We’re having an absolutely fascinating discussion on the canine repro list I belong to, and I thought it was important enough to pass along. When a bunch of breeders all start telling stories, it’s very cool what they figure out.
There’s a very scary-sounding disease called “puppy strangles” (named after a horse disease that causes the horse to wheeze and sound strangled, hence the name) that affects puppies right around the time of weaning. It’s one of the disorders that are a sign of an immune issue, like mange and puppy pimples. Puppy strangles is a massive inflammation of the lymph nodes in the neck, and the face can swell dramatically too. Puppies will get a huge lump under the chin and will get cracked and oozing sores along the jaw and lips and eye rims.
Genuine puppy strangles is treated like you’d treat a huge allergic reaction – antibiotics do nothing. You have to hit them with daily prednisone and it can take months on pred for the puppy to heal. Once they get over it, they’re usually fine for life and none of the people on the list that had seen genuine strangles (thankfully, I am not one of them) saw it affect the dog later in life. They had all placed those puppies as pets once the ordeal of treatment was over, but there was no consensus on whether these dogs “should” be spayed/neutered. It just tended to always happen because the puppy had been so sick that the breeder automatically took him or her out of the show hunt.
Fortunately, true puppy strangles is very rare.
The discovery we’re all making:
What is NOT particularly rare is what a lot of vets and breeders call “strangles.” The puppy, who can be as young as just a couple of weeks old, gets a sudden fever, swollen glands, and a high white blood cell count. However -and this is key – this illness responds immediately and easily to antibiotics. True strangles isn’t touched by antibiotics.
We’re all guessing that there’s an epidemic of misnaming as “strangles” some kind of strep or staph infection that causes lymph nodes to swell.
Puppies ALSO get skin staph that doesn’t require any treatment – these cause the puppy pimples that are so common in the giant breeds.
What is starting to sound like a good idea:
If you have a puppy of any age that suddenly has very swollen glands and a fever, try antibiotics first EVEN IF the vet says “strangles.” If it’s not a bacteria, you’ll know soon because antibiotics won’t help.
If you have a puppy that supposedly has a bacterial infection but antibiotics aren’t working and you see the face start to swell, suspect puppy strangles and switch the antibiotic for prednisone. If it works, you may need to use prednisone for weeks or even a couple of months until the puppy’s immune system stops going nuts.
REAL STRANGLES (from Marvistavet)
PUPPY SKIN STAPH (my pic) – see the dry white bumps on the muzzle and top of the nose?
NAMELESS COMMON PUPPY INFECTION
Yes, that’s sweet Maizey (“Hermione” from Bronte’s litter), who was lethargic and was running a fever and whose vet called it strangles (and yet prescribed antibiotics).
Clavamox cleared her up in a matter of 48 hours, so it most definitely was not strangles.