So one morning you notice your dog is itching, licking and scratching, and then, just hours later, when you come home from work, you notice with horror an ugly, oozing spot on your dog that is now hairless and full of puss too! What has happened? Most likely, you are dealing with a skin condition known as “hot spots.” No, these are not areas where you can find a WIFI connection to the Internet; rather, these are unsightly lesions typically found on dogs during the warmest months of the year.
What do hot spots look like? They are generally circular lesions that can start off the size of a quarter and then expand to eight inches in diameter within a few hours, according to Pet Education. They can often be found on the dog’s head, hips or side of the chest. The lesions are often raw, inflamed and itchy. Whether you deal with hot spots quite frequently, or you have never heard about them or seen them, it’s important to take measures to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Causes of Hot Spots in Dogs
Hot spots are commonly seen in long-haired dogs equipped with a dense undercoat. They are found in both outdoor and indoor dogs and are more common in the summer. There are several causes for hot spots in dogs and sometimes the real culprit remains unknown. You’ll sometimes need to put your investigative hat on so to figure out the exact trigger, but don’t investigate alone; have your vet help you out.
At times, you can point the finger at those pesky bugs that like to bite your dog in the summer. Mosquitoes, fleas and mites may cause itching and even an allergic reaction which paves the path to a hot spot. Another potential culprit is lack of grooming. Those tangles and mats in your dog’s coat create the perfect environment for bacterial growth and a potential hot spot—and so do those annoying grass awns and burrs that get trapped in the coat.
Hot spots also raise their ugly heads in dogs who are prone to food allergies or are simply bored or stressed. These dogs’ frequent licking and chewing sessions can turn the tiniest cuts into a messy disaster. At times, underlying muscle, bone or nerve problems can cause pain or tingling. Your dog may lick and chew the affected area in an attempt to relieve the pain, but this only makes the area prone to hot spots. Finally, there are times where you never know what causes those annoying hot spots, which can be quite a frustrating ordeal! Following are some tips to reduce the chances for hot spots.
A Dozen Ways to Reduce Hot Spots
- Make sure your pet is on a good flea control program.
- Keep your dog away from biting bugs
- Use a soothing or medicated shampoo
- Groom your dog and remove mats, grass awns and burrs regularly
- Clip hair short during the summer
- Dry your dog thoroughly after a bath
- Rule out allergies with the help of your vet
- Treat any underlying ear infections, anal gland infections or muscle, nerve or bone problems
- Address chronic skin issues
- Feed a high-quality diet
- Invest in fatty acid supplements
- Keep your dog exercised and mentally stimulated
Treatment of Hot Spots
So your dog got a hot spot for the first time, or despite your attempts to minimize exposure to triggers, your dog got a hot spot anyway, so what’s left to do? There’s no need to despair. As quickly as the hot spot arrived, it should leave if you treat it correctly. Your first stop should always be by the vet. Your vet will take a scrape of the skin to get it tested. This is important to make sure you are dealing with a hot spot and not some other issues. Chances are, what looks like a hot spot may sometimes be something else.
Once your vet has confirmed it’s a hot spot, he will likely recommend shaving the area. This helps air out the hot spot making it easier to dry and heal. The surface then is cleaned and treated with the vet’s choice of products. Veterinarian Karen Becker prefers disinfecting the area with povidone-iodine. Severe cases may require pain medications, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. Your dog must be prevented from further irritating the area as it heals and this is often accomplished through the use of Elizabethan collars. The dog’s nails may be clipped as well, to reduce the chances for further trauma to the area by scratching.