Hot spots are bare, painful circles of inflamed skin known as pyotraumatic dermatitis or acute moist dermatitis. Usually caused by a flea bite or food allergy, the area becomes intensely itchy and your dog will rub, lick, bite and scratch the area to find relief. Hot spots can grow quickly and leave your dog vulnerable to a dangerous bacterial infection.
Trim, Clean and Protect
Hot spots should be cleaned regularly. To help keep the area dry and clean, carefully trim the hair around the area. Use caution though: hot spots can be very painful and your dog may be protective or reactive if you try to touch the spot.
Clean the area with an antibacterial soap or a mild, unperfumed liquid soap. Gently swab the area and pat dry. Alternatively, dab the area with a mild disinfecting solution such as Betadine®.
Reduce Inflammation and Irritation
A cool water compress can relieve swelling and discomfort as well as soften some of the crustiness surrounding the site. Use a soft cloth soaked in cool water and apply it to the area for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.
A tea compress can speed healing, according to Jan A. Hall, DVM. Soak a green or black tea bag in hot water and allow it to cool. Use the cooled tea bag as a soothing compress. Green and black teas contain tannic acid, which may help to dry and heal the wound.
To control itching, apply a light coating of 1% hydrocortisone cream. Distract your dog for at least 5 minutes while the lotion absorbs.
Eliminate the Source
Hot spots are caused by a skin irritation, usually an allergic reaction to a flea bite or food allergy. Eliminate hot spot triggers and you will eliminate hot spots.
The availability of topical and oral flea medications have all but eliminated the seasonal scourge of fleas, but in some dogs, even a single flea bite can cause a severe reaction. Control flea populations on your dog with an appropriate product, and be sure to treat your dog’s living and play areas. It may take several weeks to completely exterminate fleas, flea eggs and larvae.
Food allergies can cause intense itching that results in skin irritations and hot spots. Symptoms are present all year and may be accompanied by gastrointestinal problems. Many commercial dog foods contain allergenic ingredients such as corn, wheat, soy, beef, chicken, eggs and dairy. Switch to a limited ingredient dog food to reduce your dog’s exposure to these common allergens.