Hot spots on dogs
Your Dog's Scratching Makes Them Worse
When I told a friend I was writing an article about hot spots he replied something to the effect that, “Jeez, I’d never picture you out clubbing. Like they say, silent waters run deep. You go, boy.”
I had to resist the temptation to regale him with made-up stories of my bad boy persona and come clean. The hot spots I was writing about are sores on a dog’s body. I can still hear him guffawing. I hate it when that happens.
Hot spot is the generic term used to describe a weepy, raw lesion that causes a lot of discomfort for dogs. Most vets refer to it as acute moist dermatitis, but they also call it pyotraumatic dermatitis, which alludes to the fact that dogs exacerbate the problem by licking and chewing the affected area.
Dogs always exacerbate a problem by licking and chewing the affected area, whether it’s a hot spot, laceration, bug bite or anything else that gives the dog some sort of sensation at a particular location on his body.
There are many things that cause hot spots, including the bites of fleas and other insects-arachnids-mites, allergic reaction to ingested or inhaled allergens, foreign bodies such as burrs or other plant irritants, ear infections, anal sac problems, even arthritis and other degenerative joint diseases. The strange thing is: one minute they’re not there, the next minute they are.
The appearance of the hot spots can change significantly in a matter of hours, but they generally are round, moist, hairless, inflamed lesions that often show up on the head, at the base of the spine, the side of the chest, and on the thighs.
A dog with long hair or a dense undercoat is more likely to develop hot spots, and that long hair can become matted over the lesion, hiding it and causing treatment to be delayed. And it can be quite painful, causing even gentle dogs to growl or nip when you treat it.
Also by Bob Bamberg
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Treatment depends upon the severity of the condition. In mild cases you may only cleanse the area and perhaps apply soothing ointments. Elizabethan collars, or E-collars, (makes your dog look like he got his head caught in a megaphone) will prevent him from making it worse.
More severe cases would require the use of antibiotics and steroids. In any event, treatment is a two-pronged attack. First the hot spot is treated to prevent it from getting larger, and secondly the cause has to be addressed, which is the hard part.
The veterinarian will ask you about any known allergies the dog has, and will check for flea or mite infestation, cuts or scrapes, joint abnormalities or ear infection. He will likely express the anal sacs (better him than you), and may even explore the possibility of a stress related cause.
For your part, you can keep the nails trimmed and perhaps put booties on his feet to prevent self-inflicted trauma, keep him well-groomed, see that the hair around the hot spot is trimmed so that air can get at it, and take effective flea control measures.
There isn’t a lot you can do to prevent hot spots. Keeping his coat well groomed, his ears clean, his anal sacs expressed, practicing good parasite control, and giving occasional baths with a medicated shampoo will make it more difficult for hot spots to get started, and as a bonus, will help maximize his overall health.