Hot spots—also known as moist dermatitis or summer sores—are one of the most common skin afflictions and general health problems affecting dogs. These lesions can be quite painful, causing your assistance dog considerable suffering and interfering with her ability to perform important tasks. Treatment should be overseen by your veterinarian and often requires prescriptions, so make an appointment if you suspect your guide, hearing, or service dog has a hot spot.
Things to Know About Hot Spots
Hot spots are relatively easy to diagnose and treat, but they tend to worsen rapidly. Here’s what you need to know to help catch them early and get rid of them quickly:
- Hot spots are caused by your assistance dog’s repeated and excessive biting, scratching, licking, or chewing the same area of skin
- This can be triggered by any source of irritation on the skin, such as a bug bite or sting, fleas, a scratch, an allergic response, an infection, etc.
- When broken skin becomes moist—as from swimming, rain, bathing, licking, pus, or other sources—bacteria more easily takes hold and causes the infection known as a hot spot
- Dogs with thick coats or matting are most vulnerable because their skin dries less efficiently
- Hot spots typically appear as moist, red, warm lesions that can be any size
- Your vet must first determine the underlying cause of the excessive licking, biting, chewing, or scratching so it can be eliminated
- The hair around the hot spot is trimmed or shaved to allow better air circulation so the lesion dries better; let your vet do this to avoid further injuring the area
- Depending on the severity and other factors, treatment generally involves some combination of cleaning and drying the area (with a non-irritating solution like a special shampoo), application of topical antiseptic agents, corticosteroids or antihistamines to reduce itching and inflammation, oral antibiotics, and painkillers
- Management requires keeping your assistance dog from scratching, licking, biting, or chewing the affected area; this may require an Elizabethan collar
- Hot spots can’t always be prevented, but regular brushing, keeping thick/long coats trimmed, and proactive prevention of fleas, mites, and other sources of itching or irritation all help
Remember, See Your Vet
Just to emphasize the point, your veterinarian should diagnose and create a treatment plan for your service, hearing, or guide dog’s hot spot. Because the condition can be so painful and distracting, and because it can continue getting worse quickly, don’t delay in making an appointment. In fact, a vet appointment is a good idea any time you notice a problem with your assistance dog’s skin or if you observe excessive scratching, biting, chewing, or licking.