Poolesville Veterinary Clinic

Monday to Friday 7:30am–7:00pm
Saturday 9:00am–2:00pm
19621 Fisher Ave. • Poolesville, MD 20837 • 301.972.7705

Understanding Hot Spots

Hot Spots- those raw, oozing sores that will appear in different areas of your pet’s skin (dogs are most likely to have these skin lesions, but cats can get them) during the warm and hot summer months (can be found in the winter, but not as often).  They appear sticky and often have a yellow to greenish color.  The hair is matted on to it and there is often a distinctive odor often called a “sweet sickness”.

These lesions are associated with damage to the skin (dermis) that has causes one or more bacteria to rapidly reproduce and expand into the surrounding tissue.  Staphylococcal bacteria and Streptococcal bacteria are the primary type of bacteria that can be found in these wounds.  These bacteria produce a compound that expands away from the edges of the wound and allows the bacteria to expand the wound edges.  Hot Spots can often double in size in just 24 hours.  Left untreated they produce damage to the skin that is equal to second-degree burns.  They can be fatal or leave permanent damage and scaring to the area of the skin affected.

It is critical that you contact your veterinarian as soon as you notice one of these hot spot lesions.  It is a good idea to check your dog, especially your longhaired friends daily. If your furry friend is a water lover, be sure to check under the tail and between the front and back legs.  A common location for a hot spot lesion is around the neck behind the ear, especially if there is any hair clumping.

After calling your veterinarian’s office to make an appointment (the same day if at all possible) you can do some first aid treatment that will help to reduce the rapid spread of the bacteria and help to reduce pain and discomfort for your pet.  Using cool (not cold or warm) water rinse the area liberally.  Use a very soft cloth with a small amount of “Dawn” dishwashing detergent (has protein breakers that help to stop the slime created by the bacteria from spreading the bacteria to adjacent undamaged skin).  Gently rub the area and create a good lather.  Rinse completely and repeat one time.  Then use a dry towel to pat the area dry (never use a hair dryer).  This will not solve the issue; you will still need to see your veterinarian for antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication for your pet.

Your veterinarian will want to do a Culture in most cases (especially important to look for dangerous resistant bacterial strains), this is important to determine the exact bacteria and the antibiotic course.  Your veterinarian may also recommend testing for low thyroid levels, high adrenal gland levels, skin scraping (looking for parasites), ear exam for chronic infection and possibly allergy testing if the problem is a recurring one.

Discuss with your veterinarian his or her concerns about other underlying diseases or metabolic conditions.  The sooner you determine the root cause of a hot spot, the sooner your pet can be free of this uncomfortable and painful skin condition.