What are Hot Spots in Pets?

A hot spot is a skin infection, also known as acute moist dermatitis. Hot spots are most commonly self-induced, meaning the dog has scratched or chewed at a specific spot of skin causing an infection. Besides the scratching/chewing, you may also notice a foul odour and redness to the area.

These skin lesions most commonly occur in the summer as a result of trauma, swimming or insect bites. The moisture combined with heat creates the perfect environment for yeast and bacteria to grow, causing your dog to scratch even more at this area. This self-trauma causes damage to the skin resulting in infection, inflammation and an open wound. Most common areas are the legs, hips and around the neck. The same principle is behind insect bites and allergies, the area of irritation will be scratched and chewed to the point of no return.

Other causes are orthopedic problems (arthritis) and even boredom. Dogs with arthritis spend a lot of time laying down, creating pressure points on joints, they will lick at these pressure points to self-soothe, causing a skin infection. Some dogs to alleviate boredom will lick at their legs, creating a moist area within their fur leading to a hot spot.

Treatment for a hot spot involves shaving the fur over the affected skin to get airflow to the area, which will improve healing time. Antibiotics will be prescribed, either in a topical form like an ointment or oral antibiotics if the hot spot is severe enough. An anti-inflammatory and/or anti-itch medication will also be given to providing your pet relief from the itch they are experiencing. It is important that your dog does not continue to lick/chew at the affected skin, otherwise, it will never heal. Often an Elizabethan collar (aka cone of shame) will be recommended to prevent further self- trauma. If insect bites are suspected, your veterinarian may prescribe a medication to prevent flea/tick bites.

Prevention is aimed at keeping your dog well-groomed during the swimming months and drying well after swimming. Treating for any pain associated with arthritis and alleviate boredom by going for lots of walks and enriching their home environment.

Hot spots can be frustrating as they have the potential to reoccur, even in a different location on the body. By checking your dog daily for any areas of concern you can catch hot spots early before they get too severe, thus decreasing the need for extensive medical treatment.

For more information on keeping your pet hot spot free please contact Lomsnes Veterinary Hospital.

Written by Kate, RVT