Understanding Hot Spots in dogs

Does your dog always scratch or lick themselves?  Please check, they might be developing a nasty Hot Spot on their skin.  I recently experienced this phenomenon with my Wire Fox Terrier (Cathy) and would like to share with you what I have learnt from it.  There was a time where Cathy would scratch her ear often.  She mainly did this at night, as I could hear her scratching as the collar name tag tinkled away.  We thought very little of it, just maybe an annoying flea or something.

One day not too long after all the scratching, I noticed two lumps of dry blood behind her ear and thought maybe our other dog bit her and we were unaware of the extent of the ‘fight’.  I quickly washed the wounds with an antibacterial soap which you might be familiar with, Bioscrub.  It was the right thing to do, but this made life a little more challenging for both of us.  Our other dog in the house could smell the freshly exposed wound and he would not leave her alone, drooling and slobbering all over her for a whole day.  My only option was to ask the experts, and off we went to visit the vet.  He took one quick look at her and knew immediately what it was.  They shaved the hair away from wounds (there were a few other Hot Spots on her body too!), she got a cortisone injection, anti-biotics and some cream and we were sent home.

I had to administer the medication on Cathy daily.  In an instant our other dog stopped his annoyances towards her (licking and drooling), and she stopped scratching too.

Within 10 days she was all healed up and back to being her healthy self again.

The vet recommended a return follow-up visit and a possible look at what food she consumes, as he could not find any other reason for this outbreak.  I have changed her kibble diet to Hill’s z/d (Prescription Diet for Allergies & Skin Care) .  Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d is designed as to be fed exclusively, as a reliable ‘elimination food’ for dogs with suspected adverse food reactions. The protein in Hill’s z/d is extensively hydrolysed to minimise the risk of it being detected by the immune system and thereby causing a reaction. If you mix with any other food at all there may be a reaction to the other food so you can’t tell if food is the problem.
 
Having said that Hill’s z/d is a complete, balanced food so it won’t harm your dog, but you won’t get the full benefit of being able to see if food is the issue. And from a cost perspective Hill’s z/d is costly to manufacture and this is reflected in the price per/kgs.

I also feed my dogs Vondi’s home cooked meals as an alternative to the kibble.  So far, a month has gone by and she is doing great.  It is however recommended that if your dog has a serious skin allergy, that you do consider keeping the dog on one food source and not mixing it with various foods. Certain specialist foods (eg Hill's z/d) have been specifically formulated for various needs.   By doing this you will be in a much better position to monitor the condition of the skin.

Financially, what did this cost our family?

For the examination, injections, anti-biotics and emulsion came to just under R700.  Luckily for me we have PawPaw Pet Insurance, our financial peace of mind cover.  I submitted the claim to them the following day and they paid us out in full (less 10% excess) within 3 days thereafter.  It’s always wonderful knowing that when I take my sick or injured dogs to the vet, I know, no matter what, they will be covered for basically everything.  The pet insurance has no annual limits, and they can even pay the vet direct too.  Click here if you wish to apply for PawPaw Pet Insurance today.  Get financial peace of mind for when you need it most.

What are Hot Spots?

Hot Spots are skin infections caused by:

Fleas or food, Parasites eg. Mites, Fungal infections, hormone imbalances, coat length or folds in the skin, untreated trauma to the skin, and foreign bodies that poke into the coat like thorns or grass.

What does a hot spot look like?

Generally they are circular patches (sometimes with hair loss) that are swollen and pussy.  Hot Spots are painfully itchy to the extent that self mutilation could occur.

What kinds of dogs are prone to getting Hot Spots?

Any dog can develop a hot spot infection, but dogs with history of allergies and heavy coats that need regular grooming (but don’t get enough grooming) are the biggest problem doggies.  The weather can also play a role, especially humid climates cause excess shedding of the hair.  Sometimes that shedded hair could get trapped and this can cause an infection.

How to treat a Hot Spot:

  • Trim the hair around the sore
  • Wash the sore with an antibacterial soap eg. Bioscrub
  • A visit to the vet for anti-biotics and cortisone, if the above did not improve within 24 hours.
  • In severe cases, the vet might recommend an Elizabethan collar (aka eCollar) to give the hot spot a chance to heal.

How to prevent your dog from getting Hot Spots:

Grooming is essential to keeping the dogs coat healthy.  Regular brushing to remove excess shedded coat and untangle matted hair, and a proper groom every 4 – 6 weeks.

Allergies:   Food, Fleas, dust, pollen, garden chemicals and hormone imbalances might trigger an allergic skin reaction that could cause Hot Spots.   Keep chemicals to a minimum in the garden, apply food supplements to their diet and try out skin-soothing bath products that contain products such as aloe, oatmeal, jojoba or eucalyptus.

Behavioural:  Dogs that are stressed or bored could be destructive not only to your property, but also to themselves, to the point of self mutilation.  Consider investing a visit to or from an animal behaviourist to help you best deal with a behavioural problem with your pet.

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