Thursday, March 14, 2019

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Hot Spots

Wait a minute. If it has a name, it is already a diagnosis, isn't it? Well, yes and no. The medical term for hot spots is either pyotraumatic or acute moist dermatitis. Did you notice how often names of medical conditions are nothing more than a description of a problem?

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Hot Spots (acute moist dermatitis)

What does it mean when the name of your dog's condition ends with -itis?


The suffix -itis stands for inflammation. This covers a laundry list of things starting with arthritis and ending with vulvovaginitis--yeah, that's a real thing.

The part of the word that precedes the suffix identifies the involved organ. Joint(s) in arthritis, stomach, and intestines in gastroenteritis, ear(s) in otitis, skin in dermatitis, and so on.

That's all that tells you


A geographical location and the fact that it's inflamed. That is not nearly enough information. The cause behind inflammation can be trauma, bacterial infection, viral infection, fungal infection, auto-immune reaction--more information is needed to treat successfully.

Qualifiers to the rescue


If more information is what you need, in the case of hot spots, you're in luck. Don't forget the additional words--either pyotraumatic or acute moist. Those indicate there is oozing and pus. Where there is pus, there is an infection. In this case, bacterial.

So that's a diagnosis, no?


Maybe. The bacteria that cause hot spots aren't some exotic type that your dog contracts someplace if they are unlucky. It's a bacteria that is normally present on the skin all the time, but its population gets out of control. The real diagnosis lies in why does that happen.

There could have been a minor trauma. Perhaps the coat has been matted or wet. But you take good care of your dog, and their coat is brushed regularly. So that's not it. I don't know about your dog, but mine get scratches and little wounds from running through brambles all the time and don't end up with hot spots. Jasmine was an avid swimmer and didn't end up with hot spots. Until she did. And at about that time she also got diagnosed with hypothyroidism.

The immune system normally keeps such things under control


So what allowed the bacteria to run rampant? And that, my friend, is the right question. The answer lies within your dog's immune function almost every time.

Is the immune system under-performing? Why? In Jasmine's case, it was a poor thyroid function, but there are other issues that weaken the immune system.

Or is the immune system going crazy, attacking your dog's own tissues instead of taking care of business?

Treat the hot spot and look for a cause


Once a hot spot develops, it can spread like a forest fire. Almost literally. It is also very itchy and painful at the same time. The first order of business is treating the infection.

After that, though, if you don't want your dog keep getting hot spots over and over again, look what led to the loss of equilibrium in the first place.


Related articles:
Medical Terms that Sound Like a Diagnosis but Really Are Not
Medical Terms that Sound Like a Diagnosis but Really Are Not: One-Thing-or_Anotheritis
Medical Terms that Sound Like a Diagnosis but Really Are Not: Otitis

What is your dog telling you about their health?


Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog now available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog is an award-winning guide to help you better understand what your dog is telling you about their health and how to best advocate for them. 

Learn how to see and how to think about changes in your dog’s appearance, habits, and behavior. Some signs that might not trigger your concern can be important indicators that your dog needs to see a veterinarian right away. Other symptoms, while hard to miss, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or limping, are easy to spot but can have a laundry list of potential causes, some of them serious or even life-threatening. 

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog is a dog health advocacy guide 101. It covers a variety of common symptoms, including when each of them might be an emergency. 

An award-winning guide for dog parents

22 comments

  1. My Golden Retriever got the occasional hot spot and I felt so bad for her. I always had to keep a close eye on her, especially in the summer time. I knew they were uncomfortable and painful and made sure to have them looked after.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, they can get horribly nasty. And heat and moisture encourage such things to happen.

      Delete
  2. Hot spots are a nightmare, but have figured out why Layla gets them and I am using a Hemp Balm on her for them which is amazing as whwn she licks it it calms her down also.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Understanding why something is happening is always half the battle.

      Delete
  3. I think we use a lot of words interchangeably, or not always accurately. I say Jack has had hot spots from chewing because of itchiness, but I'm really not sure they were in fact hot spots. Thankfully he doesn't suffer from them any longer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A hot spot is a specific skin problem with [typically] massive, nasty bacterial infection that is both itchy and painful. There is oozing and puss.

      Delete
  4. Our pups don't get hot spots, likely genetics but we also always keep fresh, raw probiotics in their food to help. I know they are difficult to manage once it takes off - so good info.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bacterial infections can spread like wildfire and hot spots are one of those.

      Delete
  5. My older dog has flea allergy dermatitis that has led to hot spots in the past. I hate using chemical flea preventatives on my dogs, but we've found that doing so is a lesser of two evils with my dog since preventing him from getting fleas means we don't have to deal with the horrible symptoms of his flea allergy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Life is all about balancing the lesser of the evils.

      Delete
  6. My dog Nelly once chewed herself raw due to allergies. It was horrible. Thankfully we have a lot of strategies in place to make sure it doesn't happen again. Changing her diet helped a lot, but during the summer, she has sesasonal allergies, so we have to watch her closely.

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    Replies
    1. Did you consider trying immunotherapy for the seasonal allergies?

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  7. Wow this sounds confusing! I would be off to the vet like a rocket if something was happening I could not pin down with a proper 'cause.

    A great post. Not confusing and not long for a panicked dog parent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Quite often this needs a vet visit anyways because it might require systemic antibiotic treatment when it gets bad.

      Delete
  8. Uuuuuuugh, yes, hotspots. My poor Henry has autoimmune issues and so many Lipomas (fatty tumors) that he keeps scratching and irritating. Because of his issues, we keep a close eye to ensure that, if any of these rupture, or if another area is causing him to itch, we act quickly.
    Thankfully, Henry hasn't had a hotspot in a couple of years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wait, your dog has itchy lipomas? Lipomas are not supposed to be itchy.

      Delete
  9. Hot spots seem so difficult to deal with. When I ran a retail store it was one of the most common things dog moms and dads were looking for a remedy for.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Quite often they require systemic antibiotics.

      Delete
  10. I'm lucky, neither of my dogs ever had hot spots or any other really bad infections (knock on wood!). I know it can be so hard to find the cause of a dog's hot spots. Thanks for the info.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jasmine had them twice; fortunately I caught them really early. She also had an infection of hair follicles, which is a different thing. That one was much nastier because it wasn't as readily visible.

      Delete
  11. Well this is perfect timing as one of my Huskies is going through this right now. My most senior gal developed one and was on meds, but her bald spot is still there and very concerning. Treating it now again holistically, but wondering if her hypothyroidism is contributing to it, too. Her vet visit is coming up, so I'll find out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If she's hypothyroid, recheck values. If the skin is clear, though, just lacking fur, perhaps there was enough damage to hair follicles and it will take a long time for the fur to grow back or it might not with enough damage.

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