Hotspots, also known as pyotraumatic dermatitis or moist dermatitis is skin condition that affects dogs. Hotspots have a very distinctive appearance looking like an ulcerated sore that is weeping or oozing a slimy discharge with matted hair on the surface. They are extremely painful and irritating for the dog and can develop quickly.
A hotspot starts with anything that causes skin irritation or pain that results in the dog excessively licking, biting and/or scratching at the skin. Common skin irritants that can lead to hotspots include fleas, ticks, insect bites, grass or pollen allergies. Other causes can include matted or tangled hair, behavioural issues that cause the dog to lick or bite themselves or even pain can cause a dog to excessively lick an area. Hotspots are more common during warmer months due to an increase humidity and moisture on the coat from swimming or bathing as well as an increased likelihood of fleas and grass or pollen allergens at that time of year.
The continual licking and scratching leads to the skin being damaged allowing for bacteria to enter the wound. The skin will become inflamed, ulcerated, weep or ooze and the hair may be matted around the area. This moist environment allows the bacteria to grow and develop quickly which means the hotspot can increase in size rapidly. As the hotspot continues to develop it becomes very painful and irritating which can make the dog lick and scratch at the wound more and then in turn promoting more bacterial growth and making it worse.
A hotspot can develop anywhere on a dog but they are more commonly seen around the face, ears, neck or rump. Any dog can develop a hotspot but breeds with thick coats such as Labradors, Retrievers or German Shepherds are more predisposed to develop one.
Hotspots usually have a very sudden onset and can progress very quickly. This rapid development means that a veterinarian should be consulted as soon as one is noticed. Treatment will involve clipping the matted hair around the sore then cleaning the wound with antiseptic. Sometimes this has to be done with the dog under anaesthetic as it can be too painful for them while awake. Topical antibiotic and/or anti inflammatory treatments in the form of cream, spray or ointment may need to be continually applied. Oral antibiotics are normally required as well as anti-inflammatory to reduce the irritation and pain. It may also be advised to use a medicated antibacterial shampoo to help treat and possibly prevent further hotspots from developing. It is imperative that the underlying cause of the skin irritation and itch is determined and treated to prevent continual issues.
If your dog is continuously scratching, biting or licking or if you suspect your dog has a hotspot please consult your veterinarian immediately as early intervention and treatment is always best.
Originally published in My Pet Magazine Issue 13.
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