not uncommon in association with rabies vaccine. A case of acute febrile neutrophilic vasculitis in a litter of Shar Pei pups, suggestive of an underlying vaccine reaction[7] has been reported.

Clinical signs of primary cutaneous vasculitis include areas of hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation associated with areas of erythematous alopecia, ulceration and scaling, often affecting the ears, but also the paw pads, tail tip and nasal planum.

Diagnosis usually requires histopathological assessment of skin biopsies, although ELISA assays are available for detection of D-dimers associated with intravascular thrombosis[8].

A differential diagnosis of primary immune-mediated vasculitis would include secondary causes of cutaneous vasculitis, including Bartonella spp, Leishmania spp[2], Demodex spp[9], Toxoplasma spp[10], atopy-associated vasculitis[11], pemphigus, lupus erythematosus and sebaceous adenitis.

Treatment is usually successful with topical tacrolimus, although scarring is permanent.

Severe cases may require parenteral treatment with cyclosporine and niacinamide.


  1. The Skin Vet
  2. 2.0 2.1 Torres M et al (2011) Long term follow-up of dogs diagnosed with leishmaniosis (clinical stage II) and treated with meglumine antimoniate and allopurinol. Vet J 188(3):346-351
  3. Vet stuff
  4. Weir JA et al (1994) Familial cutaneous vasculopathy of German shepherds: clinical, genetic and preliminary pathological and immunological studies. Can Vet J 35(12):763-769
  5. Torres SM et al (2002) Dermal arteritis of the nasal philtrum in a Giant Schnauzer and three Saint Bernard dogs. Vet Dermatol '13(5):275-81
  6. Nichols PR et al (2001) A retrospective study of canine and feline cutaneous vasculitis. Vet Dermatol 12(5):255-264
  7. Malik R et al (2002) Acute febrile neutrophilic vasculitis of the skin of young Shar-Pei dogs. Aust Vet J 80(4):200-206
  8. Rosser EJ (2009) Use of the D-dimer assay for diagnosing thrombosis in cases of canine cutaneous vasculitis. Vet Dermatol 20(5-6):586-590
  9. Fondati A et al (1998) Familial cutaneous vasculopathy and demodicosis in a German shepherd dog. J Small Anim Pract 39(3):137-139
  10. Hoffmann AR et al (2012) Cutaneous toxoplasmosis in two dogs. J Vet Diagn Invest 24(3):636-640
  11. Rachofsky MA et al (1989) Probable hypersensitivity vasculitis in a dog. J Am Vet Med Assoc 194(11):1592-1594