Dog Hotspots

What is a hotspot?

Living on Vancouver Island we tend to see a lot of hotspots here at Van Isle Veterinary Hospital. Hotspots are an acute, moist dermatitis (bacterial infection of the skin). A hotspot is typically a moist, red, smelly area of skin under the coat and will often have a crust.

How do dogs get hotspots?

Dogs can start a hotspot by licking or scratching at an irritated area. Unfortunately, flea bites are still the most common cause but anything can start and itch such as a bug bite, scrape or allergy which causes licking/ scratching, leading to a hotspot.

Which dogs can get hotspots?

Any breed of dog can suffer from a hotspot, but breeds with thick or long coats which hold moisture next to the skin for long periods of time tend to be more susceptible.

What do hotspots do?

The hotspot area is generally inflamed and oozing from the infection and is EXTREMELY painful. Hotspots grow very fast! A hotspot can be the size of a quarter in the morning, and then it can be the size of a baseball by dinner time. Most veterinary hospitals will treat a hotspot case as an emergency due to the pain associated with the condition as well as the speed in which the infection can spread.

How can I treat hotspots?

Hotspots almost always need treatment from a veterinarian. Your pet will need the area properly clipped and cleaned. As this is quite painful, your veterinarian will often recommend sedation. In some cases, when the pain is so severe, pets require a general anesthetic for treatment. Your veterinarian may prescribe topical treatment as well as oral antibiotics and in many cases, pain control. A cone is often sent home to prevent further licking. Hotspots can be tricky to treat as often times owners have no idea just how large they are or how far the infection has actually spread until you clip away the fur to reveal the full extent of the infection.

Can I treat hotspots at home?

If you catch the hotspot before it gets too big and before the infection has spread, it is possible to treat at home. However, be very aware of controlling the hotspot from growing. This happens very fast.  The area should be clipped and gently cleaned. In some cases, you can apply raw aloe or a thin layer of manuka honey but NEVER apply vinegar or Tea Tree Oil! These products are astringents and will cause pain. You should always contact your veterinarian prior to treating with any products from home.

Submitted by Sherry Duncan, RVT