All About Hot Spots

August 13, 2013 in Aerowood Animal Hospital

Hot Spots: Your dog bites at the base of his tail so vigorously; you fear he will hurt himself. You examine the area and see a red circle. This needs to be taken care of, but usually can wait for a next-day appointment. What the dog has is a pyotraumatic dermatitis, commonly known as a hot spot.

The Problem: Hot spots are common skin infections that occur more frequently in hot weather. They result when bacteria normally on a dog’s skin overwhelms the dog’s normal resistance or when a flea bite irritates the dog’s skin. Hot spots manifest quickly. They can flare up in a period from six hours to two days. The earliest sign that your dog might have a hot spot is moist hair standing up in an isolated area. Most people notice hot spots when they become circular, red spots that lose hair. They can be swollen and ooze a smelly pus. Hot spots are painful and itchy. They typically occur at the base of the tail, under the ears, on the flanks, on the legs, or on the paws. Some dogs will scratch, lick, or bite to the point of self-mutilation.

Causes: Dogs with heavy coats have the highest risk for developing hot spots, but any dog can develop this infection. A common cause for hot spots is when the undercoat sheds but becomes trapped next to the skin. Flea bites also cause hot spots. Their bites can create tiny wounds that make fertile breeding grounds for the problematic bacteria.

Veterinary Treatment: When you discover a hot spot on your pet, call us and make an appointment. An emergency call, however, is usually not necessary. Typical treatment will involve trimming the hair around the lesion, washing the area with alcohol and a disinfectant, and sending the owner home with antibiotics and a medicated topical spray.

Prevention: Dog owners have two excellent ways to prevent hot spots. Regular grooming works out tangles and mats to keep the skin breathing and healthy. Avoid bathing your dog while tangles and mats are present. Comb or clip those out first. Dogs with a history of hot spots or who are prone to having long, tangled hair might need to be combed twice weekly. Consider having your dog groomed every four to six weeks. Another excellent way to prevent hot spots is improving your flea control.

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