What are Hot Spots on Dogs?

Dogs can develop skin problems just as easily as humans but they can be more difficult to diagnose and treat since your dog’s body is covered with fur. One of the most commonly seen skin problems known to affect dogs is called a “hot spot.” Let’s talk about the basics of hot spots on dogs, what causes them, and how to treat them.

Identifying Hot Spots on Your Dog

The name “hot spot” actually refers to a condition called acute moist dermatitis and it is given to the red, hot, irritated lesions that sometimes form on a dog’s skin. Hot spots are most likely to develop on a dog’s head, chest, or hips and they can grow in size rapidly. A hot spot can be caused by anything that irritates your dog’s skin, causing him to scratch or lick himself. Common causes of hot spots include mites, flea bites, poor grooming, allergic reactions, and underlying skin infections or ear infections – they can also be brought on by excessing chewing or licking caused by boredom. The more your dog licks, scratches, and chews the area, the larger and more painful the hot spot becomes.

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Hot spots can affect dogs of any size, age, and breed. Your dog may be at a greater risk for developing hot spots, however, if he is not properly groomed. Dogs with oily, dirty, and matted coats are more likely to lick and chew themselves which creates hot spots. Canines that are frequently wet due to rain or swimming also have a higher risk. Dogs with thick, long coats are most frequently affected by hot spots. Although hip dysplasia is not a cause of hot spots, pain in the dog’s hips and hindquarters can lead the dog to lick or chew the area which might start a hot spot.

Treatment Options for Hot Spots

Because hot spots can grow quickly and become painful it is important that you get your dog the treatment he needs as soon as possible. As soon as you notice any kind of irritation or abnormality in your dog’s skin you should take him to the vet – do not wait for the problem to get worse. Even if you do not see any changes in your dog’s skin, an increase in scratching, licking, or biting is also an indication of a problem that may require veterinary attention.

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When you bring your dog to the vet he will perform an exam in order to identify the underlying cause of the hot spots. Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the hot spot as well as the cause. In cases of extreme irritation, your vet may shave the hair surrounding the hot spot so he can apply a topical medication; this will also help make sure the wound is properly aerated to facilitate healing. Your vet may also prescribe antibiotics, painkillers, or anti-parasitics depending on the cause and severity of the hot spots. In some cases your dog might also need to wear an e-collar to prevent him from further aggravating the area.

Hot spots are treatable but they can be irritating and painful for your dog so you should do what you can to prevent them from forming in the first place. Make sure your dog is properly groomed, especially if he has a long or thick coat. Going too long between grooming sessions can cause mats to develop which encourage your dog to lick and chew at his coat. Ask your veterinarian about flea and tick preventives and try to keep your dog’s coat as clean as possible.

Although hot spots can be treated, allowing them to develop in the first place will cause your dog unnecessary pain and discomfort. By keeping your dog clean and properly groomed you can prevent hot spots from forming. If your dog does develop a hot spot, seek veterinary attention immediately to prevent the problem from getting worse.


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