What is a hot spot?
A hot spot is a warm, painful, swollen patch of skin 1 to 4 inches (2.5 to 10 cm) across that exudes pus and gives off a foul odor. Hair in the area is lost rapidly. The infection progresses when the dog licks and chews the site. These circular patches appear suddenly and enlarge quickly, often within a matter of hours.
Where do hotspots usually occur?
Hot spots can occur anywhere on the body, often in more than one spot. One very typical location is under the ear flaps in large breeds with heavy, hairy ears, such as Newfoundlands and Golden Retrievers. Hot spots occur most often in breeds with heavy coats, and tend to appear just before shedding, when moist, dead hair is trapped next to the skin. Fleas, mites, and other skin parasites, skin allergies, irritant skin diseases, ear and anal gland infections, and neglected grooming are other factors that can initiate the itch-scratch-itch cycle.
What treatment can be sought?
Hot spots are extremely painful. The dog usually will need to be sedated or anesthetized for the initial treatment. Your veterinarian will clip away hair to expose the hot spot, then gently cleanse the skin with a dilute povidone-iodine shampoo (Betadine) or a chlorhexidine shampoo (Nolvasan) and allow the skin to dry. An antibiotic steroid cream or powder (Panolog or Neocort) is then applied twice a day for 10 to 14 days. Oral antibiotics are usually prescribed. Predisposing skin problems must be treated as well.
Your veterinarian may also prescribe a short course of oral corticosteroids to control severe itching. Prevent the dog from traumatizing the area by using an Elizabethan collar.
In hot, humid weather, such as in Singapore, always be sure to dry your heavy-coated dog thoroughly after bathing her and after she swims. Otherwise, the conditions are perfect for a hot spot to develop.