Normally, your first assumption when you see your dog scratching is that he is under assault by fleas; but sometimes, there’s more going on than just your typical flea infestation. Hot spots are uncomfortable patches that dogs lick or scratch incessantly.

Puppy scratchingYou’ll know it’s a hot spot when you separate the fur and find a patch of raw skin, maybe even with some signs of bleeding. If it’s very advanced, there may be other such patches on other parts of your dog’s body. These are dog hot spots, otherwise referred to by vets as moist eczema and it’s a relatively common skin problem in dogs.

It may look like your pal is being eaten alive by something that arrived on a shipping crate from the Amazon jungle, but fear not, treatment for hot spots is readily available. Just be sure to address the matter immediately, lest the hot spot spread and cause further damage and discomfort to your pet’s skin.

What causes hot spots?

You probably want to know what could possibly have brought about such discomfort and distress for your poor dog. Determining the exact cause of dog hot spots can be tricky, as any damage or irritation to the skin combined with moisture can present an opening for bacteria to invade. Obviously, a dog’s lifestyle involves plenty of rolling around in dirt and other such physical activities, which provides many opportunities for ruptures in the skin to occur.

Suffice to say that the entry of bacteria into the skin is the critical factor in the development of hot spots. Appropriate treatment will usually incorporate anti-bacterial remedies. The skin irritation causes the dog to repeatedly scratch and lick at the affected spot, exacerbating the situation and resulting in a patch of reddened skin that, while not particularly healthy, will at least make the hot spot easier to identify.

How to treat hot spots

According to veterinarian Robert D. Tedaldi, hot spot treatment for dogs occurs in three stages:

  • Reveal the hot spot
  • Clean the hot spot
  • Control the spread of infection

Dog hot spots

Your first job is to find out just how far the infection has spread. This requires you to shave the fur around the hot spot using animal clippers so that it can be revealed in all its ugliness. Extend an inch beyond the wound in every direction so you can be sure it hasn’t spread further.

Now clean the wound with a suitable antiseptic. Your vet may prescribe something for the itching, such as a hydrocortisone spray or cream.

Finally, you’ll need to dress the wound, and take steps to ensure your pet can’t pick at it. Pet MD recommends using an Elizabethan collar to restrict your pet’s attempts to bite or lick at the wound.

Keep monitoring the wound and clean it daily. If you notice any swelling around the hot spot, or if your dog begins to develop a fever, you should take him to the vet so he can be prescribed some antibiotics to help fight the infection. Otherwise, you should start seeing clear signs of improvement in around 3 to 5 days. When the wound starts to dry, you’ll know it’s on the way to recovery.

When should I see a veterinarian?

Hotspots on dogs can spread aggressively if you don’ get to them soon enough. If you really don’t like the look of it, you should take the safe option and consult with your vet. They can ascertain how extensive the hot spot treatment should be, and whether or not oral antibiotics and antihistamines will be required to combat the spread of infection.

If the hot spot has developed to the point where its effects go beyond mere hair loss and red skin; for example, if you notice discharge on your dog’s fur around the affected area and the skin appears raw and bloody, then you should see the vet as soon as possible.

Dog coneHow can I prevent hot spots?

Well, there’s not much you can (or should) do to prevent your dog engaging in the kind of playful activity that leads to torn skin, which in turn may produce hot spots. One thing you can do however, is to ensure your pet is well groomed. Long, matted fur is a fertile territory for hot spots to develop, so keep his coat in good health. Diet can help with this as well.

Also bear in mind that hot spots on dogs more commonly occur in summer, hence the term ‘summer sores’. Keeping your dog’s hair short in the summer will allow it to dry quicker, and will also make it easier for you to notice any hot spots and deal with them before they spread.