Dog Hot Spot – Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

September 6, 2009

in Cat Health

What exactly is a Hot Spot?

In the simplest of terms, a hot spot is an area of skin that has an infection. Typically, dogs with thick, long coats, dogs who swim and dogs who live in moist, humid environments are the most likely to have these localized skin surface infections. In addition, flea or bug bites can bring on these infections as well. Initially, these hot spots occur when an excess amount of moisture remains on the skin changing the environment of the skin and allowing bacteria to be present and grow. The bacteria release toxins which then inflame the skin and cause it to be itchy. As a result the dog will chew, bite and lick the area searching for relief. This action unfortunately causes the infection to get worse. This becomes a vicious cycle that can enlarge the spot quickly. It is amazing to note that these spots can appear quickly, usually within twenty to thirty minutes. As mentioned earlier, flea and bug bites can initiate this process as well.

Hot Spots – What to look for

Identifying a hot spot is fairly easy. In general they are large red, inflamed areas that are hairless and can often be oozing or scabbed over. The general localized location for hot spots is mostly on the hind legs or neck but can also appear anywhere on the body the dog can reach with its claws or teeth. In addition, the irritation of the skin can become so inflamed that is painful when touched.

Dog Hot Spot Diagnosis

Diagnosis of a hot spot is very easy and is usually made just with a visual inspection or physical examination.

If a dog seems to get many hot spots, some diagnostic tests may be needed to find out why. These include:

Skin scrapings to rule out mange

Fungal cultures to rule out ringworm

Blood Tests – These are used to rule or seasonal or inhalant allergies.

Blood and Skin Test – This can rule out an allergy to fleas.

Invasive treatment for fleas even if none are present.

Dietary food trials to test for food allergies

Treatment for Canine Hot Spots

Things to remember when providing treatment include:

Stop the itching

Clear up the infection

Prevent the dog from biting or scratching the area

Keep the area dry

Initially, the remaining hair on the hot spot and the surrounding hair are clipped. The spot is then cleaned well with an antibacterial soap and dried. Clipping and cleaning can be so painful that a dog may have to be sedated for the procedure. This depends on how bad the hot spot is.

The next step is for the area to be treated with oral and topical antibiotics. The topical antibiotic will generally contain a corticosteroid to reduce inflammation while the oral antibiotic will contain a corticosteroid to reduce itching. The most important thing is to stop the itch, chew, infection cycle. By making your dog comfortable, the healing process can begin more quickly.

An Elizabethan or lamp shade like collar may be needed if your dog can not stop licking the area. These are generally only needed for 24 hours. In about one week’s time, the hot spot will usually be completely healed.

Methods to Prevent Hot Spots

To prevent hot spots, several things can be done:

Use effective flea control on a dog and in the environment

Trim the hair of long and thick haired breeds during the summer months

Whenever possible, prevent your dog from swimming

If swimming can not be prevented make sure that you dry your dog thoroughly

Heather Fox is a an experience veterinarian who writes and shares her knowledge with others. She is a featured writer on Clivir.com where she shared more information about Dog Diseases Symptoms and Dog Hot Spots Causes.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

bonnie January 18, 2011 at 4:29 pm

i just adopted a 2 year old dog from a humane society last year october. when i got the dog, she had some ticks and so i bathed, groomed her thoroughly and then used flea and tick frontline. she has been fine until last week friday. nothing has changed with her lifestyle. all of a sudden, she broke out in scabs and a huge, enormous sore/hotspot on her tail. i took her to my vet and he shaved the area, did some testings and said it was hot spots and that there was no cure only to put medication on the sore twice a day and give her antibiotics twice daily for a month. he also gave her an anti-itch injection, and an antibiotic injection. i have been trying to apply the medication to the sore but my dog is a very sensitive dog and she refuses to let me apply it. we have to hold her down and then still we sometimes fail to get the medicine on the right spot. she is continually biting it and we have to watch her and keep her on the leash, every minute of every day. if we don’t soon see an improvement, we may have to put her to sleep. we are trying out best, but we simply cannot keep staying up all night long and watch over her every minute. out vet didn’t offer to keep her and treat her for us in his office for a few days/week, etc. we even have to give her vallium in order for us to be able to leave her alone for one second! the vet prescribed vallium when i told him how serious this was. we don’t want to put her to sleep. we love her so much. she is a sweet dog. a crossbreed – shepherd, sheepdog, and chow.
she has long hair like an austrialian shepherd. our vet doesn’t have a collar to put on her to stop her from biting. my daughter has taken it upon herself to be the main caregiver to our dog. i have been through hots spots before with a dog many years ago. but nothing as serious as this! do you have a suggestion for me. any help would be appreciated. i just may call my vet and ask him to either take her and keep her to treat her at his office, or we have no alternative but to put her to sleep. i don’t have any background on our dog. she was a stray wandering the streets and rescued by the humane society. appreciate any help you can give me. thanks, bonnie

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