Hot spots on dogs aren’t a uniquely summer-mediated condition, but they are far more likely to appear on dogs in the summer than at other times of the year. For this reason they’re sometimes known as “summer sores,” and some dogs will never develop one in their whole life while others are particularly prone to them and may develop several over the course of any given summer.
This article will talk in more detail about hot spots or summer sores in dogs, including what they actually are, why they develop, and what you can do to reduce the chances of your dog getting them. Read on to learn more.
Hot spots on dogs are localised areas of the skin that are warm to the touch, which may feel moist or look wet, and that are almost always red and inflamed.
Dog hot spots are a type of skin infection, and hot spots can vary in size from around that of a coin to a few inches across. There may be just one, or several on different parts of your dog’s body. Some hot spots will start small and grow over time, often at quite a rapid rate.
Hot spots or summer sores are correctly referred to as acute moist dermatitis or pyotraumatic dermatitis, and while they don’t only appear in the summer, they’re more common in hot weather than at other times of year.
To your dog, summer sores will feel itchy and potentially sore, and as a result they will tend to lick, bite, paw at, and bother at them, which of course only makes things worse. Often, the first indication that your dog has a sore of this type will be because they keep attacking the same area of their skin.
Hot spots tend to develop on dogs prone to them in warmer weather and so, in summer rather than at other times of the year. This is because both heat and humidity provide the right sort of conditions on your dog’s skin for them to develop.
Dogs that are prone to hot spots will tend to be less affected in dry, arid summers than wetter ones as a result.
One thing that can make avoiding and managing summer sores on dogs complex is the fact that while heat and moisture enables them to develop, the actual cause of them can be quite variable from dog to dog.
Generally bacteria growth is the root of the infection, with moisture as the catalyst.
It is a damp or moist environment on the surface of the dog’s skin, combined with poor aeration of the skin, which tends to provide the right conditions for summer sores to develop. This means they’re more common on dogs that have very thick coats, particularly complex, multi-layered coats.
Dogs with complex coats that aren’t brushed and groomed sufficiently and that are prone to getting matted or tangled fur are most likely to develop summer sores, as poor coat maintenance again allows humidity and a lack of air to affect the skin. You can potentially reduce flare-ups of hot spots in dogs prone to them by being conscientious about their coat care and grooming.
The point of origin for a summer sore to develop can vary from a sore flea bite to sensitive skin due to an allergy flare-up to an existing scratch or cut, along with the coat and skin being damp or moist. This can happen simply due to humidity, but is more likely to happen if your dog gets wet (from rain, a bath, or a swim) and isn’t dried properly.
You will need to talk to your vet about how to treat hot spots or summer sores, as there are a range of different approaches that may need to be tried, and that can depend on the extent of the problem and its root cause.
Some of the most common approaches to treating hot spots in dogs include:
Shaving or trimming the fur over and around the sores to help them to dry out.
Regular bathing/cleaning of the sores with an antibacterial wash, and drying them thoroughly.
Potentially, medications or topical creams to reduce itching and inflammation.
If the infection is serious or the skin is very damaged, antibiotics and/or steroidal medications may be prescribed too.
If you can convince your dog to leave their sore spot alone and you care for it according to your vet’s directions, the spot will usually begin to improve within a few days.
However, if your dog bothers at the sores a lot or the area cannot be kept dry due to the thickness of the coat, they can be more of a challenge. You may need to use a buster collar on your dog to ensure they leave the area alone.
Grooming your dog regularly and ensuring that they don’t develop knots and matts in the coat is the best way to prevent summer sores in dogs. You need to get right down to the skin when you do this. Also, avoid your dog getting their coat wet; always dry them thoroughly right down to the skin if they do get damp.
You cannot always prevent hot spots from developing, but following this approach goes a long way towards reducing flare-ups of them, it also means you’d spot any sores that were developing early on, and so can nip them in the bud before they worsen.