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Hot Spots

by Ms Dany Canino

The term “Hot Spot” is used to describe a sore that dogs get from chewing and scratching themselves because they feel “itchy”. To compare the feeling; it´s like when a human gets bitten by a mosquito and then you start to scratch. You seem compelled to continue scratching until the affected area becomes red, raw, and sometimes bleeding. In the animal and the human this is called an allergic reaction.

Hot spots are technically called “superficial moist dermatitis”. When the pet feels itchy they first try scratching the area. Continued scratching causes the area to become sore and inflated. Then the pet resorts to licking or chewing the area. This entire procedure results in a “hot spot”, especially the biting and licking because of the moisture and saliva from the pet´s mouth. This will further lead to fungus, bacteria, and infection, if the cause is not located and subsequently treated.

There are many causes for hot spots.

  • Fleas.
  • Too much protein in the dog´s diet.
  • Not keeping your pet´s coat clean
  • A specific food allergy; i.e. corn or wheat or meat or some other food product.
  • Any of the four causes are not catastrophic. You can treat them yourself. But, just as a doctor insists you finish every antibiotic of your prescription, treatment of a hot spot means being consistent and un-relenting.

    If it´s fleas a little time and effort can remedy this. There are many new products on the market to help ensure that fleas won´t affect your dog. (These products help to prevent fleas from ever invading your dog. Check with your Veterinarian and/or your local pet shop.) However, if your dog has an existing problem, before you can put one of these new products on your dog you´ll have to do a few things. You´ll have to give your dog a flea bath (done by yourself or by a professional groomer). You´ll need to spray your yard with a good (environmentally safe) yard flea spray. If your dog is in the house you´ll need to spray this too. If your dog is taken to a groomer for the flea bath, be sure that after you drop him off you either spray inside your car or set off a flea bomb in your car. Remember, you traveled a dog with fleas on him in that car, so it´s pretty obvious that he dropped a flea or two in you car.

    If there is too much protein in your dog´s diet, that too, is an easy remedy. Most dogs are fed a diet that is too high in protein. Unless a dog is a true working animal (Police Dog, sled dog, working farm dog) there is no reason to give that dog a food higher in protein than 20% to 24%. A dog that is getting more protein than he can burn up ends up with excessive protein in his system. This means that this left over protein burns up in the dog´s system causing the dog to itch. The more he scratches, the more likely he will develop a hot spot.

    If you brush your pet´s coat a minimum of two times a week, you will certainly lessen your dog´s chances of getting a hot spot. It doesn´t matter whether your pet has short hair or long. You simply use a different type of brush. Under normal circumstances you can bathe your pet once or twice a month, depending on whether or not he is being brushed on a regular basis and whether or not your pet is being kept in a clean environment.

    The fourth possible cause of a hot spot is a little more complex. Your Veterinarian, through a simple blood test, can determine possible food allergies.

    Until you determine what has caused the hot spot, you´ll need to not delay in treating the problem. Start by cleaning the affected area thoroughly with hydrogen peroxide. Apply a cortisone cream to the affected area. (You can purchase this cream at your local drugstore.) This will help to stop the itching. Usually this cream offers a bitter taste to the dog that wants to lick. However, if your dog happens to like this taste, sprinkle a little bit of foot powder on the area. This product usually has sulphur in it and tastes very bitter. It will also help to dry up the sore

    Many veterinarians like to use any number of steroids to treat the problem. Some of these might be: “Cortisone” – “Prednisalone” – or “Prednisone”. All of these drugs do help to stop the itching, but they should be given minimally. If given for long periods of time they could cause your pet to dissipate their own natural body cortisone or antibodies. Overuse of steroids can also possibly cause some kidney or liver damage. Many veterinarians prefer to “drip” these products directly onto the hot spot. Don´t be afraid to discuss your concerns about the use of steroids with your veterinarian. You should know by now that your pet is important to him too.

    There are so many good products that can be purchased right over the counter to remedy this problem in your pet that your beloved friend need not suffer for any long period of time. By brushing your pet on a steady basis you soon learn to be “on the lookout” for anything out of the ordinary on the dog´s body. If a hot spot is found, start treatment immediately. This way you´ll be eradicating the situation before it gets out of control.

    Remember that a symptom always has a cause and, helping to eliminate the cause is within your reach, both financially and physically. Your pet does not have to suffer needlessly.