Hot spots are a common skin problem, but that doesn't mean that they should be overlooked or ignored! Hot spots can happen at any time of the year, with the warmer months being more common.
Redness, oozing, pain, and itchiness are hallmark signs. Hair loss is commonly present.
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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, pyotraumatic dermatitis, and acute moist dermatitis. Broken down, "pyo-" refers to "pus", "-traumatic" refers to self-inflicted trauma of biting, licking, scratching, and so on, and "dermatitis" means inflammation of the skin.
These common skin lesions are usually caused (and made worse) by biting, licking, or scratching. The important thing for successful long term treatment of a hot spot is to find the underlying cause to break the cycle of continued skin trauma and resulting inflammation.
Redness, oozing, pain, and itchiness are hallmark signs. Hair loss is commonly present and there may be a bad odor associated with the hot spot. Sometimes hair can mat over the lesion, obscuring the size and degree of the problem.
These lesions can appear suddenly, and grow rapidly in size. It is common for an owner to notice a small area of inflamed skin in the morning (perhaps an inch or couple centimeters in diameter) 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.
There is usually an inciting factor to initiate the extreme licking and scratching behavior. Look for fleas, mites, or other external parasites, an insect sting or bite, allergies and scratching, or injury (skin wound, scrape, etc.). Some animals have been known to "start" a hot spot out of boredom, pain from a previous injury, or stress-related psychological problems.
How To Soothe A Hot Spot - Some Quick Tips
The first thing to do is speak with your veterinarian and make sure you are dealing with a hot spot and not something else. Due to the rapidity of spread and possibility of deeper skin infection, it is wise to start treatment with your vet. Also, these hot spots can be very painful to the animal -- caution is advised, use a muzzle if need be for your protection.
Shave the area. The first treatment for hot spots is to dry
them out and get air to the area. Hair loss is a feature of hot spots,
but hair can also mat over the inflamed area, covering up a potentially
much more severe and large problem. NOTE: Most hot spots are very
itchy-painful to the pet. I recommend seeing your veterinarian for this
initial shave/clean-up. Some animals need sedation to do this. If you
attempt to shave the affected area at home, please take appropriate
- Cleanse the area with cool water and a gentle skin cleanser.
- Cool compress the area 2-4 times a day with a cool wet washcloth.
- Medications - Depending on the severity and size of the hot spot, your veterinarian may prescribe oral antibiotics, topical drying sprays or medications, and/or special shampoos.
- Prevention of licking, biting, scratching -i.e. Elizabethan collar
- tea bag compresses (black or green tea) to help dry the area out. Tea can be used as a wash or as a compress.
- Domeboro's (Burow's) solution (aluminum acetate) - available over-the-counter at pharmacies to help dry the skin out. Can be used as a compress or as a spray.