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Inflammation of the Superficial Veins in Dogs

Phlebitis in Dogs

Phlebitis in Dogs refers to the inflammation of superficial veins, those close to the body’s surface. This condition typically arises from either an infection or thrombosis, the formation of a clot within a blood vessel, which can impede blood flow.

The most common form of phlebitis in dogs is superficial venous thrombophlebitis, which manifests as localized inflammation in one area. On the other hand, deep tissue thrombophlebitis is associated with signs of sepsis, a bacterial infection resulting from harmful organisms and their toxins in the bloodstream or tissues. This type of phlebitis may also lead to deep tissue thromboembolism, where a clot formed in one part of the body dislodges and travels to another blood vessel, causing blockage. Both dogs and cats can experience phlebitis.

Symptoms and Types

Phlebitis typically presents with localized inflammation, marked by warmth, swelling, pain, hardened vessels, or redness of the skin (known as erythema). The presence of at least two of these signs indicates local inflammation. Additionally, drainage or fever may occur, as they are both indicative of the body’s response to such infections.


There isn’t a specific age, breed, or gender of dog known to be more susceptible to phlebitis. However, very young or elderly dogs may face increased risk due to less developed or poorly functioning immune systems.

Several factors contribute to the development of phlebitis, including obesity, limited mobility, poor vein quality, chronic heart or kidney disease, pregnancy, and immunodeficiency disorders where the immune system functions inadequately.

The primary cause of phlebitis is the use of intravenous (IV) catheters. Poor quality or care of catheters can lead to bacterial colonization, resulting in infection in the dog. Catheters are commonly employed during surgery or in emergency scenarios for treating trauma victims.


Several diagnostic procedures are essential for accurately diagnosing phlebitis. The Doppler test is a cost-effective method for assessing blood flow in the dog’s veins, which can detect any abnormalities or blockages in circulation. Blood cultures may also reveal indicators of systemic inflammation. Other diagnostic approaches may involve x-ray imaging and urine analysis.


If infection is suspected, antibiotic therapy is typically the primary course of treatment. The choice of antibiotic prescribed for your dog will depend on the site of the infection and potential pathogens involved (if culture results are unavailable). Supplementary medications may also be administered to alleviate any discomfort and manage associated symptoms, aiming to improve your dog’s overall comfort.

Living and Management

Following the initial treatment, antibiotic therapy should be tailored according to the results of follow-up culture tests. It’s important to avoid using certain veins, referred to as phlebotic veins, for IV therapy or blood collection until your dog has fully recovered. Even with appropriate antibiotic treatment, it may take up to three weeks for the most severe cases to resolve completely. Regular monitoring and adherence to treatment protocols are crucial for ensuring your dog’s recovery and well-being.


Given that poor quality catheters or inadequate catheter care are the primary causes of phlebitis, focusing on this area is paramount for prevention. Regular cleaning of any IV catheter sites with antimicrobial agents and application of antimicrobial ointment can help prevent bacterial infections that may lead to phlebitis. It’s essential to use sterile dressings and replace catheters within 24 hours, particularly if they were inserted during emergency situations. The use of longer catheters may also reduce the occurrence of phlebitis.

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