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Hot spots are an irritating skin condition that affects countless dogs every year. Here, Dr. Henry Cerny, DVM, MS of Yankee Hill Veterinary Hospital, answers some common questions about hot spots.

What are hot spots on dogs and how can we detect them?
A hotspot (also known as pyotramatic or moist dermatitis) is a condition which involves an area of skin which has become inflamed and infected. The affected skin often appears as a moist, oozing, reddened area that is painful and very itchy to the dog. Hair loss may also be seen. Continued licking and chewing at the area by the dog worsens the condition dramatically.

What causes hot spots and can they be prevented?
Anything that causes itchiness of the skin can lead to the development of hot spots on dogs. Some common triggers are atopy (allergies to things in the environment such as grasses, trees, weeds, dust mites, etc), food allergies, fleas, mites, insect bites and skin wounds. A bacterial infection of the skin (typically caused by staph) develops by taking advantage of the damaged inflamed skin. The infection is often deep in the dog’s skin and, in addition to the moist oozing appearance, an odor is often present.

How are hot spots treated?
The goal to treatment is to clear the bacterial infection, relieve the itching and pain, and identify and remove the underlying triggers if possible. The hair in and around the dog’s hot spot is usually clipped to allow initial cleaning of the area and the application of topical medications. Topical treatment with sprays, creams or ointments to kill bacteria and help with pain and inflammation are often used. Oral antibiotics are usually prescribed for a course of three to four weeks and sometimes longer. Often a short course of corticosteroids (i.e. prednisone) is given to relieve the itching and pain due to the inflammation. Antihistamines may also be used to help with itchiness.

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