Those Irritating Hot Spots

hot spot

Hot spots are double irritating. First, they are irritating to your dog because he has an itchy sore on his skin. Second, they are irritating to you because not only do you feel bad for your dog, but you also have to make a trip to your veterinarian’s office because your itchy, scratchy pup has made his skin look like freshly ground meat. If you haven’t seen one before, the photo is a hot spot on the side of a West Highland white terrier’s tail.

Causes of Hot Spots
Scientifically, a hot spot is known as acute moist dermatitis. But this terminology does not give a hint regarding the cause of the hot spot. Most hot spots occur in the summer months because seasonal allergies are the underlying cause of many hot spots. Summertime biting insects, fleas, ticks and flies, can also trigger a hot spot. If your long-haired dog gets matted, a hot spot can form under the mat where moisture collects allowing skin bacteria to proliferate. Whatever triggers the itch-scratch cycle, your dog will start gnawing at the skin, causing inflammation. Once they have chewed the skin raw, bacteria take over and turn the skin into a weepy, red mess.

Treatment of Hot Spots
Last week I saw Hazel, a lovely golden retriever with hot spots on both ankles. As an aside, Golden retrievers and West Highland white terriers are just a few of the dog breeds prone to hot spots. Poor Hazel has just arrived in New York from California and we suspect some allergen here, that was not there, triggered the hot spots. Her ankles and lower legs were swollen, red and oozing. Although her partner, Huey, was trying to help by licking her ankles, he succeeded only in making things worse.

I gently clipped the fur over the inflamed area and then cleaned the skin with an antibacterial solution. Since the hot spot was so large and causing so much swelling, I put her on oral antibiotics and prescribed daily foot and ankle soaks. A week later, she had only a few scabs in the previously inflamed areas. I was surprised at how quickly she recovered, but if she had not recovered well, a short course of steroids might have been needed to take down the last of the inflammation. I tend not to use topical ointment for hot spots since, in my experience, most dogs just want to lick off the ointment. But, some hot spots need topical medications to control the bacterial infection.

Preventing Hot Spots

  • In Hazel’s case, this hotspot may have been an isolated incident as she has never had a problem before and she is nearly ten years old. But if your dog has recurrent hot spots, treatment of allergies using medications that block the itch-scratch cycle or allergy shots can help calm allergies and prevent hot spots.
  • Preventing flea and tick infestation has become so simple these days; there is no excuse for not using a highly effective pill, top spot or collar on your dog. By using one of these products, you eliminate a major cause of hot spots.
  • Finally, keep your dog’s coat brushed, clean and free of mats which could initiate an irritating hot spot.

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