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Nodular Panniculitis

by Lori Hehn - Jan 22, 2014 1:59:00 AM
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What is Panniculitis?

Panniculitis is a rare disease in which the fat layer beneath the dermis becomes inflamed. It can be caused by an infection with bacteria, fungi or other organisms, but it is more commonly a sterile nodular panniculitis (the descriptive term for an inflammation of the fat cells that does not involve an infectious agent). It is usually an idiopathic disease, meaning we don't know what causes it. In some cases there may be a trigger such as a vaccine, trauma, Vitamin E deficiency, a drug reaction, or systemic autoimmune or infectious disease.

The inflammation in the fat layer causes bumps on the skin that can be soft or firm. The nodules can rupture and release a discharge that may resemble an abscess and be bloody or yellowish in color. These nodules are sometimes painful and most often appear around the head, neck, or abdominal region. Treatment involves corticosteroids, and in some cases antibiotics. It is helpful to culture these lesions to rule out the infectious agents as discussed above. Vitamin E has been shown to be helpful in this condition. In chronic cases, cyclosporine may be the best option for control. In single lesion cases, surgical excision may be warranted.


Skin biopsies and culture are the two keys to diagnosis. It is important to closely evaluate the pet's history, such as recent drug administration, vaccines, or other concurrent illness like pancreatitis or autoimmune disease.


Dachshunds and German Shepherds seem to be predisposed, however, this condition can occur in any breed.

About Lori Hehn

Lori Hehn is a practicing veterinarian and a contributor and content manager with XPrep Learning Solutions. She has a drive for continual learning and enjoys interacting with veterinary and vet tech students. She also writes veterinary learning books for children.

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