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Fatty Layer or Nodule Under the Skin in Dogs

Panniculitis in Dogs

Panniculitis in dogs refers to inflammation occurring in the layer of fat tissue just beneath their skin. This condition is characterized by the concentration of fatty tissue in the trunk area, presenting as singular or multiple nodules. In some cases, secondary infections can lead to the death of fat cells within these nodules.

Panniculitis can affect dogs of any age, sex, or breed, although certain breeds such as dachshunds, collies, and miniature poodles are more susceptible to it.

Symptoms and Types

Typically, most dogs exhibit a solitary nodular lesion on their trunk, varying in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters in diameter. The nodule, which can be either firm or soft, remains freely movable beneath the skin until it reaches its full size. In some instances, there may be a discharge from the nodule, ranging from yellow-brown to bloody, and the surrounding skin might undergo color changes, appearing red, brown, or yellow. The affected area can be highly sensitive, particularly in the immediate aftermath of rupturing. Following ulcer healing, a scar or a crusty layer of skin may develop. Dogs with multiple lesions might also display systemic signs such as a loss of appetite (anorexia), lethargy, and depression.

Causes

Panniculitis can arise from various factors, which may include:

  • Trauma
  • Infections (bacterial, fungal, etc.)
  • Immune-mediated conditions (such as lupus panniculitis, erythema nodosum)
  • Recent subcutaneous injections (such as corticosteroids, vaccines)
  • Neoplastic diseases (like multicentric mast cell tumors, cutaneous lymphosarcoma)

Diagnosis

To assist your veterinarian in diagnosing your dog’s condition, provide a comprehensive history of its health, including details about when the symptoms began and their characteristics. The veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination and may request a biochemistry profile. However, apart from the presence of a mass or nodule beneath the skin, most dogs typically do not exhibit other complications.

Depending on the suspected cause, additional diagnostic procedures may be necessary to rule out other diseases or conditions. For instance, an increase in the number of white blood cells on a complete blood count (CBC) often indicates an infection and helps the veterinarian assess the type, duration, and severity of the infection. Your veterinarian may also extract a sample directly from the nodule and forward it to a pathologist for culture and sensitivity testing, aiding in the identification of the causative organism (bacteria, fungi) and determining the appropriate treatment approach.

Treatment

Surgery is often the preferred treatment method, especially when dealing with a single nodule. However, in instances of multiple nodules, a combination of surgery and medication is typically effective. For example, if fungal or bacterial infections are identified, antifungal and antibacterial medications will be prescribed accordingly.

In cases where no causative organism is detected, known as a sterile nodule, your veterinarian may recommend steroid therapy to facilitate the regression of the nodule. Additionally, in mild cases, Vitamin E supplementation can be beneficial.

Living and Management

The overall prognosis for dogs with panniculitis is generally positive following treatment. In many cases, it may take three to six weeks for the nodules to fully regress. Your veterinarian will request regular follow-up examinations to monitor the treatment’s progress, particularly if steroids are being administered to regress the nodules. During these follow-up visits, routine laboratory tests will be conducted to assess the dog’s response to treatment.

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