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Help prevent hot spots in pets

As pet owners, should we be concerned if our pet is scratching at their skin? And what can we do to help ease their discomfort? Learn how to identify hot spots in this quick guide and be prepared to help prevent them from occurring in your pet.

What are hot spots?

Acute moist dermatitis, also known as ‘hot spots’ are painful, moist, reddened areas of infected skin that can appear suddenly and spread very rapidly, particularly in hot, humid conditions. In Australia, veterinarians commonly see hot spots in a variety of dog breeds.

Hot spots tend to occur in parts of the body which can be easily reached by a pet’s mouth and claws, often located on the underside of the pet’s neck, sides of the face and around the top of the hind legs. They can arise quickly, and many owners report that lesions have appeared only a few hours after checking their pet and finding no sign of infection.

What can cause hot spots in pets?

Hot spots are often seen in animals who have been chewing, scratching, rubbing and licking their skin. Anything that makes a pet chew and lick at themselves can result in a hot spot occurring. This trauma to the skin can cause a wound which becomes infected with bacteria.

Initiating causes are often allergy related, such as scratching or chewing in response to flea bites. Ear infections can cause pain, and pets may scratch and rub at the side of their face to try and relieve the discomfort. Sometimes pets are stressed and develop behavioural issues such as excessive licking and chewing, which can cause hot spots.

Some say there is a genetic component to skin disease with some breeds more predisposed than others. Brachycephalic dogs (dogs with flat faces and prominent skin folds, such as British and French Bulldogs) and dogs with prominent skin folds (such as Shar Peis) often develop skin irritation and moisture within their folds which then become painful and itchy. Dogs with thick or heavy coats appear more prone to hot spots as moisture is held for longer within the fur, making an ideal environment for bacterial overgrowth.

How to help prevent hot spots occurring

Grooming and bathing your pet is an important part of being a responsible pet owner and can help you identify if your pet has a skin concern which could develop into a hotspot. Consider clipping thick-coated pets, especially in summer, and be sure to keep up to date with their parasite prevention regime all year round.

If your pet does develop hot spots, they could need prompt veterinary care which may include clipping the affected area, medicated washes, antibiotics, topical ointments and anti-inflammatory medication and pain relief. Treating any underlying causes, such as allergic skin disease, is also very important.

Never try and solve your pet’s health problems with DIY remedies. Your veterinarian is a skilled professional who can perform a thorough physical examination and identify possible causes of the hot spots so you can be better prepared to prevent them in the future. If your pet is itching or scratching excessively, consider making an appointment to see your veterinarian.

Cover for the unexpected

To help with unexpected veterinary costs for eligible accidental injury and illness, Pet Insurance may be an option to help relieve any associated financial burden. If you’re with RSPCA Pet Insurance, a portion of first-year premiums will go towards supporting the great work of the RSPCA.

Dr Catherine Tiplady bio image

Dr Catherine Tiplady

Dr Catherine Tiplady studied veterinary science at the University of Queensland. After graduation, Dr Catherine worked in veterinary practice whilst undertaking postgraduate research in Animal Welfare, gaining additional degrees in Bachelor of Applied Science (Animal Studies) (Hons 1) and a PhD. Dr Catherine has published widely in peer reviewed scientific journals and has also authored a book, ‘Animal Abuse: Helping Animals and People’. Currently working in small animal practice, Dr Catherine also has her own business performing gentle in-home pet euthanasia and provides veterinary care and desexing services for animal welfare charities. Dr Catherine brings her passion for animal welfare, love of writing and scientific training together to contribute quality content to RSPCA Pet Insurance’s Pet Care blog.