Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options

If you see this icon in a fact sheet summary you may be dealing with a life threatening issue. Consult a veterinarian immediately.

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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.



ALL of the articles in this section cover symptoms that require immediate veterinary treatment.

E&OE. The information provided in the articles on this site is intended as a guide to assist readers to become better informed about health issues that may affect their pets and livestock. They are not a substitute for appropriate veterinary advice and treatment. They should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any individual animal and no person should place reliance on information derived from them, where such reliance may result in loss, damage or injury. Always consult a qualified veterinarian to obtain advice.

Although Alpine Animal Doctors make every effort to ensure that the information contained in our articles is accurate and up-to-date we can accept no responsibility for errors or omissions that may occur.