No, we're not talking about places your dog can access the internet, or where he can go for a fun night out on the town. Hot spots are unfortunately not a pleasant thing; they are a skin condition that can really put a damper on your pup’s fun. However, although these sores can be painful and frustrating to deal with, you can also treat them rather easily. Plus, luckily, you can even prevent them with the right knowledge.
What Are Dog Hot Spots?
Hot spots are a relatively common skin condition in dogs, and if dealt with in a timely manner are rarely cause for any major concern. They are especially prevalent during hot summer months since they can be triggered by moisture.
Quite often these sores on your dog’s skin might seem to appear out of nowhere, showing up in one place or even spreading across your dog's body. The more scientific name for these pesky red spots is acute moist dermatitis or pyotraumatic dermatitis. Basically, dog hot spots are areas of inflammation and bacterial infection that show up on your pup's skin.
Typically, a hot spot might start off as a small, red spot, and you could easily mistake it for something simple like an insect bite, not giving it much thought. However, unlike an insect bite, a hot spot gets worse very quickly, often developing into a red, oozing lesion (definitely as unpleasant as it sounds).
How Does Your Dog Get Hot Spots?
In a way, your dog actually causes his hot spots, but they don't just pop up out of nowhere. Usually, your dog has some type of issue that affects his skin, causing him a certain level of discomfort or itchiness. This, of course, makes him want to scratch at the aggravating area. When your dog keeps scratching or licking or biting at this particular place, trying to find some much-needed relief, it can cause a hot spot to form.
Since a hot spot itself causes its own degree of itchiness, this starts a seemingly never-ending cycle of scratching, licking, and biting, leading to even more itching, which leads to more scratching. The result of this self-perpetuating cycle is a rapidly-worsening hot spot. As your dog continues to chew or scratch the affected area, it can lead to worse trauma as well as a bacterial infection. On the bright side, since your pup typically causes his hot spots himself, you can have better control over their treatment.
So, What Causes My Dog to Itch in the First Place?
Now that you know a hot spot doesn’t just appear for no reason, you need to know what potential problems can cause your dog to itch and be uncomfortable enough that he would end up with a hot spot. Some conditions are chronic, which if left untreated, can lead to recurring hot spots and constant misery for your dog.
Here are a few common causes of skin itchiness and discomfort in dogs:
- Flea allergy
- Allergies that can lead to Atopic Dermatitis
- Stress (resulting in constant licking and chewing of the skin)
- A dirty, matted coat that can aggravate your pup
- Wetness or excess moisture (for example, a dog that is not thoroughly dried off after a bath or after swimming)
- Parasites (like ringworm, heartworm, and similar offenders)
- Ear infections
- Skin infections
- Anal sac disease
Are There Certain Factors that Can Make Hot Spots More Likely?
While hot spots can occur in any dog at any time, there are a few conditions and elements that can make hot spots more likely to occur. If your dog gets wet frequently, whether from being outside in the rain or numerous swimming activities, this can make him more prone to hot spots. This is also why hot spots are more prevalent during warm weather months or during times of high humidity.
There are also certain breeds like Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and other dogs that have thicker coats that are more susceptible to developing hot spots. Their thick coats can mat more easily, or cause moisture to stay close to the skin, etc. For this reason, proper grooming is essential to keep your canine companion in tip-top shape.
How Do You Treat Hot Spots?
The best way to handle your dog’s hot spots is to pinpoint the underlying condition causing them, and treat or manage that condition. Be on the lookout for any possible symptoms, like redness, swelling, and hair loss. Although hot spots can be anywhere on your pup’s body, they appear mostly on the limbs, hip area, and the head.
The spots are usually moist and can even ooze and form pus, and since they are very itchy, your dog will want to scratch them constantly. This frequent scratching exacerbates the problem and can cause hot spots to grow rather large in a short period of time.
If you believe your pup has hot spots, don’t attempt to wait it out; they won’t go away on their own. Instead, check with your vet right away, as hot spots can mimic several other skin conditions. Your vet will perform a full examination and possibly a skin scrape to diagnose the underlying cause of your dog’s hot spots so she can prescribe the appropriate treatment.
Treatments will vary based on the diagnosis, but usually include the following:
- Cleaning the area with an antiseptic solution
- Prescribing topical or oral antibiotics for primary or secondary infections
- Clipping the hair around the area to avoid matting
- Cleaning the area daily with medicated wipes
- Wearing an Elizabethan collar to keep your pup from aggravating the area (your dog's gonna love that…)
The good news is, with the right treatment and care, most hot spots completely go away within 3 to 7 days. Plus, you can expect to see almost immediate improvement as soon as treatment starts.
How Can You Prevent Dog Hot Spots?
It is said that prevention is always the best medicine, and thankfully, with the right precautions you can prevent hot spots rather easily. The best way to prevent hot spots is to ward against the usual causes, such as parasites, allergies, poor grooming, and infections. Give your dog monthly parasite and flea prevention medication, keep your pup’s skin and coat clean and dry, and stay up-to-date on regular vet well-checks. Supplements that contain Omega-3 fatty acids are also helpful thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties and abilities to reduce itchiness and even relieve allergies.
If your dog licks and chews at his coat a lot due to stress, increase his activity time during the day and provide him with engaging toys like the Rolly Canolli or the Neat-Lik Mat to keep him stimulated. Keep his food and water bowl clean to decrease the risk of other potential infections, and always err on the side of caution when it comes to calling your vet.
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