Pet Hot Spots: How to Prevent and Treat Hot Spots

Taking the Bite Out of Hot Spots

They go by several names -- acute moist dermatitis, pyotraumatic dermatitis, summer sores, moist eczema, superficial pyoderma -- but whatever you choose to call them, they are indeed hot spots. They are also itchy, oozy, often painful sores that can send your dog into a frenzy of scratching, licking and biting. A trigger can set him off almost instantly. A single flea bite, perhaps, or an allergic reaction of some kind or even a simple break in the skin can start the vicious cycle: he detects an itch which causes him to scratch, lick and bite, which causes normal skin bacteria to multiply, which causes an infection, which causes -- you guessed it -- more scratching, licking and biting; so the cycle continues.

Moisture is a big part of the problem, too. Wet skin, particularly if it’s underneath a thick layer of fur, is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and, hence, hot spots. Seemingly harmless activities – a bath, a swim in a pool or pond, getting caught in the rain -- can set the stage for a bout of itchy, painful sores.

In some cases, your dog may start licking an area that is causing discomfort, e.g. a painful joint. He may rub his head against your carpet, hoping for relief from a painful ear infection. Stress may also be a trigger, as when the family moves into a new home.

Whatever the cause, hot spots can develop very quickly, often reaching the really nasty stage before you even know they’re there – redness, oozing, perhaps some hair loss and even an odor. Swift, effective action is a must.

What to Do When You Find One

Since moisture is a big part of the problem, exposing the skin to the air is the first step. Shave or clip away the hair to allow the area to get, and stay, dry. Next, gently cleanse the affected area and apply a disinfectant. You will need to repeat this process two or times a day, perhaps even every couple of hours at first, to keep the wound clear, dry and bacteria-free. We recommend PurSpray, of course, as the perfect product for this step in treatment.

If your dog continues to bite or chew, a cone (that lampshade- or funnel-shaped collar that she will find really annoying) or a more comfortable inflatable collar may be necessary to allow the skin to heal. Trimming her nails or putting socks on her feet may minimize the effects of scratching.

If the hot spot is very large and inflamed, you may need the help of a veterinarian. While we are opposed to the indiscriminate use of antibiotics and corticosteroids, they may be necessary in severe cases.

Beat Hot Spots Before They Get Started

With well over a million Google searches a month, hot spots rank high on the “Things Pet Parents Panic About” list. Rather than wait until you need help, there are things you can do to prevent dealing with hot spots in the first place.

Regular grooming is key.

  • Bathing and brushing give you a chance to inspect your pet’s skin, particularly around the head, hips and chest where hot spots are most likely to occur. Be sure to avoid shampoos with harsh and often toxic chemical ingredients. Look instead for oatmeal-based shampoos or ones with essential oils that often have the added benefit of discouraging fleas.
  • Always dry the hair thoroughly after a bath, a swim, or a romp in the rain. Use a blow dryer to get right down to the roots.
  • Check for fleas and ticks every time your dog has been outside or with another pet. Use a flea comb at least once a week to check for fleas as well as any signs of irritation. Clean and disinfect any suspicious spots immediately, using PurSpray.
  • Long-haired dogs are particularly susceptible to hot spots. Be sure the hair stays clean and dry. During hot, humid weather, consider clipping hair short to prevent skin from becoming moist.
  • In short, be alert to what’s going on with your dog’s skin! Checking her skin regularly and being aware of any heightened scratching, biting or licking are the best ways to head off hot spots.

Keep your dog in optimal health.

Many pet experts will tell you that a healthy dog simply doesn’t get hot spots or fleas. If you’ve had to deal with one or the other or even both, don’t beat yourself up as a bad pet parent! However, do begin to educate yourself on ways to ensure that your pet’s immune system is healthy.

FOOD. The adage, “You are what you eat” applies equally to people and pets. Our article, Pet Food Labels--The Key to Choosing the Best Pet Food will give you great advice on how to know what to look for when choosing food for your pet. Your pet food may be keeping your pet alive, but you want her to thrive!

EXERCISE. Make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise and play time. In most cases, this will mean that you will be getting plenty of exercise, too! Do remember to check for fleas and ticks after any outdoor romps.

ALLERGIES. If you seem to be doing everything right, but your dog repeatedly gets hot spots, allergies may be the culprit. Keeping a log of what he eats and when the hot spots first begin to appear may help to ferret out an offending food. Be aware of current pollen counts and where your dog has been (frolicking in a field of ragweed perhaps?). Regular bathing with a gentle, non-drying shampoo as well as weekly washing of bedding will help remove pollen and allergens from her skin and living areas.

To Summarize

Hot spots are nasty things that start with a simple itch or irritation, particularly on moist skin, and quickly develop into painful, bacteria-infested sores.

Prevention includes

  • regular inspection of the skin by bathing, brushing, and checking for fleas and ticks;
  • clipping long hair short in hot, humid weather;
  • drying hair and skin thoroughly after exposure to water;
  • maintaining optimal health through proper diet and exercise;
  • being alert to possible food and environmental allergies.

Treatment includes

  • shaving or clipping hair over and around the site;
  • gently cleaning and disinfecting the site several times a day;
  • keeping the site dry;
  • taking steps to prevent continued chewing, biting and licking.

We encourage you to make PurSpray your go-to hot spot treatment.  PurSpray's 100% safe, natural, non-toxic formula will soothe inflamed skin, heal the infection, stop the itch cycle, and speed the healing process.