Case of the Month – Feline Pemphigus

History
There are ulcerated lesions starting on ear margins, later involving lip margins and periocular area as well as neck. Pruritus started after ulcerated lesions appeared. Skin scraping – neg., DTM – neg., Cytology – PMN’s and bacteria, C&S – pending, Dermohistopathology – pending, Bloodwork – normal. She is an outside cat, in a multicat household with no other pets involved. There are no external parasites, owner is not pruritic, no change in diet, on commercial pet food. Gave depo-medrol injection 10 days prior to biopsy. Expect biopsy results in 7 days.

Clinical Consultation
This consultation is based on our phone consultation, submitted history and clinical photos. Thank you for the clinical photos which were helpful. I agree with your suspicion that immune-mediated disease is most likely. Differential diagnoses would include: Erythema multiforme (drug-induced, paraneoplastic, idiopathic) and pemphigus foliaceus (drug-induced, paraneoplastic are possible causes). Lupus erythematosus less commonly occurs in cats so is considered less likely. A cutaneous drug reaction also appears less likely in this case given the cat’s lack of drug history (no medications were being administered prior to the onset of skin disease). Although severe allergic dermatitis can sometimes mimic immune-mediated disease in the cat, the severity of the clinical presentation also makes this less likely. I would also make sure to closely examine mucosal surfaces (perianal, oral)- mucosal surfaces are involved it could indicate vesicular auto-immune disease (pemphigus vulgaris, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, epidermolysis bullosa acquisita). Immunosuppressive therapy will likely be required to control this disease process. Pending skin biopsies, I would recommend starting this cat on immunosuppressive doses of glucocorticoids (typically 2-3 mg/kg of Prednisolone [over prednisone] divided BID). I start to taper after there has been 75-80% improvement (often within 2 weeks). New lesions should not be developing & older lesions regressing. I would not recommend adding in an additional immunomodulatory agent at this time until after the biopsy results have been reviewed.

Additional follow-up is requested on this case: biopsy report, response to initial therapeutic recommendations, etc. Addendum comments and additional therapeutic recommendations can be made at that time.

Addendum
Per our phone conversation, the dermatopathology report is consistent with feline pemphigus foliaceus. Pemphigus foliaceus (PF) is a cutaneous auto-immune disease which most commonly occurs in middle aged to older cats. Another consideration would be paraneoplastic pemphigus; I would be suspicious of this if the skin lesions are not responding to appropriate therapy (this is typically more difficult to treat). Treatment for PF is often life-long, however some cats will go into extended periods of remission (without maintenance medications). Immunosuppressive therapy is required to control this disease. I recommend immunosuppressive doses of glucocorticoids (typically 2.2 mg/kg of Prednisolone [over prednisone] divided BID). I start to taper after there has been 75-80% improvement (often within 2 weeks). New lesions should not be developing & older lesions regressing. I often recommend a second immunosuppressive agent to control the disease and allow for lower doses of glucocorticoids to be used. Options include Chlorambucil or Atopica (Cyclosporine). Most commonly chlorambucil (0.1-0.2 mg/kg qd-qod) is used; tapered further over time. Monitor for myelosuppression. Obtain a baseline CBC, Chemistry profile & UA prior to initiating therapy. Recheck CBC values every 2 weeks for the first 6-8 weeks; then every 3-6 months. Although PF is often responsive to therapy, it can be a difficult auto-immune disease to manage. If remission is not initially achievable, I recommend referral to a veterinary dermatologist if possible.

Please contact me if this report is inconsistent with your clinical findings or you have additional questions. Please contact me at PetRays phone number listed below.

Terri Bonenberger, DVM
Diplomate, American College Veterinary Dermatology

3 week Update
The ulcerated lesions have healed and scabs have fallen off. The cat is doing very well.

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  1. Bill Rollins D.V.M.
    May 2, 2009 at 3:00 am

    Excellent case work-up. Loved it !!

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