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Acute Moist Dermatitis: Hot Spots in Dogs

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant and author of Brain Training for Dogs.

The summer heat may be a risk factor when it comes to hotspots.

The summer heat may be a risk factor when it comes to hotspots.

Hot Spots in Dogs

Your dog is playful and energized, but the next thing you know, he starts scratching at an area and within seconds, chunks of hair start flying everywhere. Alarmed, you look at the area and find a pretty large red, inflamed, hairless area.

Within a short time, aggravated by the dog's licking and possibly scratching, the area gets weepy with a yellow discharge. Your dog yelps in pain as you touch the area, and you realize it must really burn for your dog to react that way. Concerned, you take your dog to your veterinarian wondering what kind of malady must be affecting him this time!

Picture of hot spot on dog

Picture of hot spot on dog

What are Hot Spots and What Can Be Causing Them?

If your dog just experiences something similar to what's described above and what's seen in the picture, chances are high your dog may be suffering from a hot spot. Hot spots, medically known as 'acute moist dermatitis, are generally patches ranging in size between one to four inches. They often are characterized by a yellowish exudate that may emanate a foul odor. They tend to occur just about anywhere on the dog's body but they are most commonly found under the ear flaps and on the neck.

Dogs most commonly affected are those with longer coats due to the likeliness of trapping moisture. Hot spots can also develop underneath hair mats or hair that is shedding but still clinging on the dog's coat. They can be caused by a variety of factors including but not limited to:

  • Food allergies
  • Flea infestations
  • Skin parasites
  • Insect bites
  • Summer heat
  • Presence of burrs
  • Leaving a wet collar on
  • Not drying the dog after a bath or swim
  • Poor grooming

As seen, there are many predisposing factors that make the warmer months more at risk for hot spots. In the spring/summer time dogs shed more, they are exposed to burrs, and are more likely to be under the summer heat. Pesky parasites are around more and insect bites are not uncommon. Dogs are also most likely to swim in water or get bathed without being dried well, trapping moisture and bacteria.

How Hot Spots are Diagnosed and Treated

Your vet may want to collect a sample in order to rule out any fungal or yeast infections as these may require a different course of treatment.

Because hot spots are painful, sometimes dogs need to be sedated for treatment. The first step is to trim the area of all hair in order to let the hot spot dry and heal. A good pair of clippers for dogs will do the job. The veterinarian will often prescribe a Betadine or a chlorhexidine shampoo like Nolvasan to dry up the area.

To prevent aggravating the area, an Elizabethan collar is often recommended. Dogs are often put on cortisone-like drugs and antibiotics to speed up the healing process.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Comments

Jenny Rose from Northeast USA on July 10, 2011:

Last fall our yellow Lab had a very allergic reaction to a medication and developed severe dermatitis. The vet had to shave from her chin to the bottom of her chest. We used Novalsan (Rx from the vet) to help heal her on the outside and other meds for the inside. Recently she began scratching and biting and seems to be reacting to the hot weather and dry skin. We are giving her Omega 3 fish oil capsules, and she's back on the Novalsan. thanks for a great hub.

Susan Hazelton from Sunny Florida on May 19, 2011:

Very useful. My dog recently began having quite a problem with this. Voted up and useful.

Esmeowl12 on May 19, 2011:

Years ago we had a Shih Tzu that had hot spots. We sprinkled "Brewers Yeast" in his food and that helped a lot.

Eiddwen from Wales on May 19, 2011:

A very useful hub and I am handing it over to my daughter who I am sure will benefit from reading this one.

Useful/up for this one too.

Take care

Eiddwen.