Scleroderma in Dogs

Scleroderma in Dogs
June 4, 2019

Scleroderma in Dogs

Scleroderma in dogs is a chronic issue which mainly affects the skin, and won’t go away on its own, and it won’t go away with natural home remedies.

If you suspect that your dog is suffering from Scleroderma, you’ll need to contact your vet as soon as possible. Just because Scleroderma is a lifelong condition, that doesn’t mean that with the correct treatment and care your dog can’t live a long and happy life. 

While Scleroderma mainly affects the skin with dogs, it can also start to affect the intestinal organs such as the lungs and kidneys. The condition is due to the immune system. It is the immune system’s job to produce the protein collagen, which is an important protein in your skin which affects the skin’s elasticity. 

If this hormone is produced in too high quantities your dogs’ skin can start to become tighter and thicker, this can eventually lead to scarring on the skin. But what is more dangerous is when the Scleroderma starts to affect the intestinal organs. If left untreated, the condition could lead to the thickening of blood vessels which means they won’t work the way that they’re supposed to. Ultimately, this can lead to secondary health conditions such as high blood pressure and significant tissue damage. 

There are a few different forms of Scleroderma which include: 

Localised Scleroderma – Morphea type

This is one of the easiest forms of Scleroderma to spot. However, if your dog has a long coat, the early warning signs may go unnoticed. This is why it is incredibly important that you’re vigilant when you are grooming your pet as part of their routine. You’ll need to look out for hard patches on the skin which may be oval or slightly circular shaped. The hard patches will vary in colour, however, the patches will generally start out as purple or red and appear white in the centre. While it isn’t all too likely, this form of Scleroderma can affect both the skin and the intestinal organs. 

Localised Scleroderma – Linear type 

Linear Scleroderma is easy to spot, and it can be incredibly concerning when pet owners first notice it on their animals. In this form, Scleroderma will appear as streaks or lines of thick skin and it can appear pretty much anywhere on your dog’s body. Most commonly, you will see linear type Scleroderma on your dog’s legs, arms or face. 

Systemic Scleroderma – Limited type 

Generally speaking, systemic Scleroderma tends to be much more serious than Localised Scleroderma. This is because the Scleroderma can be simultaneously affecting multiple body systems and body parts. The progression of limited type Scleroderma tends to be very slow, however, the impact to your dog’s health could be detrimental if you let it go untreated. You may see the limited Scleroderma affecting your dogs' feet and face externally. Yet, you won’t be able to spot the damage which is being done to the intestinal organs, lungs, or throat. Limited type systemic Scleroderma may also be referred to as CREST syndrome. Even though this type has the potential to be incredibly serious, the general outlook can be positive. Even if the condition has started to affect the blood pressure and the heart, you can still expect to see positive improvements with the correct treatment. 

Systemic Scleroderma – Diffuse type 

The rate of progression of the diffuse type is extremely rapid – yet, the damage isn’t irreversible as with every other form of this condition. 

The Treatment and Diagnosis of Scleroderma in Dogs

As we mentioned before Scleroderma is an autoimmune issue, many people don’t know the condition exists until their pet suffers from it, however, it is a condition which is much more prevalent in humans than dogs. 

Sadly, there is no cure for Scleroderma, however, there is a range of different treatments which will need to be taken for the duration of your dog’s life. By following the health and lifestyle advice from your vet, your dog’s life expectancy should not diminish. However, this will be largely dependent on which form of Scleroderma your dog has developed and what stage in the autoimmune disease you have caught it at. 

The condition can start to manifest at any time during your dog’s lifetime. However, it will generally occur when the immune system is having a hard time regulating itself, this causes fibrosis of the tissue. Sadly, it is still unknown why this happens. Yet, genes may play a big role in the condition being passed down to pups. Dog owners have previously reported their dogs which were litter mates developing the condition at the same time later in life. So, if your dog does start to suffer from Scleroderma and you are still in contact with the breeder you got them from, asking a few questions won’t hurt. But don’t forget, Scleroderma is still a fairly uncommon disease which many breeders may not even be aware of! 

The first thing which your vet will want to make sure of is that your dog’s Scleroderma doesn’t get any worse. The best way to ensure this is to give your dog medication which will improve their circulation. Other effective medications include ones which significantly reduce the activity of the immune system. This will mean that the excess of collagen stops being produced. 

Other treatments may include steroids to help joint mobility, moisturising lotions to relieve the itchiness of external Scleroderma and any other necessary medication to treat secondary conditions such as high blood pressure. 

Your dog will need to be routinely checked over by your vet to make sure that they are being treated in the best way possible to manage their conditions. In severe conditions, surgery may be required to remove lumps or take the pressure of tightened skin.