Hot Spots In Pets

Poor Fritz.

Wednesday night, between church and choir practice the preacher and his wife took me aside.

Uh-oh! What had I done now?

“Jim,” said Melinda, the pastor’s wife, “Fritz has this nasty place on the side of his head that he won’t leave alone. I have some Animax Ointment  at home that you gave us for something else. Can I use that on this place?”

Fritz's Hot Spot
Fritz's Hot Spot

Whew! And I thought I was in trouble!

“Sure, that will be fine. But, tell me, when did the lesion first appear?” I inquired, trying not to act relieved.

Randy pitched in, “It was barely there last night but really looked nasty this morning. It has come on really suddenly.”

“It sounds like it may be a hot spot, a localized allergic reaction. Go ahead and use the Animax Ointment and bathe it with the oatmeal shampoo you have and we’ll look at it Friday. I have to take care of Brenda’s medical needs Thursday, but we can see him first thing Friday morning before surgery.”

“OK, we’ll give you a call,” Melinda and Randy said in unison.

Hot spot is a term that really gets misused by the pet-owning public. By definition it is “a localized allergic reaction.” Which is just the tip of the hot spot iceberg.

The underlying cause of a hot spot often goes undetermined. Usually it has a relationship with an insect. Most commonly a bite from a flea is implicated, but sometimes ingestion of an insect seems to be the inciting cause. Fritz, for example, has been known to chase flies, wasps, horseflies, etc. In fact, Brother Randy says he will attack almost anything that moves. Schnauzers can be that way.

The main thing to know when defining a hot spot is that it is hot. Just as Fritz’s parents described above, they come on suddenly. Hot spots are not chronic lesions.

The first thing that happens when a hot spot begins is the intense allergic reaction. The body sends certain white blood cells and other mediators of inflammation into the site, which results in a red, weepy mess. The heat and discharge make a perfect place for bacteria to grow, which means that hot spots get infected almost as soon as they are visible. With so many sources of inflamation, the itchiness is intense and pets can’t help scratching, pawing and rubbing in response to the itching sensation.

No hot spot is going to get well without medical attention.

Pets need medication to relieve them of the unrelenting, miserable itch.

Pets need antibiotics to control the infection, which will only advance and make the hot “spot” turn into a hot “continent.” Sadly, I’ve seen unattended hot spots get as large as a softball. You can imagine the misery such an affected pet feels.

Treatment is directed at ending the itch and controlling the infection.

Oral or injectable corticosteroids will quickly stop the allergic reaction and their antiinflammatory properties will reduce the itch and pain.

Many antibiotics will control the infection. For Fritz we elected to use Convenia. His housemate, Bowsie, had just completed a three-week regimen of oral antibiotic therapy and his owners have had just about all of the pills they can stand. As Fritz is only a little over twenty pounds the Convenia injection was quite affordable.

Some cases of hot spots call for topical therapy, some don’t.

Ointments are usually discouraged because they tend to clog the pores and hair follicles that are already filled with infectious secretions.

On the other hand, those lesions that are crusty, have matted hair and are difficult to see are terrific candidates for shampoo therapy. SulfOxydex and Pyoben or other benzoyl peroxide shampoos are excellent choices.

The main thing to know when defining a hot spot is that it is hot. And your pet needs this hot lesion cared for right away in order to become the happy, comfortable and playful pet he deserves to be.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.


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