Hotspots are an itchy, moist skin rash (otherwise known as acute moist dermatitis or pyotraumatic dermatitis). They generally occur around the head, face and neck but can also occur on the rump and occasionally on the trunk of the body. Any breed of dog can develop a hotspot, but certain breeds such as Golden Retrievers, Labradors and Rottweilers are predisposed to developing hotspots.

What causes hotspots?

Hotspots begin with an itch. The itchiness leads to severe scratching which results in damage to the skin. Consequently, the skin begins to ooze serum causing matting of the hair and this resultant disruption of the skin surface promotes bacterial growth. Once all of this occurs the hotspot becomes even itchier. This leads to more scratching which in turn leads to further damage to the skin and so a destructive cycle is begun where the hotspot progressively worsens.

There is usually an underlying cause that leads to the development of a hotspot - essentially anything that causes the dog to itch. Some of the major causes include: flea infestation, ear infections, allergies (in particular food allergies and inhalant allergies) and some underlying medical conditions. Warm, humid weather will also predispose to the development of a hot spot

How do we diagnose a hotspot?

Hotspots are diagnosed by their distinctive appearance. They appear as a moist, itchy lesion with slimy discharge and matted hair on the surface. When they are particularly severe, they get a thickened plaque like appearance associated with a deep bacterial infection. Hotspots often have a sudden onset and can progress within a matter of hours therefore it is important to seek treatment as soon as they are noticed.

What does treatment involve?

Treatment will usually involve clipping of the matted hair over the hotspot. Clipping will reveal the extent of the lesion, will help to dry out the area and will allow cleaning with a mild antiseptic. The antiseptic will aid in removing the discharge and surface bacteria and will be followed by a topical antibiotic/anti-inflammatory cream. Systemic antibiotics are often needed to help fight the infection within the deeper layers of skin. Cortisone, which is an anti-inflammatory is often also prescribed. It reduces the itchiness of the hotspot and thus is effective in breaking the destructive cycle of itching.

Hotspots can be very painful and treatment cannot always be performed while the dog is awake. Thus we will often recommend a general anaesthetic. This will ensure the whole procedure is painless and less traumatic for your dog whilst enabling thorough clipping, cleaning and treatment of the hotspot.

How can you prevent hotspots?

Early detection can prevent the development of hotspots. If you notice your dog is scratching excessively please do not delay in contacting us.

If you think your pet already has a hotspot, early intervention will lead to a quicker resolution. Your pet will also be more comfortable if treatment is commenced as soon as possible.

It is important that the underlying cause is addressed if possible. Dogs should be treated monthly with a veterinary specific flea treatment. Flea collars, shampoos etc. do not provide adequate flea control. If an ear infection is suspected then a thorough ear examination will be performed and appropriate medications dispensed. If lesions recur, or don't respond to treatment further investigation is required - including a thorough allergy work up, cytology or even biopsy of the affected tissue to rule out other causes.