You might think of a hot spot as a great bar or restaurant but to your dog a hot spot is some far more unpleasant.
In the canine world, “hot spots” are an all too common condition consisting of open sores that are constantly being bitten, scratched, or chewed. Also called Acute Moist Dermatitis, these painful skin lesions can develop at any time of the year, but they are more common in the warmer months.
Hot spots can occur anywhere on the body, often in more than one spot. Hot spots are typically self-inflicted, usually caused (and made worse) by biting, licking, or scratching one particular area. Warm to the touch, a hot spot is a red, painful, swollen patch of skin one to four inches in size that oozes pus and can give off quite a nasty smell.
The infection progresses when the dog licks and chews the site. These circular patches appear suddenly and enlarge quickly, often within a matter of hours. It is common to notice a small area of inflamed skin in the morning (perhaps an inch or less in diameter) and then come home from work to see that the sore has grown substantially and is now several inches in diameter.
Two approaches are necessary for dealing with hot spots: first treat the sore and second remove the underlying cause to prevent recurrences. There are some very effective home remedies if the hot spot has not progressed too far and your dog lets you treat him (hot spots are extremely painful and some dogs, even ones who are usually very gentle, will growl or snap if the area is touched). Dogs who don’t respond quickly to home remedies or dogs with severe or persistent hot spots will need to be seen by a veterinarian.
- Clip away hair to expose the hot spot. The bacteria creating the infection thrive in moist irritated skin, so the first step is to get air to the area and dry it out.
- Cleanse the area with cool water and a gentle skin cleanser. Pat dry.
- Use a tea bag compresses (black or green tea) to help dry and soothe the area. The tea acts in place of a cortisone cream (which can “gunk up” the wound and prevent the necessary air flow to dry it out). The tannic aids in the teabag ooze onto the skin and have a soothing, itch relieving effect. Simply wet a bag of black or green tea and use it as a compress against the sore. Hold the bag to the skin for four or five minutes, then pat dry. Do this two to four times daily for several days.
- Prevent the dog fro traumatizing the area by applying an e-collar. I have a Soft E-Collar ($17.00 – $49.95; http://www.bonafido.com/page6.html) which I find much easier to use than the traditional cone shaped e-collar.
There are several topical solutions that you can use to help stop the hot spot and speed the healing process:
- Domeboro’s (Burow’s) solution (aluminum acetate) is inexpensive and available over-the-counter at pharmacies to help dry the skin out. Follow package directions and use as a spray or compress.
- GentaSpray Topical Spray has to be prescribed by your vet, but it’s a great first aid spray that works very well to help heal hot spots.
- Calm Coat ($11.95; http://www.calmcoat.com) is an all-natural essential oil mixture that is naturally antiseptic, antibiotic, and antifungal. It helps stop the itching and has a soothing, cooling effect when applied and helps speed hair re-growth.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Knowing how to keep hot spots from reoccurring will save you a lot of time, heartache and money (in vet visits). Fleas, mites, skin allergies, irritant skin diseases, ear and anal gland infection and neglected grooming are the most common causes of hot spots.
Hot spots often in breeds with long, heavy coats, and tend to appear just before shedding, when moist dead hair is trapped next to the skin. Double or triple the number of grooming appointments if necessary.
Many types of dermatological problems are avoided by feeding a high quality food, preferably with human grade meat, that doesn’t contain ingredients like corn, wheat and soy. Fish oil supplements are excellent for promoting the production of natural anti-inflammatory substances in the body and for improving the health of skin (don’t forget to give extra vitamin E when giving fish oil).
To keep fleas away, I add Bug Off Garlic ($15.00; http://www.springtimeinc.com) at each meal and when we go out hiking or anywhere there is a greater chance of picking up fleas I spray the dogs down with Neem “Protect” Spray ($12.00; http://www.arknaturals.com).