Also known as acute moist dermatitis, hot spots are moist, hot, red, irritated sores most commonly found on a dog’s head, neck, hip, flank and chest. Only one lesion is usually present, but this can rapidly grow in size if licked, chewed or scratched. Hot spots can become infected and very painful if left.
Canine hot spots are sometimes referred to as pyotraumatic dermatitis or superficial pyoderma.
Where Do Hot Spots Come From?
Basically, any irritation of the skin can cause an exaggerated immune response. While hot spots are still not fully understood, factors thought to be involved are:
- external parasites
- poor grooming
- underlying ear or skin infection
- self-chewing from stress or boredom
Often, hot spots develop when the skin is wet on hot humid days.
Which Breeds Are Most Likely To Get Hot Spots?
In general, any dog with a dirty coat that is not regularly groomed, or any dog who spends a lot of time in water (ponds, rain) is at a high risk of developing hot spots. Breeds with thick, long coats such as Golden Retriever have a higher incidence of this problem.
Dogs with pain from hip dysplasia or anal sac irritation can develop hot spots from constant licking of the skin around the hind end.
How To Identify The Problem And What To Do
Hot spots tend to occur very quickly. If you notice your dog is excessively scratching, licking or biting at their fur, then a hot spot could be present. The fur may become matted and “sticky” as hot spots tend to ooze serum. Hotspots are often painful to the touch, also.
As soon as you notice the problem, it is recommended that you take your dog to a veterinarian for an exam. In mild cases, some pet owners elect to treat the problem at home, but please note that hot spots can become worse very quickly (growing in size) and, once infected, antibiotics may be required.
How To Treat Hot Spots
Apart from treating the wound, it is important to try to determine any underlying cause. Your veterinarian will ask questions and perform an exam to try to isolate potential causes.
Treatment of the wound consists of:
The hair on and around the wound should be shaved with clippers. This allows air to the wound, which aids in the healing process. If you mark the edge of the wound with a Sharpie type pen, you can assess if the wound is getting larger, indicating treatment that is more aggressive is required.
Cleansing the wound
The wound should be bathed at least twice a day with dilute povidone-iodine (a weak tea color) and then air-dried. Using lukewarm water soothes the wound. Your veterinarian may use dilute Chlorhexidine solution. E-collars can be used to prevent licking and chewing
Antibiotics and painkillers may be necessary in severe cases; corticosteroids or antihistamines can be used if itching is severe. Topical creams may be used, but under the advice of your veterinarian. Manuka honey has been trialed with some success.
What Can I Do To Prevent Hot Spots?
The following tips can help to reduce the risk for hot spots:
- Regular grooming (a short clip is advised in warm, humid climates).
- Strict flea and parasite control.
- If your dog likes swimming in dirty pools of water, like ponds, hose them down with clean water after they emerge and dry them thoroughly.
- Keep boredom and stress low by giving your dog adequate exercise and interaction with other dogs.
Quick recognition of a hot spot and prompt treatment will prevent hot spots from becoming a serious problem for your dog.
Photo ©iStock.com/Charles Mann