If your dog is itching a specific area of its skin, or has an area that is red and warm to the touch, chances are your dog has a hot spot, or hot spots.
The correct term for hot spots is acute dermatitis, essentially an inflammation of the skin. Curing hot spots is not so simple, because while you can treat the symptom and offer temporary relief to the dog, you really must fix the problem that causes the hot spots to occur in the first place.
Causes of Hot Spots on Dogs
There are several things that can cause hot spots in dogs, diet being the most common contributing fact. Fleas, mites, and chemical exposure, can also cause such problems on a pet dog.
Symptoms of Hot Spots on Dogs
Generally the first thing an owner will notice is that the dog keeps itching the same area. The fur in that area may even turn yellow (unless on a black dog) as a result of the constant licking. Fur will eventually fall out leaving a red, raw, area of skin. The area will be hot to the touch and may even have a foul smell or blisters. In some cases puss will come out of small infected pumps, and sometimes the area is so scratched up from the dog itching that bleeding occurs.
One of the most common places for hot spots to occur is on the dogs paws, between the toes. Dogs will often be seen to be chewing their paws when this happens.
This appears to be a hot spot on the underside of the neck of a Golden Retriever.
A dog's owner needs to get a proper diagnosis before they do too much. A veterinarian can take a skin sample to rule out other problems such as ringworm.
Treating the Dog
The area around the hot spot should be shaved.
If the problem is mites, or fleas, the veterinarian will work with the owner to get rid of these. Fleas are fairly easy to get rid of but mites require more time and regular bathing to kill the mites that have burrowed under the skin. In either case healing may still take a while since the dog is showing signs of being allergic to these pests.
If the veterinarian was not able to determine a cause such as mites or fleas, the owner should look at the dogs food. The most likely ingredients to cause hot spots are wheat, corn, soy, beef, and pork, but dogs can really be sensitive to anything. Meat meal (undisclosed meat source) can also be a suspect ingredient because this could be any dead animal. The simple fix here is to switch the dog to a better food ideally one made for treating dogs with allergies.
Lamb and rice formulas often work well for this (not all are as good as others, a wise owner will read the ingredient list). Some owners will select to cook for their dog, or at least to try an elimination diet, restricting what a dog eats over a period of weeks, introducing new things every so often.
Owners should also consider what chemicals they are using around the home and yard. Laundry detergent used on a dogs bedding, or chemicals used on the lawn, can also cause hot spots on dogs.
Hot spots may also be caused by failing to dry the dog properly after bathing it, or letting it swim in a lake or pond. This is also a concern in lakes where “swimmers itch” is present.
Oatmeal shampoo is soothing and can help alleviate some desires to itch, but will not “cure” the problem.
The veterinarian may give the dog a shot of cortisone, which will not cure the problem, only help the symptoms.
Sometimes the dog's habit of itching makes the hot spots worse, putting a cone on the dog can help prevent itching, as well it is a good idea to keep such a dog mentally stimulated so it does not itch out of boredom, or habit.
Note *Do not punish the dog for itching. In some cases the dog will see punishment as a reward, you are giving it attention, which can make a lonely dog itch even more.