Canine Hot Spots
What are the signs of a Hot Spot?
Redness, oozing, pain, and itchiness are hallmark signs of hotspots. Hot spots are circular lesions, usually found on the head, over the hip and along the side of the chest. They will be moist, raw, inflamed, emit pus and smell bad. Hair loss from around the infected area is common. Sometimes hair can mat over the lesion, obscuring the size and degree of the problem. These lesions can appear suddenly, and grow rapidly. It is common for an owner to notice a small area of inflamed skin in the morning (perhaps an inch or couple centimeters in diameter) and come home from work to be met with a large area the size of the palm of a hand. The dog is usually highly agitated, and will not leave the area alone. Some dogs will even growl or snap if the area is touched. Animals will usually lick, bite or scratch the area to the point of breaking the skin causing the infection to spread, and irritate the inflamed skin even more. This makes the condition even more painful, and provides the opportunity for a more serious infection to occur. In fact, hot spots are sometimes called 'pyotraumatic dermatitis' because self-trauma is a major factor in the development of hot spots.
What causes a Hot Spot?
Hot Spots are also known as Acute Moist Dermatitis. They are often found on dogs and puppies with long hair or those with dense undercoats.There is usually an inciting factor to initiate the extreme licking and scratching behavior. It is often caused by a local allergic reaction to a specific antigen. Insect bites, especially from fleas, mites, or other external parasites, an insect sting or bite are often found to be the cause. Allergies (food, inhalant, contact), or injury (skin wound, scrape, etc.) ear infections, poor grooming, burs or plant awns, hip dysphasia or arthritis, and anal gland disease can also cause hot spots. Some animals have been known to "start" a hot spot out of boredom or stress-related psychological problems.
Treatment for Hot Spots
Due to the rapidity of spread and possibility of deeper skin infection, it is wise to start treatment as soon as possible. Treatment must be directed at stopping the growth of the hot spot and eliminating the cause. Whatever the cause, if it can be detected, it must be treated while the hot spot is being treated. In many dogs the initial cause is fleas, but lesions below the ear often indicate an ear infection, those near the hip may be the result of an anal gland infection, and so on. The first step in treating hot spots is shaving the hair over and surrounding the lesion. This allows air to get into the inflamed skin tissue to dry it out and it makes the hot spot easier to treat. Hair loss is a feature of hot spots, but hair can also mat over the inflamed area, covering up a potentially much more severe and larger problem. The surface of the lesion is then cleaned with a non-irritating solution such as Canine Body Wash or Canine Antimicrobial Spray.
To prevent the dog from traumatizing the area even more, Elizabethan collars may be used if the lesion is on the top of the head, for instance. Nails should be clipped and socks put on the hind feet to reduce trauma from possible scratching.
Prevention of Hot Spots
Many dogs that have repeated problems with dog hot spots can have the incidence greatly reduced by keeping their hair clipped short during summer, giving them frequent medicated baths and following a strict flea control program. Depending on the location of the hot spot, cleaning the ears regularly and expressing the anal glands as needed may also be beneficial.
Lesions are rare in the colder temperatures of winter. They occur in equal frequency in both inside and outside dogs. Many dogs develop several of these lesions over the course of their lives. However, this is not a long-term disease. A lesion will suddenly appear, be treated and be gone in less than a week Another lesion will suddenly appear later the same summer, the next year or never be seen again on that dog.