November means plummeting temperatures, but your dog could still be at risk of developing hot spots. This condition can be frustrating for both the dog and owner in terms of control and treatment!
Hot spots, also known as acute moist dermatitis or moist eczema, are red, itchy, and inflamed skin lesions that can pop up on a dog’s skin. It usually begins as a simple irritation that causes the dog to lick, chew, and scratch at the initial spot, thus irritating the skin even more and causing the skin lesion. They are usually circular lesions found over the head, hip, or along the chest area. These areas can be painful, especially if the animal has traumatized the skin.
What causes hot spots?
It can be hard to pinpoint what can cause hot spots in your dog. Any factor that initiates an “itch/scratch” cycle may predispose the dog to developing this condition.
Underlying allergies seem to be the biggest proponent when it comes to developing hot spots. It is often caused by a local allergic reaction to a specific antigen. Insect or flea bites, inhalant, environmental, or food allergies may lead to scratching and trauma to the skin, thus increasing the risk of developing hot spots. They seem to be more common in dense-coated, longhaired breeds due to moisture entrapment close to the skin.
How do we treat hot spots?
If your dog has an irritated area on the skin, it is always advisable to seek the recommendation and guidance of a veterinarian before treating it yourself. Some home remedies can actually irritate the affected skin even worse and delay your dog’s healing time.
Your vet will most likely do a skin scraping to look for secondary bacterial or yeast infections. They will also look for external parasites that could potentially be causing the skin irritation. Next, they will usually clip away the hair and examine the affected skin area. Once the area is clipped, the skin will be cleaned with a disinfecting agent such as a chlorhexidine solution. It is recommended to keep the clipped area clean and dry so as to allow the skin to heal properly.
Oral antibiotics will be prescribed if a bacterial skin infection is present. Your dog may also be given oral corticosteroids to control the itching and decrease the inflammation seen on the skin. They may be required to wear a hard plastic cone called an Elizabethan Collar around their neck to prevent further licking and scratching at the affected area while healing occurs.
Hot spots tend to grow and worsen if left untreated so don’t delay in helping your pet if you see a hot spot forming on their skin.
By Avery Young, DVM. Dr. Avery Young is the new associate veterinarian at Salt Lake Veterinary Services and the newly owned Mountain Vale Veterinary Clinic in Taylorsville. When not in the clinic, she enjoys biking and hiking in the mountains with her two dogs, Nutmeg and the three-legged Suki. Dr. Young is excited to be back in Utah serving the Salt Lake valley pet population.