Monday, April 30, 2012

Ask the Vet: Hot Spots by Kristel Weaver, DVM, MPVM

Spring is here and summer is just around the corner.  Seasonal allergies are in full bloom!  Along with allergies comes itching, scratching, and chewing – which often leads to red, raw, inflamed skin. These irritated patches of skin are commonly called hot spots. Allergies are just one of the possible causes of hot spots.
What is a hot spot? 
A hot spot is a general term for an area of the skin that is infected, inflamed and itchy.  Common sites for hot spots are on the face, neck and around the tail base although they can occur anywhere on your dog’s body.
What causes a hot spot?
Hot spots result from excessive scratching and/or licking which creates a red oozy wound.  There are many reasons why dogs will scratch themselves raw.  Hot spots on the face are often secondary to an ear infection.   Hot spots at the tail base are usually from flea bites.   Other reasons to be itchy include allergies, a wound, bug bite, mites or a tumor.  Sometimes the reason a hot spot forms is a mystery.
How are hot spots treated?
Standard treatment for a hot spot is to shave the hair over it for better inspection and treatment.  Once shaved, the hot spot is cleaned with an antibacterial soap and rinsed well.  The infected area is often treated topically with a combination of an antibiotic and steroid cream.  Additional medications such as oral or injectable antibiotics or steroids may be prescribed.  And most important, an e-collar is used to prevent your dog from scratching or chewing the hot spot and causing further damage.
If an underlying reason for the hot spot is determined, it will also need to be addressed.  For example applying flea control or treating an ear infection might be part of the treatment plan.
Can I treat my dog’s hot spot at home?
Honestly, yes, you can treat mild hot spots at home following the treatment plan outlined above.   The problem with home treatment is that the underlying problem might be missed or the hot spot might get out of control (which happens fast!).  For optimum treatment I recommend you have your dog checked out by a veterinarian.

Dr. Kristel Weaver is a graduate of the Veterinary School at the University of California, Davis where she received both a DVM and a Master’s of Preventative Veterinary Medicine (MPVM).  She has been at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care in San Ramon since 2007.  She currently lives in Oakland with her husband and their daughter, Hayley. If you have questions you would like Dr. Weaver to answer for future articles, please email

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