By Polly Keary, Monitor
One of the most painful conditions that a dog can suffer is also a very common one; that of moist dermatitis, or hot spots.
The condition appears as a raw open wound, often weeping, on the dog’s skin. It is worsened as the dog continually licks and chews at the wound, seeking relief from the itch.
It occurs when something triggers an allergic reaction, whether from some protein in the dog’s diet or from some irritant encountered by the dog’s skin. Fleas, mites and other pests can also trigger the complaint. The skin, once broken, becomes infected, usually by a staphylococcus bacteria, and the infection can become quite deep.
Often it is the presence of moisture, even in small amounts, in conjunction with a small breach of skin integrity, that allows hot spots to form. They can occur following a swim, a bath or even a roll on a wet lawn.
Lesions, once started, can grow quickly, becoming well-developed within 24 hours. But because fur often conceals them, they can be quite large before they are discovered.
When hot spots occur, it’s time to take the dog in to see the vet.
The first order of businesses is to locate and treat the infection. The hair around the spot will be cut away, and the skin treated with anti-bacterial treatments. The removal of the hair allows air to get to the wound and the skin to dry.
The dog might receive a round of comfort medication such as a steroid to reduce inflammation or an antihistamine for the itch, as well as an antibiotic, which is taken for up to four weeks or longer.
The skin is treated with an antiseptic and cleaned, then dried carefully and treated with a cortisone cream.
It’s necessary to prevent the dog from licking or scraping at the wound as it heals, and a cone-shaped collar may be required.
The hot spot will need to be cleaned daily and treated with an antibacterial ointment. Fur will start to regrow within a couple of weeks, and may come in a slightly different color.
The sores take about two weeks to visibly begin to heal.
To avoid hot spots, keep dogs clean and well-dried, especially in the summer months, when hot spots are the most common. Keeping long-haired or thick-furred dogs closely groomed helps.
Also, keeping track of the health of an animal’s coat can help identify allergens in the dog’s diet before they result in reactions that can cause hot spots. A meat-based food formula often helps avoid reactions; look for primary ingredients such as chicken, beef, lamb or poultry. Avoid grain-based foods, especially those with a primary ingredient of corn.