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What Is A Hot Spot? 5 Dog Skin Symptoms to Look Out For

Hot Spot

A Hot Spot. Source: Wiki Commons

Hot spots are bad news for a dog. A ‘hot spot’ is a skin condition caused by several factors, which includes fleas, mites or other allergies. Therefore, it’s not really considered a ‘problem’ in itself, because it’s more accurate to label it as the outcome of several potential root causes.

The main reason why this particular skin problem is so problematic is that hot spots can spread rapidly throughout the dog’s body. A small patch of rash on the skin can easily expand and cover a large area in as little as 24 hours!

The various treatment methods for hot spots are mostly straightforward and usually reliable. Before it can be administered, however, we should first determine if hot spots are definitely the skin condition that your dog is suffering from. This can be done by looking out for several symptoms that are usually attributed to hot spots.

There are at least five different symptoms, all of them listed below:

1.)    Reddish, swollen and inflamed skin (warm to the touch)

2.)    Itchiness and Pain

3.)    Loss of fur

4.)    Rapid Spreading

5.)    Pus with foul odour

Let’s take a look at each symptom in detail, starting with the first on the list.

Inflamed Skin

Hot spots always appear as angry red patches of irritated skin on the body of a dog. In more severe cases, the inflamed skin can become so red and sore that it almost looks like a bloody wound when seen from afar.

The irritation of the skin is due to the underlying causes of hot spots; flea bites, mites or other sorts of allergic reactions by the skin can irritate it. This starts the swelling as well as the formation of red sores or rashes. Much like humans, any patch of irritated skin quickly turns red and swollen when scratched. This brings us to point number two: The itchiness of hot spots.

Itchiness and Pain

An itchy dog is always a sign of a possible skin problem, and can be attributed to a wide variety of causes. Therefore, one cannot immediately assume that a dog is suffering from hot spots just because of an idle scratch here or there.

However, it is reasonable to suspect the presence of a hot spot if a dog is seen scratching or biting on a specific area with a little more intensity than usual. Hot spots usually begin on a small area of a dog’s body, and are incredibly itchy for the poor dog. Any prolonged scratching or biting at a concentrated area is therefore due to the itchy feeling caused by the hot spot.

Another thing to note about hot spots, apart from the itching, is that they’re also painful when touched. This can occur even with a small patch of inflamed skin, but is more noticeable when the hot spots reach an advanced stage when large patches of inflamed skin can be seen covering the dog’s body. Dogs with hot spots will growl and snap at anyone attempting to touch the skin, even their owners. This is because the skin has become so bruised and raw that any foreign contact will cause the pain to shoot through their entire body.

If you’ve ever seen your dog whimper a little when he knocks onto a piece of furniture, or bumped into by another dog in your household, have him checked out for hot spots if you can, as the innocent bump may have triggered a painful reaction from a likely hot spot.

Loss of fur

This is another classic symptom of hot spots. Usually, the inflamed skin will often be exposed without any fur covering the area whatsoever. This is mostly due to the constant scratching and biting of the dogs; the hair is stripped away from the skin and is prevented from growing again by the frequent self-mutilation caused by the dog.

Another look at dog hot spots - this one is taken from a Golden Retriever.

Red inflammed skin. Source: Wiki Commons

The loss of fur can be said to be the most visible symptom of hot spots, and most dog owners base their diagnosis of hot spots on the exposed and inflamed skin.

In a way, the loss of fur serves well as a catalyst for treatment of the underlying skin problem. If left for too long, however, the loss of fur becomes truly distressing when compounded with another hot spot symptom…

Rapid Spreading

Another well-known characteristic of hot spots, and one that has already been mentioned earlier on, is their quickness in spreading from one small patch to a large area on the dog’s body. There’s no doubt that the scratching and biting by the affected dog is to blame for the hot spot’s rapid spreading.

This symptom is undetectable if the hot spot does not induce a loss of fur, which can sometimes happen. The fur is able to mask the severity of the hot spot effectively, so if you do notice that your dog is constantly scratching himself, it may be wise to expose a bit of the fur to see if the underlying skin is red and sore.

The rapid spreading of the hot spots, along with the dramatic loss of fur is a terrible combination, as the exposed and inflamed skin can sometimes be so unsightly that a person with no knowledge of dogs may wrongly assume that the dog is suffering from an incurable disease!

…That is an exaggeration, of course, but the fact remains that the loss of fur practically disfigures a dog’s appearance, and is no doubt a huge source of frustration for the owner.

These four symptoms that have been discussed so far, if present at the same time, can usually be taken to mean that a dog is suffering from a mild form of hot spots (also known as ‘superficial hot spots’). However, there is a fifth symptom that is only present if the skin condition reaches an advanced stage. This is known as a ‘deep hot spot’, and the last symptom will be discussed below.

Pus with foul odour

This symptom describes thick yellowish pus that oozes out of the inflamed dog skin. It gives the skin a rather moist appearance, and is sticky to the touch. Worst of all, it also emits a strong unpleasant smell that follows the dog wherever he goes.

It can be distressing if you discover the presence of pus on your dog’s inflamed skin, because not only does it cause discomfort for your dog, it also means that the hot spots are worse than a typical case, which merits more attention. However, it’s still not too late to start treatment, although it should definitely be done sooner than later.

Conclusion: Getting Down To Work

Now that the symptoms of hot spots have been discussed in detail, you should now have an idea of how they look like and how to identify them on your dog if he has been scratching himself quite a lot lately.

Your overall aim is to remove the root cause of the problem and the healing your dog’s skin, but your very next step should be to start the treatment of the hot spots, and at the same time investigate the underlying causes of this skin condition. If everything goes well, your dog will definitely be on the right track to recovery.

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