Monday, April 13, 2009

Watch out for Hot spots on your pets!

Hot Spots in Dogs
Also known as acute moist dermatitis, pyotraumatic dermatitis, moist eczema or “summer sores,” hot spots are raised, red, wet and oozing wounds on the skin’s surface that are often self-inflicted by a licking or chewing dog. They can appear and spread very rapidly, and some will persist for months. Often the fur around a frequently-licked area will have a pinkish tinge caused by the saliva. Sometimes the hot spot can have a foul smell. There is usually hair loss at the site, but occasionally the wound can be hidden in the fur, and the dog’s relentless licking or chewing is the only tip-off.

What causes hot spots?
The immediate cause of a hot spot is a bacterial infection of the skin. The inflammation is itchy and painful for the dog, so he licks or chews at the site for relief… and further irritates the sore. Saliva is filled with bacteria and not a very good salve for wounds. As the dog becomes more frantic to relieve the irritation, he may become more aggressive with his chewing. Some dogs will bite to the point of self-mutilation. The most common sites for hot spots are those accessible by mouth – the flank, legs and paws, and the rump – but itchy dogs will get wounds anywhere they can scratch. A hot spot is painful as well as itchy. Some dogs might become protective of their sore and nip or growl to keep you away from it. These dogs might need to be sedated for treatment, and your veterinarian might prescribe a pain-killer.The ultimate cause of a hot spot can be more difficult to determine, but is especially important with multiple, chronic, or recurring sores. The occasional incident might be caused by a simple irritant such as a thistle or bug bite. Most hot spots occur in the summer months during hot, humid weather. Some breeds, such as Labrador and Golden retrievers, are known to be predisposed. In general dogs with thick or long hair coats are at risk. Dogs prone to ear and anal sac infections are also more susceptible to hot spots.

Mats in the fur or trapped undercoat can prevent normal aeration and drying of the skin, and result in hot spots. Frequent brushing (especially before a bath) and a short summer hair cut are good preventatives. Excessive bathing can further irritate skin, but there are aloe or oatmeal shampoos available for dogs with sensitive skin. Dogs with very thick coats may need to be towelled or blow-dried after swimming or bathing.

What is the treatment for hot spots?
The wound itself needs to be kept clean and undisturbed for healing to occur. Usually, the area is clipped to remove overlying fur (shaving can cause further irritation) and washed with a mild soap or antiseptic. The hot spot might need to be gently cleaned several times a day to remove crusty build-up. If inflammation is severe, systemic antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs can be prescribed by a veterinarian. Topical treatments may be used, but care should be taken to ensure the cream or ointment is not going right into the dog’s mouth! In some cases these can be toxic when ingested. In other cases, inappropriate use of an ointment might seal in the existing infection and prevent healthy aeration of the wound, slowing rather than aiding the healing process.

If you think your dog has a hot spot make sure you take them to the vet right away.
Early treatment makes all the difference in how fast these heal up.

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