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the heat is on: how to handle hot spots

Hot Spots in Dogs | Tips from Petplan Pet Insurance

As we move into the dog days of summer, you may notice your pup feeling the heat in a very particular way. If he’s constantly scratching, licking and biting at a certain patch of skin, it’s likely that your pooch is suffering from — or at risk of developing — a hot spot. Though advanced hot spots require veterinary attention, it is possible to resolve these skin issues at home if they are caught early enough.

a spot of trouble

Hot spots are also known by a few other names, such as pyotraumatic dermatitis, moist eczema, or summer sores. They begin as a simple itch that can be attributed to any number of different causes, like skin allergies, flea bites or infections; even matted fur or razor burn can cause the initial irritation. Your dog’s desperate efforts to relieve the itch causes trauma to the skin, making it vulnerable to infection from otherwise harmless bacteria.

Your pet’s behavior — persistent licking, biting, and scratching — will be your first sign that something’s not right. From there, you’ll notice an inflamed, oozing patch of skin that’s moist and warm to the touch. This infected lesion is a hot spot, and it’s probably making your poor pooch very uncomfortable. Hot spots can also give off a foul odor, making them no fun at all for pups and pet parents alike.

Though hot spots can pop up at any time of the year, they are particularly common in the warmer months. Biting insects and allergy-causing pollen are out in full force during the summer, while hot, humid conditions cause bacteria to multiply rapidly. It’s also the time of year when our furry friends spend the most time outside, and when pet parents may be too busy to keep up with regular grooming regimens.

turning off the heat

Treating hot spots requires that the area be cleaned and medicated to abate the itch. If the hot spot is large in size or has become severe, it will require a trip to the veterinarian. The lesions are so sensitive and uncomfortable for dogs that vets often have to sedate their patients before they can get to work on them.

However, if the spot is still small, you can treat it at home by trimming the surrounding fur and using a medicated shampoo such as Vetericyn FoamCare. This product contains anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties that treat the underlying cause of the irritation while also helping to restore your pet’s natural immune defenses. It’s easy to use — spray it on, watch it foam up, and rinse it off — which is crucial for delivering a quick treatment before your dog decides he’s had enough. Vetericyn FoamCare can also be used to treat rashes and other types of skin irritations.

getting off spot free

The key to helping hot spots heal fully is getting pups to leave them alone. You’ll have to keep a close eye on your itchy guy to make sure that he doesn’t scratch, lick or nibble at the spot while it’s healing. If that’s not working, it’s time to break out the e-collar (yes, that’s the cone of shame).

While the original cause of hot spots often cannot be determined, you may want to get your dog tested for allergies if he suffers from them frequently. To help prevent itching in the first place, groom pets regularly and be sure to keep up with monthly applications of a good flea and tick preventive. Certain breeds are simply more prone to skin irritations, but with proper attention you can help your pup ditch the worst of the itch.


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Dr. Ernie Ward, Jr.Veterinary Advisory Board of Petplan
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