Have you heard the term “hot spots” on dogs and wondered what they are? Have you ever wondered what caused them, how to treat them, and how to prevent them? If so, here are some answers to your questions!
What Exactly are Hot Spots?
Hot Spots, also known as Moist Eczema or Summer Sores, are skin irritations on dogs that start out somewhat small but can break out into rapidly deteriorating skin sores. These sores quickly become itchy, red, oozing skin infections that are originally circular lesions but can take any shape as they grow.
Hot Spots are also known as Summer Sores because they tend to appear at a higher rate during the hot summer months.
What Causes Hot Spots?
In the most basic terms, Hot Spots are caused by a break in your dog’s skin, bacterial contamination, and moisture.
When your dog starts itching, scratching, and chewing his skin due to an irritation, such as a flea bite or an allergy, he may inadvertently cause a break in his skin. Even a minor cut can cause a Hot Spot in the right condition, especially if your dog is chewing or excessively licking the area. With a break in the skin, a bacterial contamination can occur with just a little bit of moisture added to the mix. With your dog’s chewing or excessive licking, a bath, swimming, or even a walk in the rain, moisture allows the bacterial infection to take hold.
Your dog has such an excessive licking and chewing reactions to hot spots due to how deep the infection grows into the layers of skin. With such a deep infection, expect it to take about 2 weeks or so after treatment starts before the hot spot looks like it will heal.
Once the infection sets, your dog will have an oozing wound that grows very quickly. The surrounding skin rapidly deteriorates, which creates an extremely large wound where only a little nick was present a few hours earlier.
Unfortunately, most hot spots are well established infections by the time you notice them, since they spread under the cover of your dog’s fur.
How Do You Treat Hot Spots?
It is extremely lucky that the majority of “hot spot”-causing bacteria respond to oral and topical antibiotics. However, in order for the medication to get rid of the hot spot, there are a few things that need to occur:
- Expose the infected area to the air to dry out the moisture and increase healing ability. This may require the fur around the hot spot to be trimmed or shaved.
- Clean the infected area with antiseptic spray or specialized anti-itch or medicated shampoo. Many anti-itch or medicated shampoos contain tea tree oil to naturally help with hot spots. Make sure to pat dry in a thorough manner to prevent additional moisture from being introduced to the infected area.
- Keep your dog from biting, licking, itching, scratching, or chewing on the hot spot or skin surrounding the infection. E-collars are one great way to do this, and there are a few options that are more comfortable for your dog than the traditional plastic cone. In addition, your antiseptic spray may contain an ingredient that makes your dog dislike the taste when he licks, or you can get some anti-biting sprays that taste disgusting to your dog when he licks.
- Watch your dog’s hot spot area to make sure it is healing, rather than spreading or getting worse. Most likely, a trip to your vet will be in order so that topical medications, oral antibiotics, and possibly a cortisone shot can be ordered, all of which jump start the healing process. Topical medications are used for the typical hot spots. Oral antibiotics are more likely to be used when the hot spot infections are extensive and deep.
Cleaning your dog’s hot spot daily, even as much as every 2 hours during the first day or two of treatment, will speed up the healing process. Unfortunately, even with excellent care, hot spots can take about a week to dry out and another week to look like they are healing. Once the hot spot stops oozing, your dog’s fur no longer needs to be trimmed back or shaved. The fur should start growing back in about two weeks. Fair warning – don’t be surprised if the fur grows back in a different color!
How Do You Prevent Hot Spots?
Dog breeds with heavy fur coats or dogs whose fur is matted or dirty will typically be the ones who develop hot spots. Keeping your dog well groomed, especially during the Spring and Summer, will help keep your dog’s fur clean, dry, and sometimes shorter. Many people choose to have their long- or thick-coated dogs shaved during these times, which also can help prevent hot spots. With a shorter coat, the fur won’t be able to retain moisture close to your dog’s skin. Even a quick trim to the thicker fur under your dog’s ears can help prevent hot spots from forming in that area.
A well balanced diet also helps prevent hot spots. Things like Omega fatty acids or a higher meat content helps your dog’s coat and skin to be healthier, making it harder for a bacterial infection to take hold.
If you notice an infection forming on your dog’s skin, please call your vet immediately to see what they advise. Since some infections can take hold and get worse in a matter of a few hours, calling your vet could mean the difference between treating the area with a topical ointment and anti-itch or medicated shampoo to treating the area with antibiotics, a large shaved area, and around the clock care.