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Dogs "Hot Spots"


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What is a "hot spot"?

A hot spot is a red, moist, and exudative (oozing) sore on the skin produced by the dog constantly biting or scratching at a part of his or her body in an attempt to alleviate some pain or itch. The correct medical term is acute moist dermatitis or pyotraumatic dermatitis. This self-induced trauma will develop rapidly — usually within hours!

 

Are there certain dogs that are more likely to do this?

Yes. German Shepherds, Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Collies, and St. Bernards develop hot spots more often than other breeds, but any breed is susceptible. Dogs with a heavy coat or dense undercoat are more likely to develop these lesions. Dogs during hot, humid weather (flea season) and dogs with allergies are more likely to develop these lesions.

 

Why does a dog do this?

Underlying causes may be fleas or other insect bites, allergies, ear infections, burs or mats in hair, dirty coats, anal sac problems, or irritant substances. Other causes may be psychoses or painful musculoskeletal disorders. These factors initiate the itch-scratch cycle.

 

How is this condition diagnosed ?

In most cases, the diagnosis is made based on the history of an acute onset, appearance and location of the lesion and some association with a primary cause. Lesions are often located in close proximity to the primary cause (for example, near infected ears, anal sacs, and flea bites on the rump). A typical lesion is a single, red, round, eroded to ulcerated, alopecic (loss of hair) lesion. Peripheral hair and exudate may be matted onto the lesion making it hard to see.

 

How is a hot spot treated?

First depending on the severity of the lesion and temperament of the dog, sedation or anesthesia may be needed to allow thorough and painless cleaning of the area. Cleaning involves shaving the hair around the lesion, removing the matted hair and exudate, cleaning with an antiseptic, and applying a drying agent.

 

Most cases are given a steroid injection to stop the itch-scratch cycle and allow the lesion to heal. Oral or topical steroids may be dispensed in addition. Dogs are more resistant to the side effects of steroids than humans, but significant side-effects can occur, usually an increase in water intake, urination, and appetite.

 

Some cases require that antibiotics and shampoos be dispensed. Usually the skin returns to normal in 10 to 14 days.

 

It is also important to find and treat the underlying cause to stop the dog's reflex self-trauma. The treatment to accomplish this varies, depending on the primary cause.

 

Some unfortunate dogs have repeated problems. Constant attention to grooming, hygiene, ear hygiene, parasite control, and allergy control are necessary. Please be particularly vigilant during periods of hot, humid weather (flea season).

 

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