Published on July 17th, 2017 | by Allie Coleman0
Treating Dog Hot Spots
Among the various health conditions your dog may suffer from are those persistently irritated patches of skin that are generically referred to as “hot spots.” You often don’t need to do a nose-to tail examination of your dog because this ailment is one of the few problems he can actually tell you about by constantly biting or clawing at the afflicted area. Occasionally, the greater harm to the affected area is due to the dog biting at it than by the original cause of the irritation.
A hot spot could be caused by the itchiness that often accompanies a bite or sting of an insect or other arthropod invader or parasite. Just think of how the contaminant left by a mosquito after jabbing your arm for some blood can cause a maddening itch that you could scratch so furiously until you scrape yourself raw. The same goes for common canine parasitic bloodsuckers like ticks and fleas. Accidental brushes with other arthropods like spiders, centipedes, and scorpions could result in puncture wounds that are not only contaminated, but are often infused with venom. The resultant pain could cause your dog to be overly attentive to the area and lick, bite, scratch, or nip at it incessantly until you have a hot spot that needs to be dealt with.
Evaluate the situation
After you succeed in getting the dog to quiet down, relax, and surrender to your trust and soothing embrace, examine the affected area to see how bad it is. The hot spot could literally be a “hot spot” meaning the area has elevated body temperature. It could also be pink or red from the soreness. If there is an actual microbial infection going on, the hot spot could seem to be moist and even bulging due to the presence of pus underneath the skin. It is usually a good idea to have another family member continually soothe and reassure your dog during this examination to keep him calm and unstressed.
A good look at the hot spot could help you determine what caused it. Before doing anything else to the dog, you might be able to address or eliminate the cause, whether it is an insect hive in your yard or even a flea or tick infestation that should be treated. If the eruption is caused by an allergy, remove the cause of this, whether it be dietary or even some object or animal in the dog’s environment.
After figuring out what needs to be done, muster together the necessary equipment and supplies you would need to treat the hot spot. In most instances you would need some means of clearing away the hair or fur from the affected area. This could be an electric razor or a simple pair of barber scissors. You would surely need some disinfectant such as a low concentrate hydrogen peroxide solution to prepare and clean the area.
If the injury has degenerated into an open wound, you would need some medication and an antiseptic like Povidone iodine (Betadine) to dress the wound with, as well as an actual gauze dressing and some adhesive plaster. If it is simply a hot and itchy spot, you can plan to treat it with a topical, non-toxic, itch-relief spray designed for canine use. Of course, you should prepare a clean and comfortable place and arm yourself with the necessary swabs, towels, tissues, and a place to wash.
Finally, have an appropriately fitted Elizabethan collar ready to put on your dog after all the procedures. This is a store-bought or makeshift conical plastic collar that is temporarily put on dogs to prevent them from biting at wounds or surgical stitches.
Address the problem
Your dog is probably going to be fidgety and nervous when you start actually working on the hot spot so be sure to solicit the help of someone who the dog is comfortable with to keep the dog relaxed, so he would remain calm and cooperative throughout the ordeal.
Trim away the hair or fur in the area of the hotspot, not only on top of the actual sore tissue, but radiating outwards up to an inch away on all sides. Making this expanded cleared zone helps you ascertain there are no signs of infection in the area that you should know about. This might be uncomfortable or frightening for the dog, so be careful with your sharp equipment.
Clean the sore area with cloth towels or swabs soaked in the mild hydrogen peroxide solution, not only to remove dirt and saliva, but to blot off any dead tissue, dried blood, pus, or other debris that may further irritate the skin. Make the cleared area as antiseptic as possible before getting into the actual treatment.
Treat and dress open wounds if there are any. An infected wound may lead to systemic problems and should be treated with appropriate antibiotics. This will, of course, require the intervention of your veterinarian.
It the sore spot is merely an agonizingly itchy spot that the dog cannot leave alone, treat the area with the anti-itch spray. This might not address the root cause of the itch, but it can surely relieve the symptoms and reduce the dog’s compulsion to scratch the hot spot. This spray might need reapplication every few hours, depending, of course, on the directions of use of the specific medication you employ. Be sure the medication gets on the affected skin, and does not just deflect off the dog’s hair or fur when you apply the spray.
Step 1: Prepare the Affected Area
Part 1.1: Gather Your Materials
You’ll need the following items:
- Scissors or electric hair clippers (depending on what you’re comfortable handling and what your dog will tolerate better)
- Roll of paper towels or clean cotton cloths
- Hydrogen peroxide mixed with warm water (aim for a 50/50 ratio)
- Topical non-toxic, itch relief spray for dogs
- Plastic E-collar
Note: For the next steps, have someone help you out by holding your dog still while you treat the hot spot.
Part 1.2: Trim the Area
Trim as much of the hair as possible around the hot spot. Try to go about an inch from the hot spot on all sides. Trimming this area makes it easier to treat the affected area and examine it to make sure there are no signs of infection.
Part 1.3: Clean the Area
Dip a cloth or paper towel in the water and hydrogen peroxide mix, and gently blot the hot spot. Do this repeatedly until the area is clean and free of debris and dried up blood or pus. Rinse the cloth frequently if you’re only using one.
Step 2: Treat the Affected Area
Apply the Spray
Carefully use the nontoxic anti-itch spray on the affected area. This will help relieve itching, which reduces the risk of your dog continuing to scratch or chew the area and interfering with the healing process. Depending on the type of spray you’re using and how severe the itching is, you should plan on applying the spray between two to six times per day.
Note:If you were unable to completely clear away the fur over and around the hot spot, you’ll need to part it each time you use the spray. Try to get the spray onto the affected skin in order for it to work effectively.
Step 3: Care for the Affected Area
Part 3.1: Keep Your Dog Away from the Treated Hot Spot
If your dog keeps trying to lick, scratch or chew the treated area, place an E-collar, or Elizabethan collar, on her. This is the type of collar you see on dogs that have been spayed or neutered. Wearing one prevents your dog from getting at the affected area, which lowers the risk of infection.
Part 3.2: Examine the Hot Spot Regularly
Keep an eye on the hot spot to make sure it heals properly. More severe hot spots will take a longer time to heal, but they shouldn’t get worse over time. If your dog’s hot spot does look worse, make an appointment with your vet.
Part 3.3: Prevent More Hot Spots
Figuring out what caused your dog’s hot spot helps prevent them from developing again. Look for signs of fleas on your dog, such as tiny black specks, or frequent itching in other areas of her body. If you suspect an allergy is to blame, take your dog to the vet to try to determine what she’s having a reaction to. If she chews or bites because she’s frustrated or bored, make sure you spend time with her each day and think about hiring a pet sitter or taking her to a dog day care center for more playtime.
If the treated area is in a part of the dog’s body that he can easily reach and bite with his teeth, make him wear the Elizabethan collar for as long as it takes for the itchiness to go away. This is a tough love moment because your dog might wonder why you are punishing him with such an agonizing contraption that restricts his movements and makes him unable to scratch where it itches.
As in any health intervention, the treatment should be monitored and evaluated to ascertain that it worked and the hot spot is healing. This is also a good time for a post-evaluation of the measures you took to eliminate the root cause of the hot spots. There might be some wasp nest that you overlooked, or some food item on the dog’s clandestine menu that you are not aware of.
In some instances, there really are no outlying causes for your pet wanting to work over that particular spot on its skin other than the dog being bored, frustrated, or in need of attention. The best intervention for such a situation, short of booking an appointment with a canine psychotherapist, is to spend more quality time with your dog. That is, after all, what having a dog in your life is really all about.
Points to Remember
Your dog will need to visit the vet for oral antibiotics if her hot spot becomes infected. Watch the area carefully for signs of infection, such as swelling, discharge, increased sensitivity and heat. An untreated infection can rapidly become worse and lead to a serious skin infection that spreads to other areas of your dog’s body.