Canine eczema goes by a variety of names—including pyotraumatic dermatitis, wet eczema and acute moist dermatitis—but it's probably best known by the moniker "hot spot." No matter what you call them, these itchy, weeping lesions can make your dog miserable. While recuperating, your dog might have to wear an Elizabethan collar, also known as the "cone of shame."
Canine eczema might appear as one lesion or several. Something irritates your dog, whether it's a flea or an allergy, and he starts licking and chewing the area. In a short time—just 10 minutes of ferocious chewing—he's created a hot spot, a moist, red, smelly sore that can easily become infected. The infection results from bacteria already present on Fido's body that now has access since the skin is broken.
While any breed can suffer from canine eczema, the conditions seems to affect some more often. These include the German shepherd, Labrador and golden retrievers, Saint Bernard and collie. Any dog with a heavy coat is more susceptible, as all that hair doesn't allow for much airflow to the skin. Keeping your dog's coat clean and brushing him regularly helps prevent hot spots. Since canine eczema occurs primarily in warm weather, you might want to have your dog's coat shaved down by a groomer once temperatures rise. Dogs prone to hot spots tend to get them regularly unless the cause is diagnosed and treated.
Allergies often trigger itching and hot spots. If your dog has a flea allergy, consider yourself lucky, since topical monthly or oral flea medication usually solves the problem. Depending on what body part is affected, your dog could be suffering from an ear infection, impacted anal glands or deeper infections within the skin.
You might be able to keep hot spots from getting worse before a vet visit by putting the cone of shame on your dog. Your vet will shave the hair around the lesion, clean it and probably apply a topical antibiotic or hydrocortisone cream. Depending on how badly the lesions are infected, she might prescribe oral antibiotics. She'll also instruct you on cleaning the sore. It could take several days for the spot to dry out and two weeks or more before hair grows back. Your vet might conduct tests to determine the cause of the eczema. These tests might include skin scraping and blood tests for allergens. Your vet might also suggest dietary changes or supplements to keep your dog's skin and coat in top form.
By Jane Meggitt
petMD: Hot Spots on Dogs! Just What Are These, Anyway?
Vetstream: Hot Spots (Wet Eczema, Pyotraumatic Dermatitis) [PDF]
Ashleigh Veterinary Centre: Wet Eczema
Veterinary Partner: Hot Spots (Pyotraumatic Dermatitis)
Animal Medical Hospital: Pyotraumatic Dermatitis (Hot Spots)
About the Author
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.