Like many canine illnesses, pemphigus foliaceus is a skin disease caused by an unknown source. However, some blame the disease on drug interactions. Other causes of the disease include exposure to ultraviolet light and lower immune resistance due to other long term skin illnesses. Some dogs will get this disease suddenly and without warning. Genetics also is responsible for pemphius foliaceus. Nutrition, diet, and environmental factors, and infection also affect if a dog will get this skin disease.
The disease affects mainly two dog breeds, akitas and chows. However, other breeds less likely to get the disease are collies, Newfoundlands, and dachshunds. Mid-aged dogs are more at risk for the disease than younger dogs. However, this disease is not respecter of age; any dog can get it.
Dogs that live in warmer areas have a higher incidence of the disease than those in the cooler areas. The disease appears on the face usually around the ears, nose and mouth as pimples that get bigger and break, making sores. In some cases, the whole nose loses its hair and does not grow back, and the skin reddens and blisters.
The cause starts at the cellular level where skin cells grow and develop. Keratinocytes make up the skin structure. Desmosomes glue the keratinocytes together. When anything disrupts the desmonosomes from the keratinocytes, acantholysis occurs. Drugs can cause this ungluing to occur as well, resulting in the pimple-infested skin of the animals.
Pemphius includes three types; the other two are more severe types of the skin disease than foliaceus. The others have different symptoms that affect other parts of the body. Cats and horses can get this disease in any of the three forms.
Though foliaceus is the mildest disease, it can result in the death of the dog. The treatments to control the spread of the disease cost more than most people can afford. They include an antibiotic and a topical ointment. Any dog showing the pimple-infested skin should see a vet and have a biopsy done to determine whether pemphius foliaceus is present. One week before having a biopsy, the dog should stop take any glucocorticoids. The biopsy will reveal if those are in the dog's body. Some other skin diseases resemble it, like fungus and bacterial infections.
Frustration runs high among dog owners whose dogs have this disease, because the disease will increase, then decrease, then increase again without warning. Flares are common and vets do not guarantee remission to any of their patients.