A dog pants outside while sitting under shade on a hot day.

The team members at Naperville Animal Hospital are no strangers to itchy dogs. From ear infections to seasonal skin allergies to fleas, we see it all. Hot spots are one common reason that pets land on our appointment schedule and they are something we think all pet owners should know a little about.

All About Hot Spots

Many pet owners have heard the term “hot spots.” These infamous areas of superficial skin infection are typically moist, weepy, and intensely itchy. 

They are most often seen in dogs, but we definitely diagnose them in our feline friends, too. Almost anything that causes irritation can set off hot spots, which are usually exacerbated as the pet licks, chews, or rubs the area. Irritation results in inflammation. As the process progresses normal bacteria that live on the skin can overgrow and lead to an infection of the skin surface. 

When a hot spot is suspected, typically hair is cleared from the area with clippers to allow the skin to dry out and breathe. The location is then cleaned and topical therapy may be applied. In some instances systemic medications may be indicated to control infection and aid healing. If there is an underlying cause such as fleas, that also needs to be adequately addressed so things can heal. 

What to Do With Your Itchy Pet

If your dog is itchy, don’t worry. There are definitely things that you can do as a pet owner to help. Ward off pesky pruritus by:

  • Give your pet a good bath with a veterinarian-approved shampoo (be sure to rinse well)
  • Use a prescription flea prevention regularly
  • Feed a high-quality diet
  • Avoid applying perfumes and other scented products to your pet
  • Use omega fatty acids (ask us for dosing information)
  • Try an anti-histamine (with approval from one of our veterinarians)
  • Maintain regular grooming appointments
  • Be sure that naturally moist areas of your pet’s skin such as the beard of some breeds or skin folds are dried out most of the time

If your pet is intensely itchy or has a bad odor, discharge, or sores it is time to make an appointment to see us. Systemic medications and prescription topical treatments are often necessary to get infection, inflammation, and itch under control. 

It may be tempting to try to treat hot spots on your own, but don’t forget that many over-the-counter topical treatments can be harmful if ingested or painful when applied if they contain alcohol. 

Hot spots in pets are a fairly common but often frustrating problem. They are also pretty uncomfortable, so don’t delay in getting help for your four-legged family member if you think that they may have one.