Pyotraumatic Dermatitis in Dogs (Hot spots)

Hot spots in Dogs


Pyotraumatic dermatitis in dogs, better known as “hot spots” can be a dog owner’s worst nightmare, considering how ugly, painful and itchy these skin lesions may be. Fortunately, with proper diagnosis and treatment, hot spots are a temporary problem, and despite how bad they look, they are rather a short-lived problem. Some dogs though can be predisposed which can make them a recurrent issue. Following is some information about pyotraumatic dermatitis in dogs, also known as hot spots by veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec.

Pyotraumatic dermatitis in dogs
Picture of a hot spot in dog

Pyotraumatic Dermatitis in Dogs (Hot spots)

The term hot spots, refers to a very common, painful and itchy skin condition that can develop in a matter of minutes and clinically manifests in an acute form. The condition has several synonyms like moist dermatitis, pyotraumatic dermatitis and superficial canine pyoderma.

As the scientific name, pyotraumatic dermatitis suggests, the condition consists of two components. Dermatitis refers to the skin inflammation which with time results in pus formation, while pyotraumatic refers to the licking, scratching and biting which leads to trauma and worsening of the skin lesions.

Simply put, hot spots develop when moisture becomes trapped under the hair coat. The moisture can be from humidity, swimming or bathing. Once the moisture is trapped, it gradually macerates the skin. The macerated skin can no longer serve as mechanical barrier and the normally present bacteria from the skin’s surface invade the macerated layer of the skin.

This process is itchy and encourages the dog to lick, scratch and bite. Since the dog’s saliva contains bacteria that cause mild to moderate infection, the skin lesion becomes even more infected.

What do hot spots look like? Hot spots have specific appearances. They are round, red, moist and tender skin areas covered with matted hairs, crusts and scales. They are often described as superficial and oozing skin lesions with foul and repelling smell. Their size varies and it can measure up to several inches in diameter. Hot spots are most frequently seen on body areas where the coat is heavy – back, tail base, neck and face, particularly on the cheeks and under the ear base.

Risk Factors and Underlying Causes

Hot spots often occur secondary to scratching.

There are several predisposing factors which increase the dog’s risk of developing hot spots.  For instance, age is a factor considering that the condition is more common among young dogs. Breed is also a factor and is associated with the specific type of coat some particular dog breeds have – long and dense-coated dogs are at higher risk.

The geographic location in which the dog lives can also play an important role considering that dogs living in hot and humid climates are more prone to hot spots.

And then there are predisposing medical conditions. Certain medical disorders serve as underlying causes for the  development of pyotraumatic dermatitis in dogs. Those disorders include allergies, flea allergy dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, food allergies, inflammation of the external ear canal, anal sac impaction, foreign bodies, contact irritants, post-clipping and post-grooming traumas and parasitic skin infections like scabies and demodicosis.

All in all, since anything that can initiate an itch-scratch cycle can trigger the condition, hot spots are considered as “self-induced lesions.

Microscopic evaluation of the skin can be performed to rule out similar conditions.

At the Vet’s Office 

Diagnosing the condition is quite easy and straightforward especially for a trained veterinary practitioner. Nevertheless, once at the clinic, the vet will take the patient’s full history and perform a thorough and complete physical examination.

The spots’ distinctive appearance is usually enough to set a diagnosis. However, in certain cases, microscopic evaluation of the skin can be performed to rule out similar conditions. If the patient’s response to treatment is poor, bacterial cultures are recommended. If the hot spots are a recurrent problem, additional tests are recommended.

In spite of their nasty appearance, hot spots are superficial lesions that fortunately tend to respond well to adequate treatment. However, it should be noted that the treatment is multimodal and includes several steps. Those steps are:

Clipping – first of all, the skin lesions and their immediate surrounding must be cleared of hairs. The hair should be clipped for at least one inch beyond the edge of the lesion. Clipping the hair promotes the healing process by allowing the lesion to dry quicker. Additionally, by clipping, the real size of the lesion can be determined.

Hot spot lesions are much like icebergs. What is visible to the eye is usually much smaller than the actual size. It is advisable to perform the clipping by using electric animal clippers instead of scissors because the scissors may have traumatic effect on the skin around the lesions.

Cleaning – once clipped, the hot spot lesion and its surrounding should be cleared of debris, infected discharges and crusts. Removing these accumulations promotes the healing process. After mechanically cleaning the lesion, mild antiseptics can be used. Antiseptic lavages are recommended to stop the bacterial growth.

Drying – keeping the spots dry is the most crucial aspect of managing the condition. If the skin remains moist, the lesions cannot heal properly.

A variety of medications are used to treat pyotraumatic dermatitis in dogs. Antibiotics – both topical and systemic  can be used to put the infection under control. Pain management and anti-inflammatory drugs are often prescribed- due to the intense inflammation, hot spots are quite painful. Therefore, using medications that suppress the inflammation and reduce the pain not only promotes the healing process, but also increases the patient’s level of comfort.

Home Remedies for Pyotraumatic Dermatitis in Dogs

Prevent your dog from licking and scratching the area with an Elizabethan collar.

Home remedies should only be used in cases of small to mild hot spots. Home remedies are not strong enough to resolve the condition but they do provide some quick relief. The most popular home remedies include the following.

Washing the lesion with antibacterial soap once a day. Improvement should be seen in 3 to 5 days.

Stepping tea bags in hot water and then using the cooled water to wash the hotspots. The procedure can be done several times per day.

Applying homeopathic remedies like calendula tincture sprays.

Performing oatmeal baths which have a soothing effect on the skin.

Using witch hazel spray reduces the itchiness and putting a small amount of vaporizing rub around the lesion discourages the dog from licking and biting the area.

How long for hot spots to heal? Fortunately, due to their superficial nature, with proper treatment, hot spots resolve in a few days. Generally speaking, the prognosis is excellent. Unfortunately, if the underlying is not determined, they may become a recurring problem.

The best way of preventing your dog from developing hot spots is by keeping the underlying causes under control. That includes keeping the dog free from skin parasites, treating all underlying skin diseases and regular grooming and keeping the fur clean and free of mats and foreign bodies.

” We may use a drying agent such as Witch hazel to help with the soreness and itchiness. We will then place them on antibiotics as well as a low dose steroid to help with the inflammation and infection.”~Dr. Christie, veterinarian

About the Author 

Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia. She is a certified nutritionist and is certified in HAACP food safety system implementation.

She currently practices as a veterinarian in Bitola and is completing her postgraduate studies in the Pathology of Domestic Carnivores at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia.

Ivana’s research has been published in international journals, and she regularly attends international veterinary conferences.


Hot Spot Healing Times in Dogs

Dogs with Hot Spot


Hot spot healing times in dogs are something dog owners may wonder about considering how annoying these lesions may be, often causing dogs to feel and act quite miserable. Hot spot healing times in dogs though may often vary between one dog and another considering that there may be many individual different factors at play such as underlying causes, type of treatment plan and how strong or weak the dog’s immune system overall is. In order to better estimate hot spot healing times, it therefore helps to better understand what hot spots are and how they should be treated for a quick recovery.

Hot spots often occur secondary to scratching.

Hot Spots in Dogs 

Hot spots, also known as acute moist dermatitis, pyotraumatic dermatitis in dogs or moist eczema, are acute, quickly developing skin infections often affecting dogs with thick and long coats. Certain dog breeds such as Rottweilers,
German shepherds and golden retrievers appear to be particularly predisposed.

Hot spot lesions in dogs are often mostly seen in the summer when the days are characterized by warm, humid weather.

It all often starts with a local irritation that is often not noticed by dog owners. The dog feels the irritation though, and in response to its associated pain or itchiness, the dog starts licking, biting or scratching the area further irritating the skin. As the term “pyotraumatic dermatitis” implies, the self-trauma aggravates the skin causing significant damage which will now be readily noticed by dog owners.

Hot spots are surely ugly lesions in dogs. The broken skin caused by the dog’s biting and scratching quickly becomes inhabited by bacteria which quickly multiply courtesy of  the lesion’s moist, inviting environment which is where bacteria thrive.

Although hot spots are quite easy to identify, there are often other skin conditions that may appear similar, sometimes confusing things. If you suspect your dog has a hot spot, it’s always a good idea to see the vet for correct diagnosis. Treating a hot spot incorrectly, after all, may lead to prolonged hot spot healing times in dogs.

What Do Hot Spots Look Like in Dogs?

Picture of a dog’s hot spot

As a dog repeatedly licks, bites or scratches an area of irritated and itchy skin, at some point, given the right circumstances, the area becomes hairless and reddened. A lesion, that is weepy with exudate, quickly forms.

Attracted by the moisture, opportunistic bacteria soon call this place home, multiplying quickly. A skin infection, secondary to the initial self-inflicted trauma, therefore rapidly raises its ugly head.

What do hot spots look like in dogs? The lesions are often described as hairless, reddened areas, weepy with pus,  and with eroded and crusty skin characterized by well-demarcated margins. If some hairs are still present, these are usually caked with smelly crusts.

Usually, dogs owners witness only a single lesion, but at times, multiple can be seen. The lesions are typically found on the dog’s trunk, neck, face, base of the tail and the outwards sides of the thigh.

Because the lesions are often painful and itchy, dogs will feel compelled to want to lick, bite or scratch them, which should be highly discouraged to prevent further aggravation to the lesion.

At the Vet’s Office

How quickly hot spots heal in dogs, as mentioned, varies based on several factors. One important factor is proper diagnosis and treatment.

There are some skin conditions that may cause lesions that may look like hot spots such as ringworm lesions, mange, lick granulomas and some forms of superficial pyoderma.

Ruling out these differentials is important so to ensure that proper diagnosis and proper treatment is instituted. The vet may need to perform several tests.

The vet may take an impression smear to determine the number and type of bacteria. Skin scrapings may help rule out presence of mites. Flea combining may help look for fleas.

Any underlying causes of hot spots that cause dogs to scratch and irritate their skin need to be addressed to prevent setting up a vicious cycle. If the dog is found to have parasites (fleas, ticks, lice. mites) these parasites must be eradicated. If the dog is suffering from food, flea bite, contact allergies or other forms of allergies these would need addressed. If the dog has hair mats, these should be shaved off by the vet or a groomer. If the dog has skin folds, these may need to be surgically removed.

Treatment aims to prevent the dog from aggravating the area, drying out the lesion, decreasing any pain and inflammation, and keeping the bacteria from multiplying.

Hot Spot Healing Times in Dogs

Hot spots healing times in dogs are faster in dogs who are prevented from aggravating the area. Licking keeps the area moist and can introduce bacteria, while scratching adds further trauma.

The use of an Elizabethan collar may be needed to prevent access to the hot spot. Nails may be trimmed and feet may be bandaged to prevent scratching of the area. Placing a t-shirt on the dog may also help to prevent further traumatizing hot spots on the trunk area.

Hot spot healing times in dogs are also shorter if the dog’s affected area is clipped and cleaned so to allow it to air out. The vet may need to sedate the dog for this because it can be quite painful.

Generally, the area is clipped so to obtain 1 to 2 inch borders of normal skin around the hot spot. Once free of hair, the area may be cleaned with an antiseptic solution such as chlorhexidine to remove any pus and crusts. A mild astringent such as 5 percent aluminum acetate may further help the lesion dry.

Antiseptic or antibiotic sprays may be used topically directly to the area to prevent bacteria from further multiplying. Sprays are preferable than ointments or creams as these oily concoctions may trap moisture. Pain relieving products and products containing corticosteroids that reduce inflammation may be further used topically.

Oral steroids or oral antibiotics may be prescribed if there is severe inflammation or signs of the lesion spreading (presence of  raised, reddened, pus-filled bumps in the surrounding skin or hot spots that get deeper than the surface of the skin).

Generally, when hot spots start to heal, they will scab over. When scabs are present, they should be left alone considering that they are protecting the underneath area while it heals, points out veterinarian Dr. Bruce.

How long does it generally take for hot spots in dogs to heal? Generally, with treatment and measures to prevent the dog from aggravating the area, hot spots should start to heal within 48-72 hours. If no signs of improvement are seen in this timeframe, the dog may need antibiotics, explains veterinarian Dr. Christie.

Skin Fold Dermatitis in Dogs

Dogs with Skin Fold Dermatitis


Skin fold dermatitis in dogs is a skin infection often seen in dog breeds characterized by excessive skin folds. As much as dogs with excessive wrinkles are appealing, those wrinkles often come at a cost which can result in annoying health challenges and expensive veterinary bills. Skin fold dermatitis in dogs can also show up in dogs who are not equipped with wrinkles, but who have skin folds in certain body parts which makes them susceptible to infections. Skin fold dermatitis can affect the whole dog’s body or specific areas of the dog’s body where the skin folds.

Skin fold dermatitis in dogs

Skin Fold Dermatitis in Dogs 

Also known as intertrigo or skin fold pyoderma, skin fold dermatitis in dogs is the skin inflammation and infection associated with wrinkles and skin folds.

Dog breeds particularly predisposed to skin fold dermatitis as a result of wrinkles include Saint Bernards, pugs, Pekingese, bulldogs, boxers, Neapolitan mastiffs, Chinese shar-pei and basset hounds. Dogs of any breed may too be predisposed to skin fold dermatitis especially when they are obese.

The issue associated with wrinkles and skin folds is mainly triggered by the dog’s skin rubbing together and the fact that skin folds provide dark, warm areas that trap moisture.

Moisture found in between wrinkles and skin folds predisposes the dog’s skin to maceration, the softening and breaking down of skin occurring as a result of prolonged exposure to moisture. These predisposing factors promote the rapid growth of opportunistic bacteria and yeast which thrive in such moist habitats.

On top of this, several body parts where skin folds are found may secrete natural secretions which further encourage moisture and the associated yeast and bacterial growth.

Signs of Skin Fold Dermatitis in Dogs 

Skin fold dermatitis are classified as superficial pyodermas, meaning that they only affect the upper-most surface of the skin. This form of dermatitis may be widespread, affecting the whole body if the dog is covered in wrinkles, or may be only limited to certain body parts.

Skin fold dermatitis in dogs will produce some distinctive signs that can be readily recognized by vets. Dog owners may not always recognize skin fold dermatitis in their dogs since the skin folds need to be retracted and examined carefully with scrutiny.

Typically, the moisture and associated bacterial or fungal growth will cause an offensive odor. The surface area of the affected skin will often appear reddened, moist and there may be presence of crusts. The affected skin is also often hairless due to the constant rubbing of the skin and its deterioration.

Several other skin conditions can sometimes be confused for skin fold dermatitis. Veterinarians suspecting skin fold dermatitis may therefore wish to rule out other potential skin problems,  before making a diagnosis and suggesting treatment.

Types of Skin Fold Dermatitis in Dogs

Skin wrinkles can cause lip fold dermatitis.

As mentioned, skin fold dermatitis may be a widespread condition affecting the entire dog’s body, but often the skin problem is localized to an exact body part. There are therefore several types of skin fold dermatitis affecting dogs depending on where they are located. Following is a brief summary of types of skin fold dermatitis in dogs.

Body Fold Dermatitis in Dogs 

Body fold dermatitis affects the excessive skin folds found in leg and truncal areas of dogs. They are commonly found in Chinese shar-peis, basset hounds (legs), dachshunds (legs) and sometimes in obese dogs. Signs include reddened, sometimes, mildly itchy skin that has an unpleasant odor.

Facial Fold Dermatitis in Dogs

This form of dermatitis affects the skin found on the dog’s face. It is often seen in Pekingnese, pugs, bulldogs, Boston terriers and boxers. Commonly affected areas include the nasal skin folds, skin folds of the scalp and skin folds found under the eyes. Generally, the affected skin is non-painful and not itchy, but the area may present an odor. Sometimes, concurrent eye disorders may be present.

Lip Fold Dermatitis in Dogs 

This form of dermatitis is seen in dogs with saggy folds of the skin nearby the lip area. Affected dogs include Saint Bernards, bulldogs, bloodhounds, cocker spaniels, springer spaniels and Neapolitan mastiffs. Signs include an unpleasant odor due to saliva and food debris accumulating within the skin folds, and damp, red and irritated lip skin folds.

Affected dogs may also exhibit changes in the color of their fur, which in light-colored dogs may assume a reddish, brown tint from the saliva and proliferation of yeast or bacteria. Some dogs may be seen scratching their lip folds and then proceed to smell and/or lick their foot afterward.

Tail Fold Dermatitis

The folds of the skin under a dog’s tail presents as macerated, reddened and with an unpleasant odor. This type of skin fold dermatitis is common in the tail folds found in dog breeds with curly tails. Commonly affected breeds include bulldogs, Boston terriers and pugs.

Vulvar Fold Dermatitis 

This is a form of dermatitis affecting the skin folds located in the vulvar area of female dogs. Most affected female dogs are elderly, obese and with small, recessed vulvas (buried in a fold of extra skin) which promote the accumulation of urine and vaginal secretions. Licking of the area further predisposes to this form of dermatitis.

Signs include brown discoloration in the fur around the vulva, reddened skin that is macerated and malodourous, licking and scooting.  Sometimes, a secondary urinary tract infection may be present, which is why it’s a good idea to have a dog’s urine sample checked. Vulvar fold dermatitis should not be confused with urine scald and primary vaginitis.

At the Vet’s Office 

The vet will assess the dog’s history, clinical signs and will physically examine the dog, carefully observing the skin in between the skin folds. Next, a sample of the discharge may be taken so to rule out other skin conditions. With skin fold dermatitis, the vet will usually find the presence of bacteria and/or yeast by looking at the sample under a microscope.

Treatment varies based on the vet’s findings. Dogs with vulvar skin fold dermatitis that are obese may undergo a weight reduction program.

The vet may prescribe topical application of antibacterial shampoo containing chlorhexidine. benzoyl peroxide or ethyl lactate for dogs with full body fold dermatitis.  Antibiotic creams, solutions or sprays may also be prescribed to treat localized problem areas.

Special medicated wipes (like Malaseb wipes) may be suggested to use to clean the facial skin folds in wrinkly dogs. The use of these products is often needed for long-term maintenance. Severe cases may require antibiotics or antifungal medications given by mouth.

Of significant importance is to keep the affected lesions dry and clean. Clipping the hair may help increase airflow. Permanent treatment for chronic cases entails surgical removal of excess skin folds. These procedures may be carried out be board-certified veterinary surgeons.  The goal is to stretch the fold so that it no longer exists. Tails may be amputated to eliminate the rubbing of tail folds.

Dog Yeast Skin Infection Treatment

While yeast basically consist of invisible spore-like fungi, the visible harm they may cause dogs can be quite graphic. Skin yeast infections in dogs indeed are known to cause itchy, crusty, and unsightly looking skin, typically accompanied by a quite offensive odor. Interestingly, yeast normally live on the skin and ears of dogs typically causing no harm, but it is once allowed to proliferate that issues start to arise. As much as yeast skin infections sound like bad news, the good news is that they can easily be treated with some quite effective products.

How to Treat Skin Yeast Infections

dog-yeast-skin-infection-pictureWhile there are many products prescribed to treat yeast skin infections in dogs, it is crucial to rule out other skin conditions that may mimic the symptoms of a yeast infection. For this reason, the best approach is having a veterinarian test the dog’s skin with a skin scrape in order to confirm or rule out a skin yeast infection.

Once a yeast infection of the skin is confirmed the vet may prescribe a variety of products to help the dog heal. There are a wide range of effective products ranging from topical, oral or both. Your veterinarian is the best source to decide which product is more likely to yield the best results on a case to case basis. Following are some of the most common yeast skin infection products.

Dog Oral  Yeast Infection Therapy

In this case, the dog will have to assume medications by mouth. The most common oral treatments for yeast skin infections in dogs consists of anti-fungal medications such as Ketocoanzole or Itraconazole. While such medications can be quite effective, it may take time for them to work and side effects are always a possibility.

• Dog Topical Yeast Infection Therapy

In this case, products are applied directly to the skin. Products may consist of shampoos containing anti-yeast ingredients. Malaseb is a commonly prescribed shampoo for dogs suffering from yeast infections and so are shampoos such as Nizoral or Selsun Blue, applied per veterinarian’s instructions.

Dog Skin Yeast Infection Home Remedy

There are several home remedies that may be effective in killing the yeast. The application of diluted apple cider vinegar, for instance, may help kill the yeast due to its highly acidic content, according to However, such solution should not be applied to open sores or lesions as it tends to sting.

It is important to consider that in some cases, the underlying cause of a yeast infection of the skin may be due to a skin allergy or seborrhea (excessive production of oil in the skin). In these cases, the underlying issues must be resolved in order to remove the secondary yeast infection.

Photo Credits:

Wikipedia, Dog with dermatitis caused by Malassezia (yeast) self Own work CCBY3.0

Contact Dermatitis in Dogs

Despite the fact that dogs have quite a dense coat, sometimes dogs may become susceptible to contact dermatits. Contact dermatitis refers to an allergy, or more simply, a condition when your dog’s skin touches an irritant which may be any substance that it is absorbed by the skin and your dog is allergic to. It may appear as a result of past experience with an allergen which can be anything ranging from grasses, to carpet deodorizers, to plastics. Any dog can develop contact dermatitis at any age whenever it comes into contact with the allergen. Dog breeds which are more vulnerable to contact dermatitis include German Shepherds, Scottish Terriers, French Poodles, Wire-haired Terriers and Golden Retrievers.

contact dermatitisSymptoms of Contact Dermatitis in Dogs 
The symptoms include a rash at the place of contact that often affects the chin, between the toes, the muzzle and the abdomen, basically areas where the dog’s coat is the thinnest and the dog is likely to make contact with an allergen. When the cause is an allergy to plastic bowls or a rubber chew toy, the rash will be seen on the dog’s lips or muzzle. Rashes may appear as presence of small bumps or vesicles. In addition to the rash, affected dogs may experience mild to severe itching. Secondary pyoderma (bacterial skin infection) or malassezia dermatitis (fungal infection) may sometimes set in.

Causes of Dog Contact Dermatitis 
The causes include contact with any material that your dog is allergic to. It might include a number of allergens some of the commonly reported ones include plants, herbicides, fertilizers, cedar chips, rugs or carpets, floor waxes, plastic dishes, rubber chew toys, flea collars and fabric cleaners. The vast number of allergens makes it somewhat difficult to pinpoint the actual cause.

Diagnosing A Dog’s Contact Dermatitis
The diagnosis is not as simple as one might think as it involves a number of processes such as the patch test. The patch test is when suspected allergens are applied to the surface of the dog’s skin and the area is observed for signs of sensitivity after  48-72 hours. Another method of diagnosis simply entails exclusion, removing items from the dog’s environment or even removing the dog from his environment and hospitalizing him for a few days to determine what may be possibly causing the allergy. Then, any potential allergens are gradually introduced one at a time.

Treatment for Canine Contact Dermatiscontact dermatitis dog
The treatments for contact dermatitis in dogs are quite simple and involve easy methods once the allergens are identified. Avoidance of the trigger once identified is therefore  paramount. For instance, an allergy to plastic food bowls would warrant the use of glass or stainless steel food bowls.  Secondly, bathing with hypoallergenic shampoo is also used as an effective mean of treatment so remove any residual offending substances from the skin. Oatmeal shampoo or oatmeal baths in cool water may be soothing to the irritated skin. Fatty acids, antihistamines, biotin, and topical shampoos are other aids to reduce itching. Mechanical barriers  such as socks or a T-shirt may be helpful for reducing direct skin contact with the allergen. Topical corticosteroids may be helpful and in severe cases, oral corticosteroids may be needed to temporarily reduce the inflammation. Secondary skin conditions will need to be treated with appropriated therapies.

Contact dermatitis is a painful situation for man’s best friend so it should be greatly avoided. Diagnosis may be challenging as the symptoms produced may mimic other skin conditions such as atopy, food hypersensitivity, pyoderma, malassezia dermatitis and presence of parasites such as scabies.

Did you know? According to board-certified veterinary dermatologist Lowell Ackerman, irritant contact dermatitis is much more common that allergic contact dermatitis. In this case, more than being affected by an allergy, a dog’s  sensitive skin is simply irritated by products such as shampoos, detergents and rock salt found on roadways in the winter.


Guide to Skin and Haircoat Problems in Dogs, by veterinary dermatologist Lowell Ackerman, Alpine Pubns (January 1, 1994)

Photo Credits:

Maja Dumat, Allergie und Malassezien (linker und rechter Schenkel), Flickr Creative Commons  Licence BY 2.0
Maja Dumat Atopische Dermatitis – Juckreiz Schnauze, Flickr Creative Commons  Licence BY 2.0
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