‘Hotspots’ is a common term for a painful, itchy, moist skin rash, a form of dermatitis, that can affect any part of the dog’s body. Any breed can develop a hotspot although certain breeds, particularly Golden Retrievers, Labradors and Rottweilers, seem predisposed to developing this kind of rash.
The most common underlying cause leading to the development of a hotspot is fleas. Other possible causes include ear infections — if the hotspot occurs on the face or neck — anal sac disease, allergies, dry skin, fatty acid deficiency or an underlying medical condition. In some cases the underlying cause cannot be determined.
SEVERITY: Moderate. Painful and debilitating if left untreated.
Hotspots begin with an irritating itch, which leads to severe scratching which results in damage to the skin. Consequently, the skin begins to ooze serum resulting in matting of the hair, which promotes bacterial growth. The hotspot becomes even itchier, which leads to more scratching which in turn leads to further damage to the skin. A destructive cycle is begun where the hotspot progressively worsens.
Hotspots are diagnosed by their distinctive appearance. They appear as a moist, itchy lesion with slimy discharge and matted hair on the surface. Hotspots often have a sudden onset and can sometimes occur within a matter of hours so it is important to seek treatment as soon as any signs are observed.
Treatment usually involves clipping of the matted hair over the hotspot to allow it to be cleaned with a mild antiseptic to assist in removing the discharge and surface bacteria. A topical antibiotic/anti-inflammatory cream is then applied. Systemic antibiotics are often needed to help fight the infection within the deeper layers of skin. Cortisone, an anti-inflammatory, is often also prescribed to reduce the itchiness of the hotspot and break the destructive cycle of itching.
If an ear infection is suspected then a thorough ear examination will be performed and appropriate medications dispensed.
It is important that the underlying cause is addressed to avoid a recurrence of the issue. Dogs should be treated monthly with an effective flea treatment such as Frontline Plus or Advantage. Flea collars and shampoos will not provide adequate flea control. Early detection leads to quicker resolution of hot spots.