Hot Spots are areas of focal, moist dermatitis. They can appear quickly, starting out as a small area of inflammation and rapidly progress to a large area that is painful, intensely red and has a discharge. The hair is often gone from the area and top layer of skin will ooze a serous discharge (clear slightly blood tinged fluid) to a purulent discharge (thick cloudy fluid). There are many potential causes for a hot spot to erupt, including contact allergen or irritant, allergic reaction to insect bite such as a bee sting, or flea bite, trauma that irritates the skin. Once irritated, the situation escalates as the pet scratches, licks and chews at the area. Secondary bacterial infection (most commonly staph intermedius) can intensify the dermatitis quickly.
Humid hot weather, thick undercoats and matted fur can be contributing factors to hot spot formation. Underlying skin allergies (including inhalant allergens, food allergens and allergies to fleas and other insects) are primary contributors. Pets who like to roll in the grass and on things in the grass will have an increased chance of contact irritants creating lesions. Once the skin is irritated it is the physical licking and scratching by your pet that worsens the dermatitis leading to the typical large, red, painful lesion that most of us readily recognize.
Controlling allergies during known allergy season can help to eliminate reoccurrence. Grooming pets with long hair or thick undercoats can also eliminate potential areas for hot spots to start. The neck, face, ears, back and tail base areas are the most common areas that hot spots develop. Keeping these areas well groomed will help. Flea and tick control is important as many animals will react to bites from these parasites. Frequent medicated baths during the allergy season will also help.
Once a hot spot starts it is important to start treatment immediately before it enlarges. Clipping the hair around the affected area is one of the most important treatments. It can also be very uncomfortable to do. We will often apply a topical anesthetic to help relieve pain before we clip an area.
Secondly, cleaning the area thoroughly will begin the healing process. Medicated baths are a very effective way to treat the skin. With intense hot spots we will also apply a topical Lyme-Sulfur dip that leaves a thin residue on the skin that is antibacterial and has natural anti-inflammatory properties.
Medications including antibiotics and anti-inflammatories (steroids and/or antihistamines) are important to treat the skin infection and eliminate the sensations which cause the scratching and licking. We will often find that instituting a comprehensive therapy will allow the skin to heal quickly. Often the skin is immediately relieved after we start treatment and only mildly pink 24 hours later.