What is a Hot Spot?
A hot spot is a common term used to describe a superficial skin infection in animals. Medical terms used to describe this infection include: moist dermatitis, pyotraumatic dermatitis or superficial pyoderma. The infection is a result of damage to the skin surface (usually from scratching/licking) allowing bacteria to over run the natural defense mechanisms of skin.
Dogs are most commonly afflicted with this condition.
What Causes a Hot Spot?
Anything that causes irritation to the skin can result in a hot spot. Common causes of a hot spot include: bug bites (fleas/flies), allergies, excessive skin moisture (post swimming/bath), matted hair, scrapes/superficial cuts. When an irritation occurs dogs have a tendency to lick/chew at the area. The primary insult combined with the mechanical action of licking/chewing further aggravates the skin. The final result is a hot spot.
What are the Symptoms associated with a Hot Spot?
You may notice: scratching, chewing, licking, a foul odor (due to infection) and/or pain when the affected area is touched. Hot spots are most commonly found under the ear (in dogs that have floppy ears) and at the base of the tail, but can occur anywhere on the body.
What can I do to prevent a hot spot from occurring?
We see a rise in the number of dogs with Hot Spots in the summer. Tips for prevention include:
1. Drying your dog thoroughly after swimming (which includes drying the ear canal). If your dog has a long hair coat (ex: golden retriever) and loves to swim, it is recommended to shave your pet’s coat (not to the skin, just enough to thin the coat). This will not only reduce the incidence of hot spots but also help keep him/her cool during those hot summer months! 2. Manage your dog’s allergies. In the summer allergies are rampant (for both dogs and people). The mechanical action of licking and chewing/scratching is one of the main causes for hot spot development. If you think your pet may have allergies, please book an appointment to speak with one of our veterinarians.
3. If you notice your pet licking/chewing, stop them and investigate for an area of irritation. Call the clinic, as prompt treatment helps to ensure your pet’s comfort.
How do you treat a hot spot? Treatment involves shaving/clipping the affected area to allow the air to get to the skin. This also allows us to fully assess the infection. The area of infection is often much larger than initially suspected and can be very painful, so sometimes sedation is needed in order to shave and clean the infected area properly. Treatment may involve antibiotics (topical and/or systemic), pain, and anti-itch medication. An E collar is often placed on your pet to prevent further licking/chewing at the hot spot. Treatment depends on the severity of the hot spot, chronicity, and other confounding diseases that may be present.
If you would like to learn more about hot spots or think your dog may have a hot spot, please call your favourite vet hospital!