Hot spots are a very common skin disorder that affects dogs of all breeds. Owners notice an area of the skin, which the pet is aggressively scratching at. The most common parts of the body to find these lesions on include the head and neck and the tail and thigh region. This is due to the fact that the dogs can do the most damage to these areas with their back feet and teeth respectively. Typically the area will become hot, red, moist and painful. These areas can erupt in a matter of hours and often times they are mistaken for bite wounds. If the pet has medium to long fur, the exudate that is produced by the wound can dry in the fur and make a large scabby area, hiding the true lesion from site.

Hot spots are actually a superficial bacterial infection in the skin brought on by the trauma caused by aggressive scratching. They can be started by almost anything that makes the pet itchy, such as flea or other insect bites, allergies or topical irritants. The pets begin to scratch the area in response to the stimulus and their nails or teeth (sometimes they will bite at the area) break the surface of the skin and drive the bacteria into the layers of the skin where they can grow. Typically, these lesions are caused by a staphylococcus infection. As the staph grows, it elaborates a toxin that makes the area itch more and a vicious cycle of itch and scratch begins causing the wound to spread. The body responds by bringing white cells to the area to fight off the bacteria. This generates a pus-filled exudates which is often foul smelling.

How does our veterinary clinic treat Hot Spots?

Hot spots are usually very painful, and often it is impossible to rule out another type of lesion, such as a bite wound or laceration without sedating the dog. Once our veterinarians have the pet sedated, we clip the hair and dried exudate from the wound and the surrounding area to create a “fire break”. This prevents the pus and toxins from making the wound spread. Next we gently cleanse the wound with antiseptic soaps. We then treat the area with a therapeutic laser to help reduce the inflammation, pain and infection. Then we apply medication to help dry out the wound and kill the bacteria.

Because these wounds are very painful, our veterinary team generally administer a pain relieving injection along with a steroid to stop the itching. The dog is sent home with an Elizabethan collar to prevent further trauma to the area as well as antibiotics, oral steroids and topical spray. Owners are often shocked to see how bad the skin looks under the fur. It will generally look like a “pizza without the cheese”. Fortunately, the wound will usually dry up and heal within 5-7 days. Fur will return to the area within a few weeks to months depending on the type of coat.

Pets in Alta Loma, Rancho Cucamonga, Upland, Ontario, Claremont, Fontana, and the Inland Empire that have recurring hot spots should be placed on stringent flea and tick control using Frontline Plus. They may need to be evaluated for inhalant or food allergies as well. This will help us control the primary causes of the itching and hopefully prevent further occurrences.