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What is a “Hot Spot?”

June 24, 2010

Cash was a two-year-old male Golden Retriever with a crusty problem.

canine neck skin infection

Look at those itchy scabs!

“He kept going in and out of the pool all weekend, and no one had time to dry him off. Then we noticed him scratching and we felt a wet spot under his ear,” said Cash’s 20-year-old (human) brother.

“Well, let’s take a look,” said Doc Truli.

What Are Symptoms of a Hot Spot?

First, your dog is itchy.
Super-duper obsessively itchy. And it can happen fast. Within a few hours.

Second, hot spots are usually on the cheeks, under the ears, on the haunches, on the sides, on the middle or base of the tail, or maybe anywhere else!

Third, you might see a clump of fur and feel a wet spot, or a crusty spot if it is a few days old.

Fourth, the problem is waaay bigger than you think!

golden retriever hot spot down neck

Cash's "spot" went from ear to ear and under his chin, too!

Shaving to Assess the Hot Spot Damage

After shaving all the crusty, red, sore, oozing yellow discharge (pus) areas, the infection went from Cash’s left ear under his chin to his right ear and down his chest and between his front legs.

“Shaving and getting the fur off of the problem helps limit the spread of the infection under the skin and helps identify just how surprisingly extensive the hot spot really is,” says Doc Truli.

red raw scabs oozing crust on the neck and under the ear of a young golden retriever dog

Wow! More damage!

After an inelegant shave, Cash felt much better.  The nurses soaked the area in surgical scrub solution to clean away dirt, fur, and bacteria.

“Even though Cash is the biggest sweetheart ever, we needed to sedate him and use a strong painkiller to get this infection cleaned up!” says the Doc.

Cash looked as if he argued with a lawnmower and the mower had the final word!

He needed a steroid injection to calm his over-reactive immune system and take away the intense itch and redness.  Cash also needed oral antibiotics to fight the infection.

A hot spot of this size and intensity can continue to spread under the fur and infect the whole body.

“I once saw a Sheltie mix with a skin infection on her rump that was covered by a tight bandage for 5 days.  When the bandage came off, her skin peeled off, too!  The infection had eaten away the skin attachments on her back, belly, and down her tail and half-way down her thighs!  She survived thanks to two skin graft surgeries,” remembers Doc Truli.

But Doc, “What IS a Hot Spot?” You Ask

The fancy word for it is pyotraumatic dermatitis.  That’ll be $150.  Just kidding.

An injury, allergy, cut, insect bite, we-don’t-know-what, irritates the skin and normal bacteria in the environment change and signal themselves and bacteria around them to turn toxic and start attacking the skin.  Quickly.  All of a sudden.

In the earliest stages, shaving and cleaning the area may stop the reaction by removing the offending bacteria.  But if the immune system has started making everything red and itchy, watch out!  You may need your veterinarian to help soothe that itch.

How Do I Prevent a Hot Spot?

Keep your dog clean.  With a new generation, good quality shampoo every week or two may be just fine. (Ask your vet if your pooch has special skin problems.)

A good rinse is the secret to a good bath.

Rinse until you’re bored, seeing spots, and wondering if the air bubbles from the water are really soap bubbles, or not!

Dry your dog thoroughly.  Especially if you live with a thick-coated breed like a Husky, German Shepherd, Malamute, Newfie, Komondor, a Rottweiler counts (thick, thick fur), you know who you are!  Don’t cheat and cut corners or your dog’s undercoat will mildew!

Prevent fleas.  I’m not kidding.  Get rid of the fleas.

Healed hot spot in Golden Retriever

Cash is all healed

happy golden retriever

All Better!

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