It's fairly common for dogs to regularly lick specific areas of their body. Although that behavior isn't problematic on its own, you should keep an eye out for licking that progresses to biting or excessive scratching. When a dog starts doing that, it can cause the upper layer of the skin to get infected. The scientific name for this infection is pyotraumatic dermatitis, but it's more commonly referred to as a hot spot.
Understanding the Causes of Hot Spots
A dog usually won't start biting or scratching parts of its body for no reason. Instead, this behavior generally starts with an insect bite, allergic reaction or other issue that causes itching. In an attempt to get rid of the itch, a dog will begin by licking the area. When that fails to provide relief, a dog will take more aggressive actions like biting or scratching. The unfortunate reality is instead of getting rid of the itch, this approach only makes the problem worse. A dog can easily end up with spots of skin that are red and raw.
Two of the most common areas for dogs to develop hot spots are their rear ends and behind their ears. The first location generally stems from flea-allergy dermatitis, while the second can happen if a dog has an unaddressed ear infection. Dogs with longer coats are most at risk of developing hot spots. This condition is also most likely to occur during the hottest and most humid times of the year.
How to Help Your Dog with a Hot Spot
If you ever notice that your dog is starting to scratch or bite part of its body a lot, you'll want to take a closer look at that spot. What you see can range from a mild irritation to skin that's completely raw. For a hot spot that falls into the mild irritation category, you may be able to help your dog by using a natural cream.
With hot spots that are already raw or one that continues to get worse, the best course of action is to visit your vet. There are two significant ways that your vet will be able to help with a hot spot. The first is accurately identifying the underlying cause. Not only will this help to break the itch-scratch cycle, but it will also help to minimize the likelihood of a hot spot coming back.
The other way your vet will be able to help is by assessing the hot spot and preventing or treating any infection. Depending on the severity of the hot spot, a vet may utilize anti-inflammatory medications, topical antiseptics or a local treatment for the wound. Options like a T-shirt or e-collar may also be used to prevent further irritation to the hot spot so that it has an opportunity to heal.