No-one wants to see their dog itchy or in pain. Unfortunately, every year thousands of dogs are experiencing just that and often it goes undiagnosed, not due to owners not caring, but because owners often don’t understand the issue and what is going on. It’s time for that to change.
What Are Hot Spots?
The term “hot spots” is the term used to describe a condition known as acute moist pyotraumatic dermatitis. These areas can be any shape or size and are bright red, often weepy, very itchy and painful sores that can appear on your dog in mere minutes. Often this starts a vicious cycle in which the sores spread quickly and often end up significantly worse before it gets better. As these sores are itchy, dogs will naturally attempt to relieve that itch by any means necessary. They will lick, chew, scratch and rub up against anything to try to get relief.
What Causes Hot Spots on Dogs?
There are many things that can cause hot spots to appear on dogs. Issues such as insect bites, diet, plant or allergens are often found to be related. Essentially anything that will cause an itch to develop on the dog that is severe enough that it causes them to cause themselves bodily harm which will, in turn, get more itchy, weepy, and infected.
There are some dogs which appear to be more susceptible to hot spots than others. These include:
- Young dogs
- Hot, humid weather
- Dogs with allergies
- Dogs with other skin disorders such as scabies
- Recently shaved/trimmed dogs
- Some medications
- Long/thick-haired dogs
To prevent hot spots from reappearing, you should determine the cause for your individual dog. Simple preventative methods such as flea prevention programs, regular grooming to prevent matting and ensuring your dog is clean do not take a large amount of time or effort. Despite their ease, they will help eliminate a few of the most common causes and will also help your dog’s overall health.
What Are the Symptoms and Impacts of Hot Spots?
The symptoms of hot spots are that your dog will lick, chew and scratch at an area of their body frequently. Often, however, it is the large red sores that are discovered first. These sores, while not life threatening to your dog, cause your dog significant discomfort and can leave your dog vulnerable to secondary infections.
While the lasting impacts of hot spots are almost non-existent, some dogs will be left with a permanent bald spot if the infection was particularly bad or caused scarring.
Hot Spot Treatment for Dogs
Regardless of the cause of the hot spots, the key to treating this condition is to keep the sore clean and dry. This will keep the bad bacteria at bay, prevent secondary infections and allow a scab to form to facilitate healing.
Once the sore is clean and dry, it is important to apply an ointment that will stop the itching, or the dog will just scratch any healing tissue away. If there are signs of infection (unpleasant smell, pus, etc.), an antibiotic should be acquired from your veterinarian.
Veterinary Treatment (Mild or Severe Cases)
It is important to shave the fur around the wounds to allow the area to be thoroughly cleaned without worry about hair getting into the open sore. Often sterile drying powders are applied to ensure the area dries quickly and cleanly. Often this is paired with a drug such as prednisone to prevent itching and further damage. This may be continued to home care in severe cases as either an ointment or a pill.
The care does not stop at the vet’s office as the dog will require daily care until the wound is almost healed. This often requires using antiseptic washes daily, oral or topical treatments for itching (often combined with Elizabethan collars to prevent the dog from chewing the area), as well as antibiotics.
Once the infection has been seen by the vet, they will often attempt to diagnose what caused the issue to begin with to ensure that your dog can be protected in the future.
Home Remedies for Hot Spots On Dogs (Mild Cases)
There are quite a few home remedies that can be used on dogs with hot spots.
There are many products that are commercially available for all stages of hot spots treatment with varying effectiveness. Talking to your veterinarian or pet store assistant should help you navigate these remedies. Here are some examples:
- Sulfodene First Aid Skin Medication for Dogs
- Vet’s Best Hot Spot Spray
- SynergyLabs Veterinary Formula Clinical Care Hot Spot & Itch Relief Medicated Spray for Dogs & Cats
- DERMagic Hot Spot Salve
Tea bags are often used as they provide multiple approaches to help the treatment of hot spots. Tea can soothe sores, dry out the skin and also carry antiseptic properties. To use tea bags, you need to add hot water to the tea bag, and once they have cooled to a comfortable warmth, should be placed directly on the sore in question. This should be frequently repeated until the issue resolves itself.
Hydrocortisone cream can be used to prevent itching and can be purchased at any pharmacy. It is important to keep the layer very thin and to remember that less is more. It is important to make sure your dog does not lick this so an Elizabethan collar should be used.
Witch Hazel can also be used to stop the itching although it may burn initially.
Some people suggest Tea Tree Oil. However, this is not recommended as it can burn unbroken skin let alone skin that is raw. While it does contain antiseptic properties, the pain it causes should not be considered an acceptable risk.