"Hot spots" - what are they?

"Hot spots", also called moist dermatitis, acute moist dermatitis, or Summer Sores, is a term used to describe a varied number of skin problems which are very common in the German Shepherd dog.

Anything that irritates or breaks the skin of a dog can create an environment perfect for bacterial contamination. And if the dogs skin surface has just a tiny bit of moisture on it, it doesn't take anytime at all for the bacteria to spread.

Typically, these circular patches will lose hair, are swollen and "pussie" and can be very itchy and painful to the touch. Also, this moist, raw skin disorder has a lot of different causes, but the most consistent factor seems to be bacteria.

The affected dog will feel compelled to scratch, lick, or bite the affected area to the point of self-mutilation. Skin redness, oozing, pain to the touch, and itchiness are all hallmark signs that your dog has a hot spot.

Untreated, these areas could easily spread and cause even the most even-tempered dog to bite if touched near the affected area. These lesions are incredibly itchy and include massive amounts of scratching, licking and rubbing by the dog. These painful sores can happen in just a matter of hours with no warning of any kind.

Any dog can develop these, but those dogs most susceptible to these infections are those with heavy coats and histories of allergies, ear infections, flea infestations, irritated anal sacs or grooming problems such as hair mats.

Dogs in warm, humid climates are more prone to develop hot spots too when they shed their undercoats if they are not groomed thoroughly. If the underlying cause is indeed tangled or matted hair or trapped dead hair, put the dog on a regular and thorough grooming schedule to help reduce this problem.

A helpful "recipe" to help treat hot spots:

• Increase the number of grooming sessions to remove all of the shedding undercoat. Be careful not to scrape or damage the dogs skin by putting too much pressure on the comb or brush as you groom your dog.

• Damp coats are another problem causer. If your dog goes swimming, be sure to rinse the dog off with clean water and dry the coat thoroughly with towels or a hair dryer set on cool.

• A natural approach can be very helpful as well. Pet skin care products that contain chamomile, tea tree oil or aloe vera can clear up most moist dermatitis in just a few days. Aloe vera and chamomile are soothing ingredients to help reduce pain and promote healing.

There seems to be no single cause for developing these itchy spots, however, the problem can be associated with any of the following things, such as: surface skin infection, "clipper rash", irritants, foreign objects in the coat, as well as trauma and allergies.

The most common areas for these spots to occur are the rump, legs, feet and flanks - but these infections can also appear other places such as on the back, ears, neck, and chest.

To treat, you need to treat the sore and then remove the underlying cause to prevent recurrences. Suggested methods include trimming the hair around the sore to prevent further spread of the infection. You want to dry the spot out and get air into the infected area.

Next, wash the area with a mild water-based astringent or antiseptic. Personally, I use a simple mixture of water, hydrogen peroxide (3%) and rubbing alcohol to treat my dogs if they ever come down with a hot spot. Here's how I make it: in a regular drinking glass, I fill about 3 tablespoons full of hydrogen peroxide, add 1 teaspoon of rubbing alcohol and then fill it the rest of the way up with water and stir.

It is very important that you do not put in too much alcohol or peroxide. By itself, alcohol can burn intensely. Would you put straight alcohol on a fresh wound on yourself? I didn't think so.

And concerning hydrogen peroxide, if applied directly to any wound it can kill tissue which will not allow for correct healing. So, in a regular drinking glass you want a large amount of water and only a tiny amount of peroxide with just a few drops of alcohol.

If you don't want to mix up the recipe I gave you above I have also been told by several people that another very effective thing to try to dry the sore out is a cup of black tea with aspirin in it. Here's what you'll need to do: brew up a strong cup of black tea and dissolve one regular aspirin (not Tylenol or any other kind of pain reliever - it must be aspirin) in it.

Afterward when the tea/aspirin mixture cools off you'll need to soak a cloth or rag in this mixture and apply it to the hotspot area several times a day for a few days - until the spot dries up.

Cool compresses can be applied several times a day as well. Medications such as oral antibiotics, topical drying sprays, Hot Spot Shampoo, antibiotics or cortisone may be needed as well depending on severity of the hot spots. Witch Hazel is very effective too in cooling off the hot spot almost instantly and can be applied several times a day.

In severe cases, your veterinarian may even suggest the use of an Elizabethan collar to prevent further self mutilation and to give the spot a chance to heal completely. If your dog needs veterinary help for any skin lesion, or hot spot, don't delay in making that call.

Return from Hot Spots to German Shepherd Health Problems

In a dog-eat-dog world, it is the dogmatic domain of dog lovers to offer dogdom a dog's chance to rise above the dog days for a doggone good time." - AKC Gazette August 1991

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