Pemphigus foliaceus is an autoimmune disorder that causes the dog's immune system to manufacture antibodies against a compound naturally found in the skin called desmoglein I. The results are multiple pus-filled blisters that form all over the dog's body, accompanied by fever and lack of appetite.
Pemphigus foliaceus can develop spontaneously, without a discernible cause, or may be triggered by medication reactions or progressive long-term skin problems.
Certain breeds are predisposed to developing pemphigus foliaceus, including Doberman pinschers, Akitas, chow chows, bearded collies, dachshunds, Finnish spitz and Newfoundland dogs.
A vet diagnoses pemphigus foliaceus by taking a skin biopsy from an affected area. Your dog will receive a local anesthetic so the vet can remove a section of the skin without hurting the dog.
Treatment for pemphigus foliaceus concentrates on immune-suppression, to quiet the immune system's attack against the body. Corticosteroids, like prednisone, are commonly used for this purpose. Side effects of steroids include excessive thirst and hunger, weight gain, heavy panting and excessive urination, sometimes accompanied by incontinence.
Prognosis is usually good, and recovery is possible over time. According to the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, up to 60 percent of dogs with pemphigus foliaceus face euthanasia due to the cost and inconvenience of treatment.
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