How to treat your dog’s hot spots
Inflammation of the skin
Pyotraumatic dermatitis, more commonly known as “hot spots,” moist dermatitis, and acute moist dermatitis, is characterized by painful, circular red sores on a dog’s body. Pets webmd further defines the condition as “a warm, painful, swollen patch of skin, 1 to 4 inches (2.5 to 10 cm) across that exudes pus and gives off a foul odor. Hair in the area is lost rapidly.
The infection progresses when the dog licks and chews the site. These circular patches appear suddenly and enlarge quickly, often within a matter of hours.” Unfortunately, these lesions are often made worse by dogs’ frequent licking, chewing and scratching, behavior many people associate with the condition. In fact, by dissecting the actual words Pyotraumatic dermatitis, as Vetmedicine.about.com does, we can easily get a clearer understanding of hot spots. “Broken down, ‘pyo-’ refers to pus, ‘-traumatic’ refers to self-inflicted trauma of biting, licking, scratching, and so on, and ‘dermatitus’ means inflammation of the skin.”
What Causes Hot Spots?
Several ailments can cause hot spots to appear on a dog’s skin, but they typically begin with a break in the skin. “Hot spots occur when bacteria invades the skin via a tiny scratch or other breakage in the skin’s surface,” reports Suite101. “The hot spot often starts out as a small scratch from when the dog itches, or the hot spot develops after a bite from a parasite like a flea or mite breaks the skin.” Such abrasions are often the result of something like allergies, fleas, mites/skin parsites, insect bites, injuries, poor grooming or anal gland disease. Vetmedicine.about.com also writes that animals can actually start a hot spot out of “boredom or stress-related psychological problems.”
Such spots can appear anywhere on a dog’s body, but typically show up on the head, the hips, and along the chest, Pet Education reports. Adding to that, Pets webmd notes that large breeds with heavy, hairy ears, such as Newfoundlands and Golden Retrievers, can develop hot spots under their ear flaps and further warns that dogs with heavy coats are especially at risk. Hot spots “tend to appear just before shedding, when moist, dead hair is trapped next to the skin.” Because hot spots are more likely to thrive in warm, moist situations, the lesions are rarer in the colder months, notes Pet education. They are also equally likely to turn up on inside dogs or dogs.
How Are Hot Spots Treated?
The good news is that hot spots are treatable. Because these lesions are so painful and can spread into a deeper infection, however, involving your veterinarian is a must. Even though hair loss is one of the hallmark symptoms of hot spots, the vet will likely begin treatment by clipping away the hair surrounding the infection, allowing for easier access and better air flow. Once that’s done, the sore can be cleaned with a gentle cleanser. The doctor will then likely apply a medicated powder or cream. If your dog sensitive to pain or aggressive, your veterinarian may decide to anesthetize him before beginning the treatment.
Treatment from that point on depends on the size and severity of the spot, according to Vetmedicine.about.com. “Your veterinarian may prescribe oral antibiotics, topical drying sprays or medications, and/or special shampoos.” In conjunction with the medication, your dog will also likely come home wearing an Elizabethan collar, which will prevent him chewing or licking the spot and causing further trauma. The medication and collar can work together in keeping the wound free of bacteria so it can start the healing process.
Depending on the underlying cause, other conditions, such as a flea infestation or allergies, may also need a veterinarian’s care or a pet parent’s attention. Because some dogs experience repeated trouble with hot spots, pet parents can reduce the risk of infections returning by keeping dogs clipped during the summer, giving frequent medicated baths and, depending on the hot spot location, keeping the ears clean and expressing the anal glands, according to Pet education.A good flea program is also in order.