Hot Spots – Acute Moist Dermatitis in Dogs

Acute moist dermatitis is the medical term for a “hot spot.” It is a common skin condition that usually appears rather quickly (within a matter of days) on the skin of dogs. It is a raw, red area that is caused by repeated irritation- usually biting, chewing, and/or licking. These lesions can grow and worsen in severity very quickly, so it is imperative that you address the issue as soon as possible.

A Hot Spot typically appears relatively quickly on any area of the body, although the tail base, flank, and neck are some of the most common. The area usually appears red, raised, irritated and has some degree of hair loss. The dog will chew or lick at the area and it is usually quite painful. This condition can result in a skin infection and can cause lethargy, inappetence and fever depending upon the severity.

Hot Spots are a relatively common skin condition in dogs. They occur when your pet repeatedly licks or chews a certain area. The initial cause can be an insect bite such as a mosquito, tick, or flea, an allergic reaction (to a food or an environmental irritant), or almost any other irritation. In some dogs collars have been known to cause enough irritant to incite the formation of a hot spot. A damp hair coat also provides the perfect environment for the formation of a skin infection which can result in a hot spot. Breeds of dogs such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and dogs with loose and/or excess skin and wrinkles can be more prone to hot spots.

Hot spots are diagnosed upon examination. They have a very distinct appearance and are relatively common, so your veterinarian will be able to diagnose a hot spot upon seeing your pet. It is very important, however to try and determine the underlying cause of the hot spot in order to prevent it from occurring again.

Treatment of the actual hot spot can include many different options depending upon the severity.

Topical Treatment: In order for a hot spot to heal it is important to clip all the hair in the area. At this point it is often discovered that the hot spot is larger than initially anticipated. Hair should be clipped until the skin underneath is normal in appearance. The area will then be cleaned with a diluted antiseptic solution, and treated with an antibiotic/steroid spray (Gentacalm) and an antibiotic ointment (Quadritop). These treatments will need to be continued at home several times per day until the area has healed. In order to keep your dog from continuing to lick or chew the area and also to keep them from licking off the topical medication they will need to wear an Elizabethan collar until the area has healed and the skin is healthy.

Internal Treatment: In most cases, hot spots require treatment with an antibiotic to resolve. If the area is not already infected it is very susceptible to secondary bacterial infection since the skin is severely abraded. This treatment is typically an oral medication given 1-2 times daily for 7-14 days. Additionally, an anti-inflammatory medication may also be necessary. This is typically either a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID such as Deramaxx or Rimadyl) or a steroid (such as Prednisone). These two medications can not be given together. Your veterinarian will decide which one is appropriate depending upon your dog’s symptoms.

Treating the Underlying Cause: The most common cause of hot spots is fleas. Ensuring that your dog has been treated with an adequate flea/tick prevention (such as Frontline Plus, Activyl TickPlus, or Nexgard) is key to successful treatment. If the underlying cause is allergies it is important to try and determine what is causing the allergic reactions. Making sure to dry your pet thoroughly after swimming, and not leaving a wet collar on can also help take care of some more common causes of hot spots.

Hot spots develop due to intense irritation of the skin. Pyoderma, or a bacterial skin infection, will often develop in conjunction with a hot spot. The open, abraded, often moist skin offers a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. This bacterial skin infection can cause the development of pustules, open sores, pus, and a foul odor. Treatment with an appropriate course of antibiotics is the only way to cure this infection.

Fortunately, the recovery time for acute moist dermatitis in dogs is usually quite short. The lesions tend to heal almost as quickly as they appear. Early veterinary intervention and consistent treatment at home usually allows for complete healing of the area within 7-10 days. Unfortunately if you are not able to pinpoint and treat the underlying cause (ie parasites, allergies, etc.) the condition is likely to recur. Additionally, without proper care and medication these lesions can be progressive and extremely difficult to heal.

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