Your Dog's Hot Spot Dermatitis

Caring for Skin Conditions at Home

Dog Smarts

Hot Spot Care and Prevention

It’s that season again. The season of fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and doggie dermatitis. Get ready early if your dog has had this problem in the past because it is likely to show up again.

If your dog is prone to Hot Spots, you can learn to treat and control them at home while saving trips to the vet and keeping your dog comfortable and healthy. If this is your first time seeing ulcerations on your pet, a trip to the vet is in order to make a solid diagnosis.

Hot Spots are a type of dermatitis that is aggravated by dry skin, shedding, and itching from fleas. It happens most often in the summer but can occur at any time of the year. The itching is so intense that the dog scratches constantly, which make the itch more intense so he begins to bite at the skin. This sets up a vicious cycle, and the only way to stop the cycle is to stop the itching. Once the itching stops, the healing quickly begins.

Your first action is to bathe the dog in soap that won’t cause burning to the wound. Baby bath will loosen shed hair, ease dry skin, and won’t burn the open wound. Try to trim the hair from around the wound without doing further damage to the surrounding skin, and without getting hair into the wound. No scissors—you’ll need electric trimmers to be safe. Rinsing with 0.9% (Isotonic) saline will clear the wound of soap residue, dirt, and hair more comfortably than normal tap water.

You can find isotonic saline at any pharmacy. Regular water will burn an open wound because of salt content and other minerals. Isotonic saline has the same (0.9%) salt content as body fluids, so the burning sensation is diminished.

Once you have the area clean, put a topical anesthetic, such as Sulfodene on it with tissue. Apply liberally. Give it a few minutes to soak in, and then apply triple antibiotic ointment (TAO). You can purchase TAO over the counter at any pharmacy. Sulfodene is available at any well-stocked pet store or pet department.

Use the Sulfodene and TAO twice a day until the spot is healed. You should see signs of healing by day 2. If you stop applying the topical anesthetic the dog will reopen the wound and make it deeper because of the itching.

Prevent hot spots from reoccurring by:

  • Brushing and bathing the dog at least weekly
  • Using baby shampoo to decrease skin dryness
  • Treat the dog, yard, kennel, and bedding for fleas, monthly for yard, weekly for bedding and kennel
  • Feed your dog a high-quality food that contains probiotics
  • Increase your pet’s protein intake until the wounds have healed

If your dog develops a wound that is draining puss (yellow to green drainage), immediately seek a veterinarian. The dog will probably need antibiotics for the infection.

Be careful of misdiagnosing if you do not have experience with this type of dermatitis since there are other conditions that can mimic a Hot Spot such as:

  • Spider bites
  • Snake bites
  • Fight wounds or wild animal bites
  • Pressure ulcers in older animals that are sedentary
  • Bacterial infection secondary to accidental injuries

These incidents require the professional assistance of a veterinarian.

Once you understand the signs, causes, and treatment for Hot Spots, you will be better equipped to work toward the prevention of outbreaks, increasing the quality of your dog's life. 

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