Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content



What is pemphigus?

Pemphigus, sometimes called “Collie nose,” is a group of autoimmune skin diseases featuring ulcers and crusting of the skin.  Some forms may also affect the gums.  Pemphigus can be secondary to other autoimmune diseases.  The disease causes skin cells to separate and break down.  It has four forms:

  • Foliaceus, in the outermost layer of the skin
  • Erythematosus, the most common form, is similar to folliculitis but less severe
  • Vulgaris, the most severe form, affects deep skin tissue
  • Vegetans, the most rare and found only in dogs, also affects deep skin tissue but is not as virulent as vulgaris.

How do I know if my dog has pemphigus?

Pemphigus symptoms vary between types and are not necessarily specific to the disease.  Dogs may have localized areas of itchy or painful irritated skin, pustules, cysts, skin ulcers, swollen lymph nodes, lethargy, fever, and/or loss of pigment around the lips.  Any area of the body, including the mouth, may be involved.  Because symptoms are not specific testing may be done to rule-out other more-common diseases.  Definitive diagnosis is made by microscopic exam of a tissue sample.

What does having pemphigus mean for my dog?

Lesions can become generalized, spreading across the body.  There may be secondary bacterial infection.  Pemphigus can’t be cured and will require ongoing treatment and regular veterinary check-ups.  Treatment is anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive medication.

How common is pemphigus in Aussies?  

It is rare.  However, it is important to keep in mind that breeders should approach all chronic autoimmune disease as a single health concern; different types of autoimmune disease frequently occur in affected families.

Is pemphigus inherited?

Yes.  All autoimmune diseases are genetically predisposed:  The dog must have the genes to get the disease, but not every dog with the genes will become ill.

Is there a screening test for pemphigus?

Not at this time.

What does pemphigus mean for my breeding program?

Breeders should approach each autoimmune disease as part of an overall health and breeding issue because different autoimmune diseases frequently occur in an affected family.  See Autoimmune Disease & Breeding.