This is a guest post by Laci Schaible, DVM, a veterinarian, writer, and pet advocate. Dr. Schaible works as a veterinary marketing copywriter at VetLIVE.com.
Acute moist dermatitis, commonly known as a “hot spot,” is a local skin irritation that unfortunately plagues countless dogs. “Hot spots” can seemingly appear almost over night when a primary problem leads to self-trauma and initiates an itch-scratch cycle.
Causes of hot spots
“Hot spots” are the result of intense chewing and licking. Anything that causes itchiness can trigger their development. The inciting cause is often an insect bite reaction. They are common in animals with flea allergies and ear infections.
Ticks, biting flies, skin mites, and even mosquitoes have been known to cause acute moist dermatitis. Other frequent causes include environmental allergies, food allergies, anal sac problems, skin wounds, and scabs.
They are more commonly a problem during hot humid weather. Dogs with thicker hair coats, such as the German shepherd, seem to develop “hot spots” more often. However, they can occur in any breed at any age.
Physical appearance of hot spots
It is usually a large, raw, inflamed, wet sore. It may bleed or ooze yellow liquid. The lesion may enlarge if licking and chewing continues. When the lesion becomes infected it can emit a strong odor.
Lesions are often solitary but multiple spots can occur.Common locations include the tail base, outer thighs, and neck, and near the base of the ear. The one good thing about “hot spots” is that their appearance is easily recognizable, and combined with a history or quick onset and sudden itchiness, diagnosis is usually simple and straightforward.
Hot spot treatment
Because “hot spots” are usually infected by the time the pet parent finds them, it’s often a problem that requires veterinary care. The underlying cause should be identified and treated, if possible.
Flea and tick preventives should be applied and up-to-date. Anti-inflammatory medications and antibiotics are often used to relieve the intense inching and to combat secondary skin infection. Any combination of injections, oral medications, and topical ointments and astringents may be prescribed.
The area is usually clipped and cleaned to facilitate applying any sprays or ointments to the affected area and to aid healing. Clipping and cleaning may require sedation, because these lesions can be painful. A crucial component of treatment is stopping the self-trauma, which often requires an e-collar.
The prognosis for “hot spots” is excellent with treatment but some dogs repeatedly develop them. Careful attention must be paid to regular grooming and hygiene of “hot spot” prone pets, especially during the hot and humid seasons. A dog with a dirty matted hair coat is at greatest risk of developing a “hot spot.” Year-round flea treatment is also useful in preventing recurrence. Larger and more severe “hot spots” can rarely scar.
Laci Schaible, DVM is a veterinarian, writer, and pet advocate. Dr. Schaible works as a veterinary marketing copywriter at VetLIVE.com.
Top photo via Flickr/Takashi Hososhima