Every so often we see a dog come in with red, irritated patches of skin. They have usually been trying to lick the area in seek of relief from the discomfort. These sores can appear quickly, sometimes in a matter of hours. This sounds like a classic case of pyotraumatic dermatitis, or “hot spots”.
Now the question is usually what to do about them. This boils down to a two-step process: First, treat the symptoms; Second, treat the cause.
Treat the Symptoms
The first thing to do is to remove the hair around the area to make sure you have it isolated and so you can see the edges of the sore. After that, you should wash the area with warm water and a little antibacterial hand soap. If the wound is really bad, you can try a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution (3% mixed half and half with water) to further clean it up. Be careful though since hydrogen peroxide can actually damage the healthy skin. Once you have cleaned the area, look for any stingers or other objects, like stickers, in the area and remove them if needed. Finally, apply an over the counter triple anti-biotic and steroid creams such as Neosporin and Cortizone. You do not want to prevent air flow, so just a dab will do. Finally, try to prevent your dog from licking the area using an Elizabethan Collar if needed.
Treat the Cause
The cause of hot spots is usually one of the following three items:
Matted/Dead/Trapped Hair – regularly brush out tangles and remove dead hair from the undercoat. If the hair is becoming matted, you can remove the mats with scissors in between your regular grooming appointments. The hair can twist up and cause sores, just like if your hair gets twisted up for a long period of time. The undercoat can just trap moisture and cause problems as well.
Allergies – It is possible that the hot spots were caused by an allergic reaction. This could be from a bug bite or something more prevalent like dust or pollen. Sometimes, just making sure the areas around your house are well vacuumed or washed well (to get the dust and buildup from the back yard) is enough. You can also try an over the counter medication like Benadryl. Be sure to consult your veterinarian about starting any medication regimen.
Behavioral – Sometimes dogs can just be so bored, lonely, or stressed that they lick or scratch themselves raw. Dogs like this need exercise and stimulation. Regular daycare is an excellent cure for a dog that needs some love and attention.
If the hot spots do not go away, or appear to be “really bad” you should consult your veterinarian. There are several great links on the web as well so you can get some more information. Just search for “dog hot spots” and read away!