What are hot spots and how do we treat them?

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What are hot spots and how do we treat them?

Hot spots are a common skin condition suffered by many dogs. It is a focal area of skin inflammation and infection, called superficial pyoderma, also commonly known as moist dermatitis and acute moist dermatitis. 

Fortunately, hot spots can be treated and, in some cases, prevented. The bad news is that they can make your dog’s life miserable-they are furiously itchy and then very sore. 

You may not notice the first stage – it can be a small itchy spot. As the dog itches or chews the skin becomes increasingly damaged and this moist, inflamed area can then become infected. The infected area generally smells terrible, may have a nasty scab formation and is very sensitive to touch. Due to ongoing self-trauma, hot spots can become very large very quickly. 

Any dog can develop hot spots, but some breeds and some individuals are far more susceptible. Dogs with dense undercoats, like Huskies and Malamutes are more prone especially when they get wet. Dogs with allergic skin disease are far more prone. Flea allergy dermatitis, matted coats and use of harsh cleaning products all predispose to hot spots. 

Hot spots are most common during Spring and Summer -hot and humid weather, but can occur any time of the year. The most common locations for hot spots are under the ears, chest, flanks and rump. The worst ones often being where they can be scratched and chewed most efficiently.

Symptoms of hot spots include redness, moist damaged skin, itchiness, hair loss and pain. Often the dog’s hair masks the true size and degree of the problem. These lesions can appear suddenly and grow rapidly. Scratching makes the dog feel better, but it makes the skin damage so much worse.

The key to treating hot spots is to act fast so take your dog to the vet immediately.


How do you treat hot spots?

The treatment your vet chooses will depend on how bad the problem is, how much pain your pet is in, how long the problem has been going on and if the problem is a recurring one. Some dogs may get one or two hot spots and then never get another one again, while others may have frequent recurrences.

There are two approaches for dealing with hot spots – first you need to treat the sore and then remove the underlying cause to prevent recurrences. 

In some cases, we shave the hair from the hot spot and clean the inflamed/ infected area with a dog safe antiseptic. NEVER USE DETTOL – it will burn your dog and cause more problems. 

Some dogs need antibiotics (topical, oral or injectable), Apoquel (decreases allergic pruritus), occasionally glucocorticsteroids and sometimes soothing topical medications. For ongoing or recurrent cases, you may also need to take your dog to a veterinary dermatologist for treatment.

Your vet may suggest the use of an Elizabethan collar to prevent mutilation and give the spot a chance to heal.

You can help prevent hot spots by:

  • Keeping your dog free of fleas. 
  • Regular grooming 
  • Using good quality dog shampoo and conditioner and rinse thoroughly and dry  
  • Adding an Omega Fatty Acid supplement to your dog’s diet, such as Dermega. These take 120 days to work – don’t give up too soon. This will not suit all dogs, so ask your vet.
  • Use a skin diet such as Hills Prescription Derm Defence 

Early identification of hot spots are the key factors in making sure that your pet does not suffer the discomfort of a hot spot.


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The information we offer is educational in nature and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical prevention, diagnosis or treatment. Our recommendation is to always do your research.

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