What is a hot spot? Does your dog have one?

hot spots in dogs

What is a hot spot?

A hot spot is a skin irritation, also called moist dermatitis or pyoderma in technical terms. The photo above from furbabyrescue.wordpress.com shows a typical hot spot.  I found out a whole bunch about hot spots when our elderly Australian Shepherd rescue, Janey, came into our lives.

Janey was a nervous wreck when she came to us and constantly licked herself. Her fur was unkempt, she had ear infections, her feet were reddish and irritated and she was about 10 pounds overweight, but that’s another story.

Just a couple of weeks after she arrived, she developed a large, reddish, oozing, smelly sore area on her hip.  It was so sore that she would cry whenever anything touched it.  We took her to the vet, of course. But I also started looking online.  I wanted to try to prevent another hot spot or at least be sure I could recognize it right away if it came back.

Here’s some of what I learned.

What does it look like?

The process goes something like this;

  • The area gets irritated, maybe by a bug bite, an allergic reaction, matted fur, etc.
  • Your dog licks the area, trying to get relief.
  • The site stays moist.
  • It gets infected with bacteria, often overgrown bacteria that naturally occur but aren’t usually a problem.
  • The area loses hair, gets scabbed or oozy and smelly

It can happen pretty quickly.  Your pup can go from perfectly fine to having a raging hot spot in a matter of a few hours.

Most of the time, the affected area gets inflamed and feels warm, thus the term “hot spot”. These skin sores show up more in dog breeds with longer, thicker coats and can be pretty much anywhere on your dog. As in Janey’s case, they are usually painful.

What causes hot spots?

Skin irritations caused by any one of a number of factors, develop into hot spots by adding moisture (licking, swimming, being in the rain).  The skin irritations could be caused by

  • allergies
  • insect bites
  • matted or dirty fur
  • medical conditions like hypothyroidism
  • boredom licking
  • any one of a number of other causes, the list is LONG.

What do you do about them?

In Janey’s case, we went to the vet.  We wanted to find out what was causing the hot spot and, of course, help relieve her pain. Finding the root cause can be really important in deciding on treatment and preventing future problems.

In general, the site needs to be shaved or at least closely clipped.  This can be tough since the area will be very sensitive, but it’s important to get hair out of the way so it isn’t aggravating the sore.

The sore needs to be cleaned and disinfected.  The vet used a betadine mixture. There are natural remedies available, but you should research a bit.  You want to keep the area pretty dry so oils or other moisturizing products could slow healing. The area will need to be cleaned several times a day.

After cleaning, a product like hydrocortisone spray or colloidal silver can be applied to help with healing and decrease itching.

Your dog will want to lick the area constantly since it’s still going to be uncomfortable, so you’ll need to prevent that with a cone or other type of barrier.

Finally, you’ll want to figure out the cause to see if you can prevent future hot spots.

Preventing the return of hot spots

The vet and I determined that, most likely, Janey’s problem was the state of her coat (matted and unkempt) and allergies.  Janey had been on cheap, store bought kibble for years.  She had the chronic ear infections and feet sores as well. Read my post about dog allergies for more about that part of the story. For a holistic approach to hot spots, as well as other issues, read Apple Cider Vinegar.

We’ve made many changes in her diet and condition over the past few months.  So far, Janey has not developed another hot spot, thank goodness!

For more information, PetMed.com has a great article about this problem.

Have your dogs had hot spots?  If so, what was your experience and what did you do about them?  Let me know in the comments below.

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