Dogs affected by the skin disorder known as panniculitis might have more going on than dermatological problems. According to a study conducted by researchers at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, panniculitis "is a cutaneous marker of systemic disease." While panniculitis refers to inflammation of the dog's subcutaneous fat tissue, it comes in infectious and sterile forms.
Panniculitis appears as one or more nodules on the dog's skin, usually on the abdomen, chest or head. These bumps might or might not cause the animal pain. Eventually they open up, releasing fluid. This fluid might be clear, bloody or yellowish, but it has an oily quality. The infectious form results from bacteria getting under the skin. The sterile form doesn't contain an infectious agent. Among the breeds most often affected by this relatively rare disorder are the dachshund, Weimaraner, German shepherd, poodle and collie.
Your dog might develop sterile nodular panniculitis as a reaction to vaccination, or from an immune-related illness, vitamin E deficiency or even cancer. Dogs diagnosed with pancreatitis, inflammation of the pancreas, are at added risk of developing panniculitis. In the majority of cases, panniculitis is idiopathic. That means there's no known cause, along with no known means of prevention.
Besides the bumps, dogs suffering from panniculitis might experience fever, appetite loss, vomiting, lethargy and depression. The nodules might be firm or soft, well defined or movable. Dogs with a history of other dermatological problems are more likely to develop panniculitis.
Panniculitis might resemble a cyst, skin cancer or pyoderma, a bacterial infection. That's why it's important for your vet to perform a biopsy of the bump, along with a tissue culture. In addition to conducting a physical examination, your vet will ask you about your dog's diet, as well as any over-the-counter medications or supplements you give your pet.
If your dog has only one or two nodules, your vet can surgically remove them. Multiple nodules all over the body are a different story. Some nodules respond to vitamin E supplementation, as recommended by a vet. Your vet might also prescribe topical or oral steroids, which might require long-term or even lifelong administration to prevent nodules from forming.