Hot spots in pets: What they are and how to treat them

  • by DR Roxanne Jones
Hot spots in pets: What they are and how to treat them

Hot spots in pets: what they are and how to treat them

You’re playing with your pet when suddenly you notice a large, raw wound on their body, almost as if it appeared overnight. This is a hot spot – a lesion that crops up very quickly, seemingly overnight.

A hot spot is a large wound that gets aggressively larger. It will be raw, red and wet, and covered by matted hair. It may have a bad odour, and will hurt your pet if you touch it. You’ll also notice your dog will not be able to leave it alone, continuously licking or scratching the area.

It can be super alarming if you’ve never noticed a hot spot before, but the good news is that they’re relatively simple to treat.

What causes hot spots?

Hot spots are commonly seen in dogs that have thick and/or long coats, and tend to occur most often when the weather is warm and moist. This kind of heat causes your pooch’s skin to stay moist for a prolonged period of time, which can cause a superficial skin infection to occur. Dogs who develop hot spots have a tendency towards this condition and will often get them more than once

Treatment for hot spots

Don’t ignore a hot spot – it will only get progressively worse if it’s not treated.

If the lesions are still small, it’s possible to treat them at home – more on that below. If however the lesions are larger, deeper and painful, it’s best to let your vet provide treatment.

Treatment at home for smaller hot spots

Start by shaving the area. Getting rid of the hair will enable the area to dry out. Clean the wound with a chlorhexidine solution (like Savlon) or with Betadine, then apply antibacterial cream.

Note that all of this will be painful for your pet so be gentle, but expect them to flinch and be very uncomfortable. If you think your dog may snap at you in reaction to the pain, please take extra care and don’t get nipped!

If you manage to successfully treat the wound at home but your pet continues to lick the area, s/he may need to wear a cone to prevent further self-inflicted trauma. If you are unable to treat effectively at home because it’s too painful for your pet or because the wound is too large, take your pet to the vet for professional treatment.

Much as you may wish to help ease your furbaby’s pain, don’t give them any medication that hasn’t been prescribed by your vet, as this could cause complications.

Treatment at the vet for larger or more painful hot spots

Often, dogs need to be sedated or order for the affected area to be shaved, cleaned and treated. Your vet will administer a sedative, then clean the wound, applying topical cream with antibacterial properties and cortisone.

The so-called ‘cone of shame’ may be popped on too, to stop your pet from licking the area and causing more trauma. Your vet will give your pet anti-inflammatories to help manage the pain, and if the infection requires it, will start a course of antibiotics.

How can I prevent hot spots in my pet?

The easiest thing to do is keep your furbaby’s hair short during the warm, more moist months of the year. This ensures their skin can breathe and stay dry, helping to prevent infections and hot spots. Plus, shorter fur in summer means a happier, cooler and more comfortable pooch (and less clean-up for the humans!).

Got more questions about your pet’s health? Check out our other great articles about cat and dog wellbeing on our blog. Remember: keep your pet cool and dry to avoid hot spots!

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