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Tip of the Month

8/30/2013 Hot spots and your pet

Dealing with Hot Spots

One of the most dramatic looking and annoying skin problems a dog can have are hot spots. An inflamed patch of hairless skin, oozing pus and of foul odor usually appears within hours. It gets progressively worse as the dog continuously licks the area.

A hot spot or acute moist dermatitis is a skin inflammation triggered by an allergy to seasonal pollens, food allergies, fleas, insect bites or a skin wound. The dog will start itching, scratching and chewing at the site, leaving the broken skin a perfect environment for secondary bacterial infections. The pus gives the skin a wet appearance and a characteristic smell. The spot’s size can vary from a quarter to a whole cheek or thigh. It can occur as a single spot or in multiple locations. The condition is very painful.

Your veterinarian will more than likely do the following to resolve the hot spot. Treat the bacterial infection with antibiotic. Clip the hair around the wound to prevent contamination and reduce irritation. Use an antiseptic solution, such as chlorohexadine or betadine, to gently clean the wound. Recommend a topical spray to relieve the itching and help with the healing.

Most of the time, veterinarians are unable to determine the specific cause of the itch without extensive allergy testing, but they do treat the inflammation with steroids and antihistamines. The prescribed anti-inflammatory relieves the itch, while an Elizabethan collar prevents the dog from licking the wound. A veterinary assistant can provide helpful tips on how to secure the collar properly and offer advice on how to get your friend through this shameful experience (they do look silly and clumsy with a big cone on their heads). The hot spot will get dramatically better in couple of weeks of being treated.

No dog is safe from hot spots and prevention is difficult. However, in cases in which hot spots are associated with seasonal allergies, your veterinarian might prescribe a low dose of steroids and antihistamine during the hot spot season. Flea control should be used year around to prevent the itchy bites. Hot spots are more common in dogs with long and heavy coats, so make sure to remove dead hair by brushing; you should also dry your dog thoroughly after washing. Regular grooming helps your dog have a healthy coat and skin, and enables you to detect any problems or changes early on.

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