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by Dr. Jessica Vogelsang
Icky, sticky, gooey and red: There's nothing pleasant about hot spots, those itchy and ugly patches of infection that pop up on dogs seemingly overnight.
Pyotraumatic dermatitis, the technical term for hot spots, arises from the action of the dog chewing on its own skin. While certain breeds, such as golden retrievers, seem to get hot spots more often than other breeds, any dog can become afflicted.
Owners frequently come into the clinic and say, "It wasn't here yesterday, I swear!" It's true: Hot spots can develop and progress very rapidly, going from a tiny, itchy spot to a large, angry lesion in a matter of hours. Left untreated, these superficial infections can develop into a deeper skin infection that requires more substantial treatment.
The good news is that most hot spots respond to topical treatment. The key is to remove the fur that is trapping moisture and debris on the skin and to keep the skin dry during the healing process. Although there are many over-the-counter products available to treat hot spots, make sure the product does not contain alcohol, as this can be very painful to a pet with a skin lesion, and many dogs do not tolerate the treatment. Your veterinarian can recommend a product that is safe and effective.
If a pet isn't responding to medical care, or if the owner is having a difficult time applying topical medicines, oral medications are also very effective in the treatment of hot spots. If the infection has progressed into the deeper layers of the skin, topical treatment alone will not do the trick. Antibiotics and steroids, available from your veterinarian, can quickly clear up those painful spots.
Although unpleasant and uncomfortable, hot spots are among the easier skin conditions to treat. If your pet has a history of this condition, be aware of a sudden onset of chewing behavior that may indicate another one is on its way. With early detection and treatment, your dog should be on the mend in no time.
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