Everything you need to know about hot spots

Over the years of caring for dogs and cats we've come to understand that there are a number of health issues that owners, even the most responsible ones, are unaware of some common health issues.

This page is specifically dedicated to help you understand Hot Spots (pyotraumatic dermatitis). While they are not life threatening, Hots Spots are quite uncomfortable for the dog and can develop very rapidly. They can go appear in the size of a 50 cent piece seemingly out of nowhere and they can also grow to the size of a fist within a few hours. Early intervention is the best way to help the dog if they ever have a hot spot.

To help them we must first understand what is actually is and what they look like.

What are Hot Spots?

Hot Spots are a common skin condition that effects thousands of dogs in Australia every year. A Hot Spot is a focal area of skin infection. It is a bacterial infection that develops and rapidly spreads in the skin. They can appear very quickly (within a couple of hours) and are irritant to the animal. In appearance it is red, moist and usually circular. Hot Spots can also ooze pus and have a bad odour. Hair loss from around the infected area is common but doesn't happen in all cases. Since they are so irritating the dog will bite and scratch the area which causes the infection to spread and become larger in size.

What causes Hot Spots?

Moisture - A common cause for Hot Spots is moisture getting caught next to the dogs skin, making an ideal environment for bacteria to start growing. Moisture can become trapped by matted fur, a dog collar, or simply thick fur.

Irritation - Hot Spots can also start from any other issue that causes the dog to scratch including ear infections, eye problems, fleas, dental disease or allergies to food or environment. Once the itching starts , it becomes a self-reinforcing cycle so that even if the initial stimulus is removed, the skin irritation is still there. Through self trauma a dog can create a raw wound the size of a bread and butter plate in an afternoon.

Chronic Hot Spots often stem from an allergic condition. Though some dogs are simply more prone to them than others due to either their love of water and their coats.

Where do they appear?

They can appear literally anywhere - although the most common areas tend to be under the neck, top of the head and under the ears. Some other prevalent areas are under the tail and where the legs meets the torso as both are places that remain moist if the dog gets wet.

What breeds get them?

Once again any breed can get them. But generally speaking dogs with thick coats (Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, German Shepherds etc.) Also dogs that are more prone to allergies or have wrinkled skin (Staffies, Pugs, Shar-Peis, French Bulldogs etc.)

How do you treat them?

If you think your dog has a Hot Spot generally a visit to the vet is best if you are not equipped or are unsure of the cause of it. The most important part of treatment is to stop the itching as quick as possible. Certain medications can be used to treat them to stop inflammation or antibiotics to kill the infection. Many dogs will also wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent them from scratching the wound.

Can you prevent them?

The short answer is no! Unfortunately Hot Spots can occur for a number of reasons (see previous notes). You can however ensure you stay on top of flea and parasite control, as well as routine ear cleaning and giving them plenty of time to dry off properly after a bath or swim which will help. If you notice your dog itching or scratching a specific spot there's a chance it could be a Hot Spot forming.

What do we do if we see them in the facility?

As well as visually checking the animals all the time we do thorough health checks on all our boarders twice a week it's fairly common to spot one before it develops into something too large. We have creams and ointments we use to treat them ourselves and monitor the dog closely. Elizabethan collars are also used if needed. If it goes beyond our capabilities we will use a mobile vet for treatment in which case the cost would be added to the boarding. 

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