Hot Spot Healing Times in Dogs


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.

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