Hot spots on dog skin (acute moist dermatitis or pyrotraumatic dermatitis) occur most often on dogs with long, dense coats. They are more likely to occur during hot weather and appear to happen overnight.
There are a number of possible causes, including insect bites (particularly fleas), mites, allergies, poor grooming, ear infections, and anal gland disease. Flea allergy is the most common cause. The spots grow in size from self trauma such as a dog licking the problem area, which also can introduce bacteria causing infection into the skin.
Source: Washington State University
Breeds that are Predisposed to Hot Spots
Hot spots are more prevalent in long haired dogs such as:
- Golden Retrievers
- German Shepherds
- Bernese Mountain Dogs
Symptoms of Hot Spots on Dog Skin
Hot spots on dog skin are round, raw lesions, usually found on the head, hips, and sides of the chest. They are moist and inflamed, and the hair will fall out in that area. They are quite painful. Your dog will usually scratch, like or bite the area, irritating the skin even more. Hot spots are sometimes called “pyotraumatic dermatitis” (meaning self-caused skin inflammation) because the self-trauma is a major factor in the development of the sores. The sores can grow larger very rapidly.
Diagnosis of Hot Spots on Dog Skin
Hot spots can mimic other skin problems, so your vet will need to examine them carefully to determine that is what they are. They may appear similar to some fungal infections, but your vet can rule those out with blood tests or by taking a swab of the affected area and examining it under a microscope.
Your vet will also look for possible causes of the hot spots. For instance, if the hot spots are on the ears, then ear infection is a likely cause. A homeopathic approach to ear hot spots such as Ear Dr. can help to promote healing in addition to the specific treatment recommended by your veterinarian.
If the hot spots are on the hips, an anal gland infection is a likely cause. Fleas are also a common cause of hot spots on dog skin. Identifying the cause of the canine skin hot spot will direct the course of treatment.
Dog Hot Spots Treatment
Treatment of hot spots must be aimed at healing the hot spots as well as eliminating the cause. The canine skin hot spot is treated by first clipping the hair around the lesion. This allows air to get to the inflamed skin and makes it easier to treat the wound. The spot is then cleaned and a topical treatment is applied such as Betadine or chlorhyexidine. If the wound is infected, oral antibiotics are prescribed. Oral anti-inflammatory medication may also be prescribed in severe cases.
Glucocorticoids (GCC) are frequently suggested. Hydrocortisone treatment is administered with a spray such as Dermagard Hydrocortisone Spray. These treatments prevent the activation of many cells involved in inflammation. According to a paper presented at the 2006 North American Veterinary Conference "Topical Glucocorticoids can be beneficial in the management of various inflammatory dermatoses, especially atopic dermatitis."
The underlying cause of the hot spot must be identified and treated, or the problem will just keep coming back. Any infections will be treated with antibiotics. Fleas and mites are usually treated with topical solutions or medicated shampoos. If poor grooming is an issue, your vet can instruct you on the best way to groom your pet.
An Elizabethan collar or foot bandage may be used to keep your dog from scratching the treated area. A more comfortable alternative collar is the ProCollar Protective Collar. Clipping a dog's nails can also help to prevent scratching.
Spots will heal quickly, although skin scabs may take a few weeks to completely disappear. If a dog has a heavy undercoat, it can be helpful to arrange for summer hair clipping.
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What Other Visitors Have Asked and Suggested
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Smith, Marty DVM
Hot Spots: Acute Moist Dermatitis
Washington State University
NAVC Proceedings 2006, North American Veterinary Conference
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Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists, Houston, TX, USA