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Posted by Dr. Shea Cox on August 14, 2018
A hot spot is a superficial skin infection that happens when normal skin bacteria overrun the skin’s defenses as a result of damage to its surface. This damage is most often started by the dog chewing, scratching, licking and gnawing at itself. In the first stages of the formation, the skin becomes moist, red, itchy, and infected. Pus begins to ooze from the traumatized skin as infection sets in. Then, the dried pus and damaged skin surface will work to form a tightly-adhered crust, and you will likely notice hair loss over the infection site. This can be a very painful process, and frequently, dogs will show pain when the area is touched.
Dogs are their own worst enemy when it comes to hot spots, and they are generally created by their own over-zealous self-licking and chewing. They can arise surprisingly quickly: a few minutes of “work” can create an impressive area of self-inflicted trauma. The good news is that they almost always look worse than they actually are, and infection is usually superficial—often resolving with topical treatment alone.
So, what causes our dogs to begin self-chewing and licking in the first place? Good question, with a common denominator being anything that creates irritation to the skin, causing the dog to chew or scratch at the site, can cause a hot spot. Think insect bites (fleas, flies), skin allergies, excess skin-surface moisture, dogs with heavy or dense hair coats, matted hair, saliva accumulation under the fur (think of the pet that is always licking its feet), skin scrapes, or excessive humidity in the environment can all be sources for a hot spot to develop. Another interesting cause: good old-fashioned boredom.
The location of the hot spots may help your veterinarian determine the underlying cause of the problem. For example, a hot spot over the hip area could indicate flea infestation, hip arthritis, or an anal gland infection. Similarly, a hot spot near an ear could indicate an ear problem, an allergy, or a dental/nerve irritation.
If the hot spot is small, non-painful, recognized early, and is uncomplicated, it may be possible to begin treatment at home with over-the-counter products made for this use. There are an array of topical sprays, medicated shampoos, and herbal therapies available—too expansive a list to discuss here. The important thing is to ensure that it is a pet-approved/pet-safe product and it is always a good idea to call your veterinarian and ask if your choice seems reasonable. You need to be very careful not to use human topical products as these may be toxic to pets when licked and ingested. For example, zinc oxide can be toxic when ingested and it is a common carrier in many human skin ointments.
The basics of home hot spot treatment are:
SDS Recommended Products:
Skin Works is a greaseless, fragrance-free cream that heals "hot spots," clipper burns, irritations, insect bites and helps with yeast infections.
It soothes pain, reduces swelling and inflammation, softens callouses, and moisturizes dry skin.
Contains no steroids and is non-toxic and non-greasy. Groomers, try this on your own battle scars!
Eye Envy® On the Spot Healing and Itch Relief Spray will help eliminate painful hot spots. On the Spot provides instant relief to skin conditions and will help stop chewing and scratching while preventing hot spot hair loss. Made with 9 natural ingredients and essential oils. It’s safe and non-toxic, does not contain alcohol, steroids, antibiotics or colorants. It's PH balanced and cruelty free. Safe for dogs and cats.
Pure Paws Itch Fix Shampoo is formulated to calm itchy, flaky skin along with other symptoms like dryness, irritation, redness and hot spots. Hydrolyzed oatmeal is broken down into smaller fragments to most effectively repair damaged skin while aloe vera helps to heal wounds and relieve pain. With frequent use and proper care you can help relieve troublesome symptoms and improve your dog's overall happiness.
Tea Tree Oil Spray is an all natural product which is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, antiseptic, analgesic. Great for insect bites, hot-spots, fungus infections, cures all type of sores. It contains a natural sovent which allows it to be absorbed into the skin along with its healing properties. We added a state-of-the-art ingredient which keeps your pet from licking it off.
Skin lotion with bitters. Fortified with emulsifiers and essential oils, Aloe Vera, Pennyroyal & Benzocaine. Aids in the relief of topical flea bite dermatitis, eczema, hot spots, scratching & other insect bites. Soothes irritated areas, & puts and end to the itching & scratching, while allowing the skin to heal.
Tea Tree Shampoo gently cleanses and moisturizes your pet's coat while also working to sooth and heal dry, itchy skin; hot spots and skin irritations. Tea Tree Oil is a natural oil with many remarkable properties. It acts as a natural deodorant, antiseptic and bug repellent. Tea Tree Shampoo is ideal for sensitive skin. Maintain a beautiful coat while also taking special care of the skin.
Colloidal silver can actually kill over 650 bacteria, fungi, parasites, and molds that have the potential to sprout diseases. As well as help heal Hot Spots, burns, cuts, rashes, acne and much more. Directions: Apply freely, by spraying topically to desired areas several times a day.
Help relieve itching due to shin problems that may be caused by hot spots, flea bites, dermatitis, rashes and skin allergies, Regular bathing, plus the use of STOP-N-ITCH LOTION on all areas of inflammation will providerelief from the intense itching of bacterial skin infections. In addition to antiseptic action, it is a very effective deodorant shampoo and an excellent grooming aid. STOPN- ITCH BATH provides thorough cleansing action and removes dirt without stripping natural oils.
The bad news is that about 30% of the pets who develop hot spots actually have some other kind of skin disease such as a deeper skin infection, a bite wound or other trauma, or even immune-mediated disease. If you have any concerns whatsoever, it is best to have your veterinarian assess them.
Another time that veterinary intervention is needed is when the hot spot becomes so big and painful that it requires sedation to properly clip and clean it (can you imagine what it would feel like to have running clipper blades go over raw flesh? Ouch!).
An additional potential concern is if a hot spot is accompanied by deeper skin infection, which would require more extensive therapy such as oral pain medications, oral anti-inflammatory medications and oral antibiotics in addition to topical treatments. The treatment your veterinarian chooses will depend on how bad the problem is, how much pain your dog is in, how long the problem has been going on, and if the problem is a recurring one. Some dogs may get one or two hot spots and then never get another one again (luck dogs!), while some may have frequent recurrences.