Canine Pyoderma: Hot Spots on Dogs

Hot spots on dogs are also known as canine pyoderma. These skin infections appear rapidly and are usually oozing. They start as a skin irritation and progress into major skin infections though the scratching, chewing and licking actions of the affected dog.

Causes of Hot Spots on Dogs

The most common causes of pyoderma are insect bites (fleas, mites, mosquitoes, ticks and parasites), allergies, ear infections, poor grooming or summer heat combined with moisture. Dogs with long, dense coats are more susceptible to pyoderma. Sometimes there are underlying medical conditions contributing to the appearance of the lesions.

These raw lesions are usually moist, inflamed and painful. Hair usually falls out in the affected area. They can be found on the hips, limbs and chest. A dog can lick the lesions incessantly, sometimes causing severe inflammation, including pus. These hot spots can appear within a couple of hours without any warning.

Diagnosis of Pyoderma

A veterinarian will conduct blood tests and examine swabs taken from the area to eliminate any other medical conditions contributing to the hot spots. Hot spots can mimic other medical conditions, such as fungal infections. For example, a hot spot appearing around the ear might indicate an ear infection, whereas a hot spot occurring on the hips might indicate an anal gland infection.

Eliminating The Cause

Prevention is the best medicine for hot spots. For dogs with dense coats, ample grooming and getting rid of all matted hair is essential. Matted fur traps moisture and insects, making the skin a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and pyoderma, as well as other skin diseases. Matted fur hinders normal shedding of dead fur and skin. If fleas or allergens are the cause, elimination of such is important in order to reduce the recurrence of pyoderma. Sometimes household chemicals can cause hot spots.

It's important to clip the fur away from the lesion in order to dry it out and for proper air circulation. This will also eliminate the “breeding ground” for bacteria. The area must be cleaned and a topical ointment or antiseptic can be applied. This will reduce the inflammation and stop the dog from licking the wound further, which in turn increases the inflammation and infection. Oral anti-inflammatory medication can be prescribed to hasten the healing process. Glucocorticoids, such as hydrocortisone, can be used to reduce inflammation. Sometimes an agent such as Lanocane can be used, since it contains an active agent that reduces itching, thereby allowing healing to take place. The use of an Elizabethan collar will prevent the dog from scratching, licking and biting the afflicted area, which could increase the infection and inhibit healing.

Sometimes the cause can be behavioral, in that the dog is bored or stressed and begins a form of self-mutilation. Consultation with a veterinarian or behaviorist will address this problem.

Healthy Skin

By maintaining healthy coat and skin, a dog owner can prevent pyoderma from ever occurring. An oily skin and shiny coat prevents fleas from taking hold. Ensuring ingestion of food products containing Omega-3 fatty acids will help maintain a healthy skin and coat.