This time of year, due to changes in temperature, dogs can be particularly susceptible to hot spots, also known as summer sores. Although they’re not fatal, hot spots can cause tremendous discomfort and pain for your pooch. If left untreated, a hot spot may lead to expensive veterinary bills.
This is why it is important to look for and identify hot spots when they’re still in their infancy.
Hot spots are more formally known as acute moist dermatitis. They’re small, red, hot lesions on the skin that commonly occur on a dog’s head, hips, and chest. They’re irritating, which causes dogs to chew, lick, or scratch at the area. This in turn causes hot spots to grow rapidly.
A single hot spot can quickly manifest from being easily treatable at home, to needing antibiotics and other forms of veterinary assistance.
Hot spots can be caused by absolutely anything that irritates your pet’s skin. This often includes:
an insect bite
flea or mite bites
a scratch or existing small wound
an existing ear or skin infection
allergies to food or environmental factors
poor grooming, dirty or matted fur
not properly drying out the undercoat after bathing or swimming
licking or chewing because of stress or boredom
While this list is not exhaustive, these are the biggest contributors to hot spot development. Dogs with long hair and thick undercoats are at the highest risk of developing hot spots. These dogs take significantly longer to dry; the longer a dog stays wet, the greater the risk of developing hot spots. While the exterior of a dog’s coat may seem perfectly dry, there may be moist spots hidden discreetly in the undercoat, particularly in areas where the fur is thickest. If these spots do not dry out completely, the combination of warm body heat, moisture, and lack of air movement creates the perfect environment for hot spot-causing bacteria.
Dogs with hip and joint problems are also at high risk for hot spots. When a joint is sore, it is an instinctive behaviour to lick and chew the affected area in an effort to alleviate discomfort. Unfortunately, this compulsive act often results in hot spots.
To prevent hot spots, have your dog groomed regularly, and ensure they dry fully after every bath or swim. It’s best to routinely check your dog for any skin conditions, especially in areas where hot spots are most prevalent.
If you notice a small hot spot developing, there are many effective hot spot remedies for in-home treatment. The affected area should be cleaned and treated immediately. The key is to keep the area clean and dry, so for dogs with dense undercoats, trimming or shaving the affected area will help it breathe and heal faster. If your dog is prone to licking and chewing the irritated area, he may have to wear a protective cone for a while until the area is healed.
However, for a hot spot larger than your thumb, it is recommended that you seek the advice of a veterinarian as antibiotics may be required. Your veterinarian will treat the area in a few ways. First, they will shave the area around the hot spot to ensure proper air flow. Next, they’ll clean it with an antibiotic-based solution. After this is done, your vet will recommend a combination of antibiotics, pain medications, steroids, or other treatments depending on your dog’s unique situation. Hopefully, however, it never comes to this.
While hot spots can be a real pain – both literally and figuratively – they’re easy to treat and prevent with the right tools and knowledge. Be proactive and check your pooch regularly.
Brandon Forder – also known as The Pet Expert - is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, a family-owned and -operated business located in Meaford. He has over twenty-five years experience specializing in pet nutrition, behaviour, and lifestyle. Canadian Pet Connection is an industry leader committed to providing their clients with the highest levels of personal, attentive service. Learn more at https://www.canadianpetconnection.ca/