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Hot Spots: What Dog Owners Need to Know

We call them hot spots. Your veterinarian probably calls them acute moist dermatitis. Whatever you call them though, they're no fun for your dog. We look at what causes hot spots, how you can prevent them from happening, and how you can help your dog if they do develop one.

What Are Hot Spots?

Hot spots are localized bacterial infections that occur on the skin of dogs. As your dog licks, nibbles and scratches the area to try to relieve their discomfort, they make the infection worse, resulting in inflamed, oozing and usually hairless areas that seem to get worse all the time!

They're more common in the summer, but they can occur at any time, and because they are bacterial, they can spread if left untreated.

The hot spot itself is a secondary infection, which means that it could be triggered from a scratch, insect bite, abrasion, moisture on the skin from swimming, another type of infection or even your dog's own licking.

Which Dogs Get Hot Spots?

Again, any dog can potentially get hot spots but they are more common in larger breeds with longer coats, like Golden Retrievers, Labradors, German Shepherds or St. Bernards.

What Do Hot Spots Look Like?

At first, hot spots don't look like much at all. Perhaps an insect bite or a small scratch. However, as your dog bites, licks and scratches the area, they can cause the infection that we know as hot spots, and that can lead to swelling, hair loss, redness and even pus in an open wound. It's not pretty, and the longer it goes untreated, the worse it becomes.

How to Treat H Hot Spots

The first thing you need to know about hot spots is that because they are bacterial, you will most likely need antibiotics to treat them. That means a trip to the vet, and the sooner the better. Hot spots do not typically heal on their own, and they will need medical attention.

Your veterinarian will attempt to identify the underlying cause of your dog's hot spot, so that you can take steps to prevent it. They will also probably trim any hair around the area, and may give you a topical lotion or cream to use alongside an oral antibiotic. Depending on the severity of the infection, they may also give your dog an Elizabethan collar to wear, to keep them from licking and biting the infected area.

This combination of treatments, along with keeping the infected area clean and dry, should clear the infection up in about a week.

How to Prevent Hot Spots

Hot spots can happen any time, to any dog, and they can definitely recur. So the goal in most cases is to figure out what is causing your dog to itch in the first place.

Your veterinarian might advise you on methods of keeping fleas and other itchy parasites at bay. They might advocate regular grooming, or offer treatment for primary infections that they find during their examination of your dog.

Treating the cause of the hot spot might not prevent recurrence, but it will make it less likely.

Your veterinarian will probably also recommend that you dry your dog extra carefully after swims and muddy walks, gets more exercise if they suspect their hot spots are stress related, or that you change their food if an allergy or sensitivity is suspected.

Like many doggy diseases and disorders, it can take some time to figure out the root cause of your dog's hot spots, but with a few lifestyle changes, you can probably keep them happy and itch free!

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