Has your pet ever experienced hot spots? Hot spots, otherwise known as acute moist dermatitis (AMD), are red, oozing lesions that may form on your pet’s skin…they’re kind of wet and scabby. The patches of irritation may start out as an unnoticeable bite, sting, pustule or other minor skin problem, but your dog’s natural instinct to lick, chew and scratch the area leads to a larger, more visible patch which progresses from a minor bump to hair loss, staining, flaking and possibly infection or permanent scars. Hot spots can can be a problem any time of year, and for any dog, and if you’ve ever had a pet develop hot spots you can guess from seeing them how aggrivating and painful they must be to experience. Let’s discuss hot spots and how you can prevent, heal and otherwise deal with AMD.
What Causes Hot Spots?
Hot Spots have lots of causes, and they rear their ugly heads quickly, and sometimes without any warning. Some of the most common causes are flea or insect bites. Allergens or other irritants that come in contact with your pet’s skin are also a common cause. Small scratches or wounds can also begin an outbreak, particularly as your dog instinctively licks the area. Dogs that experience stress, anxiety or boredom can also scratch or chew, simply to occupy their minds. But the underlying blame falls on bacteria that infest these minor skin breaks, further inflaming an already irritated area. Any dog can develop a hot spot, but dogs who are not washed and brushed regularly, those with sensitive skin, and those with thick, long fur can be more prone to developing hot spots.
Is there a Way to Prevent Hot Spots?
Some dogs may go through life without ever suffering a hot spot, while for others they may be a consistent and frequent issue. You can do several things to prevent them from happening, but there is always the possibility for this common issue to appear. Preventative measures may include keeping the coat clipped short during the summer, giving medicated baths, identifying allergens that may affect your pet, and using reliable, top-spot flea control to prevent bites. Moisture creates a bacteria friendly environment. If you bathe your dog, take him swimming, or let him out in the rain be sure to dry him thoroughly when he’s finished.
You can take all kinds of steps to prevent Hot Spots, but if they pop up, you’ll need to know how to handle the situation before it progresses to a point where a trip to the vet becomes necessary.
How do I treat Hot Spots?
If you’ve never dealt with AMD before it can be a little intimidating. Most hot spots can be treated at home with a little TLC and understanding, but if they become severe, continue to spread, or accompany other symptoms such as fever oral antibiotics may be necessary to get ahead of the problem. The first step in the treatment process is to eliminate hair from the wound and the perimeter if the area. In many cases the chewing and licking will cause a degree of hair loss, but it the fur is still present it can become matted in the discharge from the spot, potentially causing more serious problems and preventing topical solutions from getting to the area. Hair removal is also important so that you can monitor the spot and ensure that your aid is effective and the spot isn’t growing. Shave the area and rinse away loose bits of hair with cool, fresh water, then clean it gently with a mild cleanser. There are several cleansers and medicated shampoos available, many featuring natural, gently soothing ingredients such, as tea tree and aloe, that are not only anti-bacterial, but also soothing to the irritated skin. Remember that the skin in the area is tender and painful. You may want to consider a muzzle if you think your dog may nip or bite while you tend the area.
Use a mild anti-bacterial cleanser to eliminate excess bacteria and begin the road to healing. Have measures in place to prevent your pet from licking or further aggrivating the spot. An Elizabethan collar or similar device may be necessary for the first few days to allow for topical treatments to take action and the wounds to dry properly. If the hot spot continues to progress or doesn’t show signs of improvement within a day or two, contact your vet. Topical or oral antibiotics may be necessary in some cases to help the healing begin.
Once your treatment regime has begun, the next step is to try to identify the cause of the irritation and do whatever you can to prevent the stimulus from occuring again. Once you get the hang of it, prevention and treatment will become routine and hot spots, at least bad ones, will become a thing of your dog’s past.