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Dog Hot Spots: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Dog Hot Spots: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment | BetterVet

Hot spots are one of the most common skin complaints in dogs, and they can be very itchy and sore. Hot spots can be frustrating, but they can be easily treated, and with the right management it’s possible to prevent them. Keep reading to learn more.

What are Hot Spots on Dogs?

Acute moist dermatitis or hot spots on dogs are an area of skin that becomes inflamed and infected. They can appear anywhere on your dog’s body, and it can often be hard to see them because they’re hidden under your dog’s fur. Often, they start small and may even look like an insect bite, but they quickly develop into a larger lesion.

What Causes Hot Spots on Dogs?

Hot spots can often be secondary to something else – anything that makes your dog’s skin sore that causes them to lick or rub the area can lead to a hot spot developing. The resulting self-trauma further irritates the skin and introduces bacteria that lead to infection. Hot spots are more likely to occur in warm weather due to excess moisture close to the skin.

Some common causes of hot spots on dogs are:

  • Fleas or other parasites
  • Flea allergic dermatitis
  • Insect bites
  • Cuts or grazes
  • Skin allergies
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Ear infections
  • Anal gland problems
  • Excessive licking as a result of anxiety or boredom
  • A dirty, matted coat
  • A wet coat from regular swimming

Breeds with a thicker or denser coat are more susceptible to developing hot spots, such as Golden retrievers, St Bernards, Labradors, and German Shepherds.

What are the Symptoms of Hot Spots on Dogs?

A lot of skin conditions present with similar symptoms, so sometimes it can be hard to tell what’s going on. Hot spots can occur anywhere on the body, but typically they are found around the head, limbs, and hips. Hot spots are typically well-defined patches of redness on the skin, and you will often notice the following:

  • Well-defined area of redness on the skin
  • Loss of hair
  • The skin may be wet or moist
  • Pus or discharge
  • Swelling
  • Crusting or scabbing
  • Matted or wet fur
  • Itching
  • Licking the area excessively
  • Foul odor

Often hot spots get larger as your dog continues to lick or scratch the sore area. In addition, satellite lesions can occur; this is when smaller hot spots occur around the same area as the original lesion.

How are Hot Spots Diagnosed?

If you are concerned about your dog’s skin or think they might have a hot spot, it’s important to get them checked over by their veterinarian as soon as possible. Hot spots are usually diagnosed just by examining the skin. But it’s also important to find out what caused the hot spot and rule out underlying problems such as skin allergies or parasites. The vet may want to perform further tests such as skin scrapes to look for parasites, allergy testing, or a diet trial.

How to Treat Hot Spots on Dogs

Fortunately, hot spots respond well to treatment and usually resolve within 7 days of beginning treatment.

Once a hot spot has been identified, the vet will usually clip the fur around the sore skin to allow better visualization and remove dirt and debris. They will then clean the area thoroughly with a suitable antiseptic such as chlorhexidine or iodine. The following home care protocol is usually followed:

Clean the area daily with a suitable antiseptic prescribed or recommended by your vet

Topical antibiotic treatment to treat the bacterial infection. Always follow your vet's instructions on how to use this, and ensure you finish the course

Sometimes, the vet will prescribe oral steroid tablets to help reduce the itching

Prevent your dog from licking or scratching the area using an Elizabethan, E-collar, or a medical pet shirt. This will allow the area to heal.

Attend any follow-up appointments with your vet to ensure the skin is healed and no further treatment is required

How to Prevent Hot Spots on Dogs

The best way to prevent your dog from developing hot spots is to keep their skin healthy. This involves regular parasite treatments using products recommended to you by your vet and keeping their coat clean.

You should wash your dog’s feet after a walk, to reduce bacteria and fungi buildup, make sure they are groomed regularly to remove debris and prevent matting, and dry their fur after a wet walk or a swim. Supplements containing omegas 3 and 6 can help maintain healthy skin by improving the skin barrier.

If you’re concerned your dog may have an allergic skin disease, it’s important to discuss this with your vet. If you know that your dog has skin allergies, allergy avoidance and ensuring you keep up with their treatment plan is essential to preventing hot spots and other secondary skin problems. If you’re concerned about your dog’s allergy control, speak to your vet as lots of management options are available.

To summarize, hot spots are itchy and uncomfortable for dogs, and without the correct management, they can become a recurring problem. Fortunately, they are easy to treat, and once the underlying cause has been identified, with the right management they can be prevented.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are hot spots contagious?

No, hot spots are not contagious and cannot spread to other animals or humans. They are isolated to the area of your dog’s skin that is affected.

What should I do if I think my dog has a hotspot?

You should speak to your veterinarian if you are concerned they might have a hot spot. Without treatment, hot spots can become larger and more uncomfortable.

How can I prevent hot spots on my dog?

Hot spots can be prevented by keeping your dog’s skin healthy – keeping the coat clean, dry, and well-groomed and keeping up to date with regular parasite treatments. Ensure any underlying skin problems are diagnosed and managed.

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