Out, Out Damned Hotspot

A hotspot is a patch of your dog’s skin that is bothering them so much that they can’t leave it alone. Because of this overwhelming discomfort, they have rubbed, scratched, and licked it into the condition you see before you.

When I first started practicing I didn’t understand how fast hotspots could progress. Then one day I came home and my dog had developed one. Fine when I went to work in the morning and looking like the above photo when I came home.  And uncomfortable! She could not leave it alone. She was not happy when I had to treat it, either.

If caught early, hotspots can be treated at home. It is important to expose the skin to the air.  Trim away their hair with scissors (carefully) or electric clippers until the skin is uncovered.  This can be a much larger area than you originally thought. Using warm water and a small amount of antibacterial soap, clean away any blood, serum or crusting from the area. Once it is clean and dry keeping the dog from continuing to traumatize the area is a must. Some dogs will feel better after the cleaning and will not require anything to leave it alone. Others will need an Elizabethan collar to stop the scratching and rubbing.

Certain dogs (often Golden Retrievers) are a special case and can be much harder to treat. For some possibly inherited reason the bacterial infection goes deep into the lower layers of the dermis. These dogs will almost always require antibiotics. Some are so sore they need sedation to allow cleaning of the area.

We do not know why dogs get hotspots and others don’t. In certain cases all it takes is a stressor, such as boarding or a new baby; others the stress of hot, humid August weather. Other dogs may have an underlying environmental allergy because they get a hotspot the same time each year. Whatever the cause, keeping the area open and clean is an excellent first step, but if the skin does not improve then a visit to your veterinarian is needed.