Hot Spots In Dogs

Acute moist dermatitis or hot spots are a common skin condition in dogs with double coats such as Golden Retrievers and Bernese Mountain dogs. An inciting factor such as an insect bite, allergy, chemical burn or sticker irritates the skin. Then the dog licks, scratches and chews the area further inflaming it. The traumatized skin in combination with the moisture from licking gives bacteria a perfect place to grow. The infection makes the skin even more itchy causing the dog to lick, scratch and chew more until it develops a hot spot.

This is a hot spot on the neck of a dog was recently groomed.
This is a hot spot on the neck of a dog who was recently groomed.

Hot spots commonly occur on the checks, neck and thighs of dogs during period of hot and humid weather. Treatment starts with shaving the area to reveal the full extent of the dermatitis. I often start by numbing the area with a topical anesthetic. For some dogs, this won’t be enough and I will have to give them more medication to control pain as well as a tranquilizer before clipping. The infection causes a thick yellow tan discharge that sticks like glue. It can be difficult to remove because it gums up the clipper blades.  After the hair is removed, the area is cleaned thoroughly, rinsed and dried. It is important to treat this area of dermatitis as gently as possible. Blot to dry, never rub or use a blow drier set on cool if the dog will tolerate it.

Once the initial treatment is finished, the dog is sent home with the following:                                                                                                                               1) E-collar to prevent further licking.                                                                    2) Antibiotics to treat the infection.                                                                      3) Medication for pain relief. In mild cases, a topical numbing medication such as Dermacool is usually enough to keep the dog comfortable. In more severe cases, I add an oral pain medication as well.                                                                                                                                           4) Other treatments based on the inciting cause including steroids or antihistamines for allergies, flea and mite treatments.

With treatment, most hot spots heal in three to five days. If not, the dog needs further tests to rule out conditions such as deep pyoderma and ulceration caused by cancer.

Source:                                                                                                                           -Holm, Kristen. Acute Moist Dermatitis. Canine Associate, VIN, 2009.

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.

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