As with all other breeds of dog, the German Shorthaired Pointer is susceptible to a handful of genetic disorders, some more serious than others. One of these disorders is called Lymphedema. Lymph is a clear fluid that is gathered from the tissues and the spaces between the tissues of the body, to be dumped back into the blood using specialized vessels called lymph vessels. Edema, on the other hand, refers to swelling due to the presence of excess fluid within and between the tissues of the body. So the condition lymphedema involves the excessive accumulation of the protein-rich lymphatic fluid, which causes tissue swelling.
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In lymphedema, lymph fluids accumulate because the flow of lymph is somehow impeded and abnormal. There are essentially two types of lymphedema: primary, or inherited, lymphedema and secondary lymphedema. The former, the inherited version, is seen in dogs whose lymph vessels and other lymph structures have developed abnormally, or are actually absent, while secondary lymphedema involves the blockage of lymph vessels or structures by factors such as inflammation, tumors, or other things; primary lymphedema can be present at birth or may show up a few months after birth. German Shorthaired Pointers suffer from primary lymphedema and so they are genetically predisposed to swelling due to abnormal lymphatic structures. Both types of lymphedemas most often affect the hind legs, though the tail, ears, abdomen, and front legs can also be involved. A dog suffering from this condition can be generally healthy, though swollen skin is much more susceptible to bacterial infection and there could be a delay in healing after some major injury. The skin will look normal, but upon touch it will feel thick and spongy; when pressed, swollen skin will often show indentations of fingers.
If you think your dog may be swelling due to the presence of lymphedema, it is recommended that you take him to the veterinarian; often, swelling will start at the feet and progress towards the body and your dog may experience pain and the inability to move. The condition can cause serious infections, including a localized infection under the skin and infection of the lymphatic vessels themselves; in certain instances, there can be severe thickening of the skin, leakage of lymph fluid and tissue hardening. Your vet will give the dog a thorough physical exam, perform various laboratory tests and also do a skin biopsy. If warranted, your vet may also suggest performing a lymphangiography, in which a dye is injected into the lymph vessels and X-rays are taken to detect any problems. If your dog has a mild case of lymphedema, no treatment may be given, while more serious cases may be treated with bandaging, warm water massages (good for mild cases as well), antibiotics, drugs that reduce swelling, and/or reconstructive surgery.
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