Hot spots: what causes them, how to get rid of them

Most dog owners are familiar with ‘hot spots’. They are those raw, red patches on your dog where the hair has been rubbed or licked off or has fallen out. Any hair that is left is caked with noisy, smelly crusts. A hot spot is painful for your dog. Treatment is essential.

Why do hot spots occur?

Anything that can cause a dog to scratch or rub an area until it is inflamed (the most common offenders—flea bites or allergies) can contribute to hot spot formation. Once the skin surface is raw, infection can set in, and all the drainage and moisture associated with infection can set up a vicious cycle that a dog cannot break without assistance.

Are some dogs more susceptible?

Hot spots are a ‘dog thing’ in general, but certain breeds seem to be more commonly affected, including Rottweilers, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers. These dogs may be genetically predisposed to hot spots, or the more frequent appearance of this condition in these breeds may be related to the type of hair coat or other genetically linked issues such as allergies.

What should I do when I notice a hot spot?

If you see your dog repeatedly licking or biting an area of skin, take action now before odour and moisture develop. The sooner you react, the easier it is to cure.

  1. Most importantly, ensure your dog is protected against fleas ALL YEAR ROUND. It is a common misconception that fleas occur in summer only (they don’t) and because the greatest infestation is too small for the human eye to see we may be fooled into thinking our dog has none.  EberVet Vetshops stock a wide range of flea protection, including palatable, chewable tablets that protect your dog for months.
  2. If a foul smell has already developed, then infection is likely and you will probably need antibiotics to get control, which means a visit to your veterinarian for an examination before the antibiotic can be prescribed.
  3. An important step is getting air to the wound to dry out the moisture and create an environment that is less amenable to continued bacterial growth. Because this condition is painful, management of advanced hot spots will involve sedation with hair clipping and wound management. Get your dog to the vet.
  4. If there is another pathology underlying your dog’s hot spots, like allergic disease, your veterinarian can help you get to the bottom of it. There are no home remedies  that reliably prove effective for hot spots once infection has set in.

Source: Kathryn Primm, DVM