Canine Hot Spots - My Dog Has What?

Published: 26th September 2008
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When you think of a hot spot you might picture a hip night club with pulsating music, but for dogs hot spots are far from fun. In canines, the condition known as a "hot spot" is basically a patch of infected skin that itches like all get out. This is a very common occurrence in dogs, and also a very treatable one. The chances are very great that your dog will get at least one hot spot during his lifetime, though probably more if he is a shaggy breed. Don't worry though, even if doggy hot spots are no fun, at least we can make them tolerable for our loyal friends.

What Are Hot Spots?
A hot spot starts when a patch of skin becomes itchy for various reasons. As the dog bites, licks, and scratches the spot it becomes more raw and susceptible to infection. When the normal skin structure is compromised, the resistance to bacteria vanishes, and the hungry little germs move in. A hot spot can start for many reasons, ranging from allergies to damp skin. These lesions are more common in the summer because there are more allergens present at this time of year, especially fleas which can cause bad allergies in some dogs. Mats on a long-haired dog can also cause areas where the skin is not allowed to breath and moisture gets trapped, creating a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Once the dog itches this spot and opens up the skin, the bacteria move right in and a set up for infection is created.

How Can I Tell if My Dog Has a Hot Spot?
There are several signs to look for if you want to determine if your dog has a hot spot. Look for constant licking or scratching in one area, your dog may even whine when he worries this spot. If you have a short-haired breed look for raw, reddish areas. In long-haired breeds these areas are invisible, which is why you must watch your dog's behavior closely. Search for a lesion under the fur of your shaggy pup, and if you find one, gently cut the fur away from the area to let it breath.

What do I do if My Dog Has a Hot Spot?
Treating a canine hot spot is a relatively simple and painless process for your dog. Firstly, you need to gently cut the hair away from the affected area. Bacteria needs a warm, moist place to grow in and cutting away the hair will let the wound dry out. Next, wash the wound gently with soap and water to cleanse it, and afterwards make sure the keep your dog from licking the area.
Some hot spots are serious enough that they require vet treatment, but some can be taken care of at home. If this is your first hot spot, visit your vet and he will give you anti-biotic and cortisone creams to help treat the wound. If you want to treat the wound at home or can't get to the vet right away, there are a few home remedies that you can try. Anti-biotic creams (such as Neosporin) that can be used on humans work just as well on dogs, but be sure your pup isn't licking the cream off his wound. You can also use anti-itch medicines like Gold-Bond, though this won't treat the cause of infection. For a holistic approach try black and green tea compresses, which can sooth the itching and irritation of the area, and also presents less risk for ingestion.

Preventing Hot Spots
In order to really get rid of hot spots though, you have to treat the cause as well as the end result. Some dogs have allergies that cause hot spots. The first thing to check is your dog's food. Some cheaper foods have ingredients like corn that were not meant to be a part of a dog's diet, so try replacing his food first. Also, vacuum your house often (dust mites) and weed your yard constantly. Just like us dogs can be allergic to certain plants. For long-haired dogs the problem is often grooming. Mats can play a huge role in the development of hot spots, so brush your friend several times a week and bathe him about once a month. A trim at the groomers is always a nice treat every couple of months as well.
At the end of the day hot spots are not the end of the world, but they sure are less fun than a steamy night out. Focus on prevention first, and worry about treatment when the time comes. What truly matters is that you're there for your dog when he needs you.

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