Vail Pets: Hot spots aren’t cool |

Vail Pets: Hot spots aren’t cool

Stephen Sheldon, DVM
Pet Talk
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado –One of our lovelier euphemisms is called a Hot Spot. The real name is pyo-traumatic dermatitis. Being a science lover, that is an awesome name, don’t you think?

Most of you have had a pet with a hot spot. It is a skin condition in which the skin becomes unbelievably inflamed and oozy and crusty. There is usually an underlying cause like an allergy or a contact irritant or insect hypersensitivity like a flea or tick bite.

What happens is the itch-scratch cycle then gets out of control and your pet will dig, paw, scratch, roll and gnaw at the area like there is no tomorrow. The area often then gets infected, which makes the itch-scratch cycle even worse. The analogy I use is like an insect bite that we cannot simply stop scratching. We know better though and can often control ourselves. Your dog or cat cannot. They have no sense of self-control!

The way to treat the hot spot is pretty simple. First, we need to clip all the hair off the area with surgical clippers right down to the skin. I know firsthand that this is one of the most important steps. Next we scrub the area to debride the wound using a surgical soap and, yes, alcohol. The alcohol is an astringent, or drying agent, and although it stings at first (I know firsthand now) soon afterwards it cools and refreshes the area.

After we have cleaned and debrided the wound, we usually administer a short acting cortisone injection. We need to break the itch-scratch cycle, and this is one of the only ways to do it, in my opinion.

Home care consists of applying a topical ointment or spray, depending on how moist or dry the area is. This is my call … one of the reasons I went to college for eight years! Often, we will send home antibiotics, as well.

If hot spots occur once or even twice a year, we don’t usually spend too much effort or money chasing a cause. If they occur more frequently than that, we start to look for a reason like food hypersensitivities, allergies, or thyroid conditions to name a few.

Here is how I know about hot spots first hand. I had one! It was under my beard last week; my vanity caused me to use a beard dye to hide some grey hair (I think it was called “Just for Idiots”). I woke up in the middle of the night wanting to tear my flesh off. When I looked in the mirror there it was, a classic hot spot. It was unbearable. After sedating myself, I shaved my beard and treated myself just as I described above.

Within hours, I was back to normal: peeing on the trees outside, begging for food and sleeping at the foot of my wife’s bed!

Dr. Stephen Sheldon practices at Gypsum Animal Hospital in Gypsum. He can be reached at 524-DOGS or by visiting the hospital Web site,

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