Both humans and canines may be genetically predisposed to develop similar diseases. One of these diseases that may even sound familiar to you is lymphedema. We have all heard that we have lymph glands that are important for our bodies to function as a healthy unit. The German Shorthaired Pointer also has lymph glands. Lymph is a clear fluid that is taken from the tissues of the body and the space between the tissues. Typically, lymph is filled with protein and is returned to the blood through the lymph glands. However, it sometimes occurs that there is excess of fluid between the body tissues which results in swelling (edema), and the result is referred to as “lymphedema.” The question that arises is “what causes lymphedema?”
The fluids apparently build up because there is some type of abnormal interference with the routine lymph flow. When lymphedema occurs it can be either primary (inherited) or secondary lymphedema. If a German Shorthaired Pointer has primary lymphedema is inherited and, with this type, the lymph vessels are abnormal or possibly absent. When the breed develops the secondary type of this disease, the lymph vessels are likely to be blocked by a number of things including tumors, and inflammation. Because the German Shorthaired Pointer has the genetic predisposition for primary lymphedema, there may be swelling noticed at birth or shortly thereafter.
It should be mentioned that, in both primary and secondary lymphedema, the swelling is likely to be observed in the areas of the hind legs, ears, midsection and even the front legs. Any time the skin is stretched with swelling, the chance of developing a bacterial infection increases and longer healing time from any injury may be present. The dog won’t look too bad, can be otherwise healthy, but might have sort of spongy feel when touched.
When, and if your German Shorthaired Pointer seems to have swelling, it is wise to take the dog to the veterinarian for evaluation. It may be helpful to know that swelling from lymphedema may start in the dog’s feet and travel to the body. You may notice that your dog seems to be in pain and perhaps have difficulty moving. Lymphedema is a serious condition which can result in infections under the skin. The lymph vessels can also become infected. The vet will do a thorough examination, blood work, skin biopsy. There is also a test called lymphangiography in which a dye is injected and x rays are taken. The treatment for lymphedema ranges from none to drugs to surgery depending on the severity of the disease.