The malady is known by a variety of names including hot spots, lick sores, lick granuloma, dermatitis and, its correct medical term, pyotraumatic dermatitis. The medical term itself explains what the condition known as dog hot spots truly is. The prefix pyo, meaning pus, and traumatic, meaning caused by trauma; and derma having to do with skin, and itis, meaning severe inflammation. So it is a severe inflammation of the skin characterized by trauma, presenting with pus. Dog hot spots are commonly the secondary result of a primary cause that is fundamentally mundane in nature. The root cause can be anything from a flea, fly or mosquito bite to a surgical incision. They are caused by the dog’s incessant licking and worrying the area. Dog skin allergies are frequently caused by skin or food allergies. When the dog feels itchy and uncomfortable, it will lick at the area in a vain attempt to make it feel better. When this happens, the dog’s saliva, usually the source of a healing compound, becomes an agent of irritation because there is too much of it. The area, due to the constant licking, stays warm and moist, a perfect breeding grounds for bacteria and yeast. Though you may not see the pus because the dog keeps the area clean, it’s there and can build up to infectious levels.
Treating dog skin allergies starts with prevention. If your dog is the victim of frequent hot spots, find out what the underlying cause may be. If he has food, skin or inhalation allergies, change his diet or his environment. If he has fleas or is plagued by mosquitoes or flies, employ a topical flea and tick treatment or spray an aerosol product that contains Deet, an ingredient that repels flies and mosquitoes. If your dog is licking an open wound or a surgical incision, be sure to alert the veterinarian so further action can be taken to protect the area.
Once the dog’s hot spot has taken over, aggressive treatment is warranted. Many dogs develop a propensity towards hot spots, and therefore will have more than one going at any given time. Shave the area to free it of fur and debris, or cut the hair very short using a scissors. This will facilitate a free exchange of air so as to assist in drying out the area. Use a non-irritating astringent such as witch hazel or peroxide, or a commercial anti-bacterial spray to wash the area well, flushing out any debris, necrotic tissue, dirt, saliva and pus. Do not wrap the area unless your vet recommends it to keep the dog from getting at it. Wrapping the area will only keep it moist and delay healing. Keep an eye on your dog and tell him “no” in a firm voice whenever you see him licking at the sore.
A dog’s saliva does contain some antibiotic properties, but as with anything else, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. In moderation, a dog’s saliva can be a healing salve. In excess, it can cause damage, pain and irritation.