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The Pet Corner: Treating hot spots in dogs

Almost every pet owner has heard of hot spots.

Many dog owners have even experienced treating at least one hot spot on their pooch. A lot of pet owners aren’t quite sure what a hot spot is, though.

Many people assume a hot spot is somehow due to the hot weather since that is when they usually occur.

A hot spot is not a disease process or a condition that has anything directly to do with hot weather. Indirectly, the hot weather brings out fleas, flies, mosquitoes and other biting insects which may be the primary initiator or catalyst for the development of a hot spot.

Hot spots are usually the result of intense chewing, scratching or licking an area that has been irritated by something else such as insects or allergies.

Typically, hot spots are like a vicious cycle; the irritation from the initial irritation causes the area to itch, then the licking, chewing or scratching causes the area to itch even more.

The proper medical terminology to describe a hot spot is moist dermatitis. It is typically a large area of skin that is raw and inflamed which means it is red and oozing either blood or pus. Often it bleeds right after the dog has chewed or scratched it. Otherwise, it looks more like a large scab or pus surrounded by moist hair.

Hot spots can become painful to the touch. Generally, they continue to spread in size due to licking and chewing. Dogs with allergies may be more prone to the development of hot spots.

Allergies in dogs causes skin irritation and subsequent scratching and chewing, so it is easy to see how those dogs would be susceptible to having hot spots.

Fortunately, hot spots tend to respond to medical treatment well. The key is to recognize the skin lesion early to prevent it from getting bigger. A hot spot can progressively get worse just overnight if the dog spends a substantial amount of time licking and chewing at it.

It is important to identify and treat the underlying cause, if possible. Flea and tick preventative medication should be applied at the time of treatment and routinely to help prevent other hot spots in the future.

Anti-inflammatory medications and antibiotics are used to relieve the intense itching and to fight secondary infection.

One of the most important components of therapy of hot spots is to clip all the hair around it and clean the hot spot with a disinfectant. This allows for applying a topical antibiotic spray as well as allowing for air to get to the lesion. Generally, we try to clip the hair away from at least an inch of normal skin all the way around the hot spot.

The prognosis for treating hot spots is good. It helps to recognize and treat it early. Hot spots usually resolve and heal very quickly once proper treatment has been initiated. Any dog that develops a hot spot is more likely to experience hot spots in the future.

If you think your dog has a hot spot or any kind of skin lesion, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure your dog lives a long, healthy and happy life.

Dr. Jeff Castle is a veterinarian at Clark County Veterinary Clinic.