When we see those red, oozing, painful, bald, itchy lesions on our dog’s skin, we know something isn’t right. But what can we do about it, how can we prevent it, and should we be worried that those sores are a sign of a more serious medical problem?
When dogs chew, itch or scratch an area of their coat, inflammation occurs and sometimes a bacterial infection can develop. This in turn creates more skin irritation — and more itching and scratching.
The underlying cause of the irritation could be a flea bite, an allergy, contact irritants, dirty and matted coats, or even boredom and stress. Identifying and addressing the underlying cause is important to prevent future hot spots.
Some breeds are more prone to hot spots, such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers and Retrievers. Dogs with a penchant for being around water are also more susceptible due to trapped moisture.
While you may think a hot spot will self-resolve, without addressing the underlying cause your pet will continue to have recurrent issues. Hot spots are painful and damaging to the skin, so addressing them
with your veterinarian’s guidance in a timely fashion is prudent.
As for treating a particular hot spot, your veterinarian will likely clip away the hair, clean the area and prescribe topical or oral antibiotics, steroids or other anti-inflammatory medication. If the underlying cause is an allergy, your veterinarian may prescribe an allergy medication.
Home care after the veterinarian visit typically involves cleaning with medicated wipes and application of a spray. An “e-collar” is generally used to prevent your pet from continuing to scratch or itch the affected area. Typically, the hot spot will heal within three days to a week of treatment.
To prevent future hot spots, you must identify and treat the underlying issue. This could include managing allergies, good hygiene and grooming, drying coats thoroughly after swimming and increasing daily exercise (to reduce stress and boredom).
Treating the hot spot is easy enough for your veterinarian, and after a little sleuthing, you can reasonably address the likely underlying causes and prevent future issues...and make for a happier, more comfortable pup.
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Emily Kalenius, DVM