Bullous pemphigoid

What is ... ?: 

 This rare condition is an autoimmune disorder, meaning an abnormal immune response to a normal component of the body - in this case a protein in the skin. This results in blisters and ulcers in the skin and/or mouth. The disease is often severe, depending on how widespread are the affected areas.

This condition is very similar to bullous pemphigoid in people.

How is ... inherited?: 

Inheritance is unknown.

What does ... mean to your dog & you?: 

 The blisters that occur with this condition are very short-lived, so you and your veterinarian are more likely to see ulcers. These lesions are found in the mouth and skin, particularly  in the underarm and groin area. There may also be ulcerated areas around the nails or footpads. Your dog's skin may be itchy or painful, and it is common to develop a secondary bacterial infection (pyoderma). Dogs that are severely affected may lose their appetites, run a fever, or become depressed.

How is ... diagnosed?: 

 Your veterinarian will diagnose this condition based on physical examination of your dog, the history you provide, a skin biopsy, and immune testing. Other autoimmune or ulcerative skin disorders must be ruled out.

How is ... treated?: 

 Mild cases can be treated with steroid creams or relatively low doses of glucocorticoids by mouth. More severe cases usually require a combination of medications, including high doses of glucocorticoids, to suppress the inappropriate immune response.  These drugs usually must be given for prolonged periods, possibly for life.  Your veterinarian will discuss with you potentially serious side effects of which you should be aware.

Because exposure to ultraviolet light can make the condition worse, it is wise to keep your dog out of direct sunlight from 10:00 to 3:00.

For the veterinarian: 

 Cases with severe, widespread lesions are clinically indistinguishable from pemphigus vulgaris. Intact vesicles or bullae are suggestive of bullous pemphigoid.

Breeding advice: 

 Although the inheritance of this condition is unknown, it is preferable not to breed affected dogs.



 Scott, D.W., Miller, W.H., Griffin, C.E. 1995. Immunologic Skin Diseases. In Muller and Kirk's Small Animal Dermatology. pp. 500-518. W.B. Saunders Co., Toronto.

What breeds are affected by ... ?