fbpx skip to Main Content

Cutaneous Vasculitis is a term used to describe the inflammation of the walls of blood vessels as a result of an immune system abnormality. In this factsheet, we go over everything you need to know about Cutaneous Vasculitis, including what causes it, symptoms of the condition, how we diagnose it, and how it is treated.

What is Cutaneous Vasculitis?

Cutaneous Vasculitis is not a disease in its own right, rather it is seen as a reaction pattern in the skin. In cats and dogs, the term is commonly used to refer to a variety of skin conditions that are caused by a fast increase in white blood cells (a key component of the immune system), which results in inflammation to the walls of the small blood vessels of the skin.

In half of cases it is unknown what causes this increase in white blood cells, but in other cases, it can be caused by a wide range of factors, including allergies, drug reactions, genetics, infections, parasites, and abnormal tissue growth.

Which Pets are at Risk of Cutaneous Vasculitis?

For most of the known causes of Cutaneous Vasculitis, development can be random, related to medical conditions, or can be genetic. In these cases, the following dog breeds are at particular risk of developing Cutaneous Vasculitis:

German Shepherd

German Shepherds

st. bernards

St. Bernards

Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russell Terriers



Chinese Shar Pei

Chinese Shar Pei

Causes of Cutaneous Vasculitis

It is often unknown what specifically triggers  Cutaneous Vasculitis in pets, however it is thought to be the result of an abnormal immune system response where there is a rapid increase in white blood cells which results in inflammation to the walls of the small blood vessels of the skin which in turn blocks the blood flow to tissue.

That being said, a specific cause can sometimes be identified, with common causes including:

  • Adverse reactions to drugs, vaccines, and other medications
  • Infection 
  • Abnormal tissue growth
  • Allergies (often food allergies)
  • Parasites and tick borne diseases

Signs of Cutaneous Vasculitis in Pets

The signs of Cutaneous Vasculitis in pets are very similar to range of other skin conditions, therefore it’s important to consult your veterinarian and gain a diagnosis as soon as you notice the following signs:

Red spots and bruising on the skin

Small blisters on the skin filled with watery fluid

Skin ulcers

Itchy skin

Painful areas (specifically the paws, ears, lips, tail, and inside the mouth)

Reduced appetite


Increased temperature

Hair loss

Scaling and scarring

Black-heads on the skin

Cutaneous Vasculitis Diagnosis 

Vets will often be able to suspect Cutaneous Vasculitis based on an animal’s medical history and a thorough examination, however a formal diagnosis can only be obtained with a skin biopsy taken from carefully selected areas of the skin. Pathologies can sometimes have difficulty in reaching a diagnosis with Cutaneous Vasculitis as the characteristic signs of the condition can be very subtle, therefore it is imperative that vets select these biopsy site(s) carefully. 

Cutaneous Vasculitis Treatment Options

Once diagnosed, it’s helpful for treatment and management purposes if the underlying cause is identified and corrected. However, this is sometimes not enough to correct the abnormal immune system response and medication may be required to reduce this response. 

In cases where a cause cannot be identified, life-long medication will be required to control the condition. However, the severity of the condition and its symptoms will determine which drugs are prescribed; in milder cases anti-inflammatories may be recommended, but in more severe cases , stronger immunosuppressant  drugs may be required to get a handle on the condition. 

That being said, the prognosis for Cutaneous Vasculitis is typically very good once causes have been corrected, or once medication has started to control the condition.

Veterinary Dermatology at Knutsford Vets

At Knutsford Vets, we offer a range of veterinary dermatology services for cats, dogs, rabbits, and other small animals. If you think that your pet might be developing signs of Cutaneous Vasculitis, or are generally worried about their skin, get in touch with us today to arrange a consultation.

Back To Top