Hot Spots: What They Are & How to Help Them Heal

All Things Paw

By Michelle Knowles

Hot spots, also known as pyotraumatic dermatitis, are surface skin infections caused when populations of normal skin bacteria grow and overwhelm normal resistance.

They are generally circular patches that lose hair, can be swollen, may exude a smelly liquid and can be painfully itchy, causing the dog to scratch, lick or bite to the point of self–mutilation.

What is a “Hot Spot”?

A hot spot is a localized area of skin inflammation and infection. The infection can be superficial or deep. Other common names for this condition include: moist dermatitis and acute moist dermatitis.

What Are The Signs of a Hot Spot?

Redness, oozing, pain and itchiness are hallmark signs. Hair loss is common. Sometimes hair can mat over the spot and hide the size and severity of the problem. These spots can appear suddenly, and grow quickly, sometimes within hours.

It is common for an owner to notice a small area of inflamed skin in the morning and come home from work to be met with a large area the size of the palm of a hand. The dog is usually highly agitated and will not leave the area alone. Some dogs will even growl or snap if the area is touched.

What Causes a Hot Spot?

There is usually a traumatic incident to initiate the extreme licking and scratching behavior. Look for fleas, mites or other external parasites, an insect sting or bite, allergies (food, inhalant, or contact) or injury (skin wound, scrape, etc.). Some animals have been known to “start” a hot spot out of boredom or stress–related psychological problems.

What Can Be Done to Treat a Hot Spot?

The first thing to do is speak with a veterinarian. Due to the rapid spread and possibility of deeper skin infection, it is wise to start treatment with a vet.

Here are some steps to take at the salon. Caution is advised; hot spots are often very painful. Use a muzzle if need be, for your protection.

  1. Clip the area free of hair. There is no need to shave backwards or scrape the skin.  The first treatment for hot spots is to dry them out and get air to the area.
  2. Cleanse the area with cool water and a gentle anti–bacterial skin cleanser.
  3. Cool compress the area with a cool wet washcloth.
  4. Medications may be needed depending on the severity and size of the hot spot. The veterinarian may prescribe oral antibiotics, topical drying sprays or medications, and/or special shampoos.
  5. Prevention of licking, biting, scratching; i.e. Elizabethan collar (E Collar) or Boobooloon.
  6. Additional home remedies that can be used until the vet can be seen:
  • Ozonated oil is recommended because it promotes quick healing, does not sting and is completely safe if licked by the pet. This oil is gel–like in consistency and is Anti–bacterial, anti–fungal and helps decrease inflammation.
  • Fulvic Minerals is a combination of trace minerals and vitamins which feeds the skin with the ingredients it needs to make new, healthy cells.

Pets That Swim

Many of our pet friends enjoy swimming during the hot months but then have issues with tangling and hot spots. There are several options for after–water care that will decrease the likelihood of these issues from occurring. These steps can be taken to care for the pet whether the fun has been in the ocean, lake, river, chlorine or salt water pool:

  1. After the fun has been had and the day is done, rinse the pet thoroughly with clean water.
  2. Apply a leave–in conditioner or a watered–down version of regular conditioner, gently comb or brush through the coat then rinse and let dry naturally.
  3. Another option is to use a collagen spray with fulvic minerals to add moisture to the hair itself. This can be brushed through a dry coat in between grooming and/or after water fun to maintain hydration and prevent tangling.
  4. Brush the pet while still damp or when dry to realign the hair and help close the cuticle to prevent further tangles and buildup of loose hair.

Hot spots are not complicated, and therapeutic treatments can be soothing and painless while helping the skin heal.✂

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