“Hot Spots” in dogs, also called “lick granulomas” or diagnosed as “acute moist dermatitis” in dogs can be caused by anything that irritates the skin. The dog scratches the itchy or inflamed area, which damages the skin, causing oozing or an open sore. The most common areas for hot spots are on areas the dog can reach easily: legs and feet, flanks and rumps.
Causes : According to Dr. Rosanna Marsalla, irritants that can initiate the itching include flea, tick or mosquito bites, allergies, mange, anal gland disease, summer heat and burrs. Poor grooming can also start an itch/scratch/chew cycle. Fleas are the most common irritant.
Dr. Marsalla says the breeds most susceptible include Golden retrievers and Saint Bernards, which seem to be started by inflammation and infection of hair follicles (called “folliculitis”) in these breeds, along with young dogs. Other long-haired breeds often seen by vets for dermatitis caused by hair matting are collies, Old English Sheepdogs and Shih-Tzus.
Dr. Marsalla says dog owners should watch their dogs for intense itching, which often signals the beginning of a problem. Once you see hair loss with reddened skin that is moist and oozing, sometimes crusty and scabbed, you need to immediately begin home treatment or see your vet.
Flea and tick treatments could help your dog avoid this problem to begin with. If your dog has a known food allergy, avoid that food. It is not worth taking the chance of beginning an itch/scratch cycle. If he is allergic to common house dust, use an air filter, vacuum frequently, and keep him in an area that can be washed frequently — like a hard floor with a washable mat or bedding. For spoiled pets that like upholstered furniture, you can cover the areas with light, washable blankets or coverlets that can be changed frequently.
Keeping a dog cool during hot weather – with air conditioning or heavy outdoor shade – may help to prevent this common summertime problem.
If the condition is just beginning, you can try using a mild, water-based astringent, anti-bacterial product or antiseptic. Before using, check with your vet that the product is safe for your dog’s breed, size, and medical history if he is on other medications or has other medical conditions. If home treatment doesn’t improve the condition in a day or two, you will probably want your dog to see the vet.
Dr. Marsalla says treatment usually begins by clipping the hair around the affected area, which is often larger than what you can readily see. Then the area should be cleaned with an antibacterial solution like chlorhexidrine or a drying solution like Burrow’s solution, which will fight infection and reduce itching.
You want to break the itch/scratch cycle so your vet might recommend an oral corticosteroid drug, which will increase your pet’s hunger and thirst.
If the infection has allowed bacteria to take hold, the vet might recommend an antibiotic for 2 to 3 weeks.
According to Norma Woolf, the reason behind hot spots is sometimes behavioral. If the dog is so bored, stressed or lonely that he soothes himself by constant licking, the condition goes beyond veterinary treatment. The dog needs attention, exercise and play.
Dr. Rosanna Marsalla, “Acute Moist Dermatitis (Hot Spots).” http://www.petplace.com/dogs/acute-moist-dermatitis-hot-spots/page1.aspx. Retrieved 11-14-10.
Norma Bennett Woolf, “Dog Owner’s Guide: Hot Spots.” Copyright 2010 by Canis Major Publications. Http://www.canismajor.com/dog/hotspots.html . Retrieved 11-14-10.