Hot spots – what you need to know
Pyotraumatic dermatitis, also known as acute moist dermatitis or a hot spot, is one of the most common skin problems seen in dogs. While dogs can get hot spots year-round, the warmer weather of spring and summer tends to increase the risk for these painful skin lesions. Understanding the triggers of hot spots, as well as preventive care and treatment, will help you keep your dog’s skin healthy (and tail wagging) as the seasons change.
Because hot spots affect the superficial layers of the skin, they are not considered skin infections. A hot spot is:
- Self-induced trauma to the outer layers of the skin
- More common in dogs with heavy coats and dense undercoats, such as golden and Labrador retrievers, collies, German shepherds, and Saint Bernards.
- Much more common in warm, humid weather
- Can develop in a few hours
- Not a skin infection, although bacteria can be present on the surface of the wound
Underlying causes of hot spots include:
- External parasites ( including fleas and lice)
- Allergic skin disease
- Anal sac disorders
- Constant licking and/or chewing prompted by stress or boredom
- Irritant substances
- Dirty, wet, or unkempt coats
- Painful locations on the body, such as an arthritic joint
Hot spots are treatable if they are addressed quickly and thoroughly. Treatment recommendations include:
- Clipping hair away from the affected area.
- After clipping, the area should be cleaned with an antiseptic solution of povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine.
- Application of a drying agent, such as 2 percent aluminum acetate (Domeboro astringent solution) or similar topical medication, or herbal drying agent.
- Topical corticosteroids, if needed; oral corticosteroids in more severe cases. The routine use of oral antibiotics is discouraged unless evidence of deeper skin involvement is demonstrated.
- The use of Elizabethan collars or other mechanisms to stop ongoing licking and chewing
Addressing any underlying causes is critical not only in the treatment of the hot spot but as a preventive measure. Ignoring predisposing factors will likely lead to recurrence of the lesion, and ongoing discomfort for the patient. Good grooming habits, routine cleaning of ears and anal sacs, and external parasite control can help avoid some of the precipitating factors that trigger this health concern. Always consult with your veterinarian if you suspect a hot spot flare-up.