Golden Retrievers and Hot Spots – What You Should Know

Written by AnnieTheGolden

Just like humans, dogs are susceptible and can experience many different skin conditions; and if you have a breed that has a beautiful, long, thick coat, like Golden Retrievers, you have probably experienced Hot Spots.  

Hot spots are one of the most common skin conditions in dogs, and usually occur in the warm summer months or during periods of high humidity. 

If you are a new golden owner or are thinking about getting a golden pup, it’s important that you know what Hot Spots are - the causes, symptoms, treatments and prevention.

What are Hot Spots?

Hot Spots are a form of canine pyoderma and is also known as canine acute moist dermatitis or summer sores.  

It is an infected area of skin that is red, moist, itchy and very painful. It can have an odor due to the pus from inflammation or bacterial infection.  

Since hot spots are on the outer layer of skin, it is not considered a skin infection, although bacteria can be present on the surface of the wound.  A hot spot can double in size within hours and can spread if not treated. 

What Causes Hot Spots?

In a lot of cases, the root cause can be traced back to moisture. Moisture under the fur that did not fully dry and is trapped by the thick double coat, causing irritation.

Dogs often get hot spots from continuously and at times, aggressively, scratching, licking and biting their skin. 

Their coat then traps that moisture which creates a perfect environment for a bacterial infection.  If your pet continues to scratch, the infection can spread to other areas of the skin.  

There are a number of factors that can contribute to the irritation of your dog’s skin:

  • Environmental Allergies – Chemicals, cleaning supplies, and shampoos may cause hot spots on your dog’s body/belly/feet due to an allergic reaction to the products used. Insect/Tick bites – infections from bites.  Mold and Pollen – Itching, watery eyes, sneezing allergic reactions to pollen, dust, dust-mites. Need to clean your house and dog after being outside.
  • Flea Allergy – a common cause and usually around the tail area.  Regular flea treatment is crucial for prevention.
  • Food Allergies – foods with chemicals and preservatives can cause dry skin, hence hot spots. Some dogs may even exhibit allergies to common foods such as beef, chicken, dairy, egg, fish, lamb, soy and wheat.
  • Ear Infection – Common in dogs that have allergies, scratching leads to skin breaks causing bacteria to multiply, and potentially a hot spot.
  • Matted and Moist Coat – As stated earlier, long, thick coats are perfect for hot spots due to moisture being trapped in the coat.  It is important to clean and thoroughly dry your dog if it has been swimming in unclean water.
  • Painful Locations on Body – Since dogs cannot rub areas that are sore, they tend to lick them which can cause hot spots.  An example of this would be licking their hips due to possible arthritis or hip dysplasia.
    • Stress or Boredom – Dogs that are stressed or bored may lick or chew themselves, damaging their skin and causing a staph infection that leads to a hot spot.

It is important to identify and address the cause of your pet’s hot spots so that you can manage and prevent any reoccurrence and/or future skin problems.

Symptoms of Hot Spots

Hot Spots are usually found on your golden’s head, limbs or hips, but they can occur anywhere. Many skin conditions have similar symptoms so it is important to visit your vet if you have any concerns.  Symptoms of a hot spot may include one or more of the following:

  • Itchy, painful skin area

  • Continuous chewing or licking of skin area

  • Inflammation of skin area

  • Redness of skin area

  • Swelling of skin area

  • Crusted scabs in skin area

  • Oozing Sores – pus or fluid

  • Dry Scaly Skin

  • Hair Loss

  • Moist, Matted Hair around lesions

  • Foul odor from lesion

Treatment for Hot Spots

If this is your first experience with Hot Spots then taking your golden to the vet will be the first step.  Delaying treatment may make the problem worse and cause your pet considerable pain. Your vet will conduct a full examination of your dog to find the underlying cause so that he can treat and hopefully prevent any future occurrences. Once the cause has been diagnosed, the appropriate treatment will be prescribed.  

Typically, treatment of hot spots involves some combination of the following:

  • Clipping the hair around the area to prevent matting.
  • Cleaning the affected area with gentle antiseptic solutions such as chlorhexidine.
  • Prescribing topical or oral antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections.
  • Prescribing topical or oral steroids to control inflammation and decrease itching.
  • Using medicated wipes or solutions to gently clean the area daily.
  • Applying an Elizabethan collar (e-collar or “cone”) to prevent continued scratching.

If you have been around dogs all your life, treated your dog for hot spots or just feel confident you can do it yourself, here are some general guidelines:

  • Clean and disinfect the hot spot.

  • Apply an antibiotic or natural remedy to relieve itching and promote healing.

  • Stop your golden from licking the area until it is completely healed. (You don’t want to spread the infection – so no licking!)

  • Identify the underlying cause and remove it!

The following steps are more specific and similar to what the vet would do:

  • Clip hair around or above the hot spot – to prevent it from getting into the wound and making the infection worse.  Be gentle since skin is already damaged and you want the area to heal.

  • Remove all pus with a moist cotton ball or gauze – dampen with warm water and gently dab or wipe.  Remove pus, do not push it further into the wound, this could cause the infection to worsen.

  • Disinfect the infected area with a sterile saline – this will help to irrigate and clean the wound. (Sterile Saline is recommended and can be purchased in the first aid section of any drugstore)

  • Use a mild shampoo to bathe your dog – to clean off loose bacteria and allergens.  Dry your dog’s coat thoroughly, brush and remove any mats. Medicated shampoo that is diluted may also help.

  • Apply an antibiotic over the counter cream to the infected area to help control itching. Neosporin is an effective and safe ointment; however, dogs like to lick ointments and this may cause diarrhea.  So, monitor your golden or you can use an ophthalmic liquid solution that has an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory which dissolve quickly into the skin.

  • Use an Elizabethan collar to prevent your golden from chewing/licking their irritated skin or ointment and making the infection worse.

Recovery time will depend on how severe the infection was and what treatment was administered.  If your vet administered the treatment immediately, the hot spot may be healed within 3-7 days after the start of treatment.

If you are treating the hot spots, daily cleaning every two hours for the first and second day will increase healing.  Applying anti-bacterial ointment will stop the growth of bacteria. Once the oozing stops and the lesion starts to dry up, only simple cleaning is needed.  Healing may occur within 1-2 weeks and fur should begin to grown back within 3-4 weeks.

You should always keep your vet informed on your golden’s progress, whether you are handling the treatments or your vet is administering them – the ultimate goal is your dog’s healing!

Preventing Hot Spots

Antibiotics and steroids are not the answer if your golden has more than one or two outbreaks.  As stated earlier, the best way to prevent the reoccurrence of hot spots is to find the underlying cause. Things to monitor to help prevent hot spots:

  • Good Parasite Prevention

  • Treatment for Skin Infections

  • Allergy Management

  • Good Hygiene and Routine Grooming

  • Daily Exercise

  • Stimulating Environment (activities/games)

  • Good Quality Diet

  • Supplements – saturated fat (coconut oil) reduce allergic reaction, 1 teaspoon a day on top of food (medium dog); Vitamin E – antioxidant to stop itching/scratching – squeeze 1 capsule on top of food; Omega-3 fatty acid – anti-inflammatory, keeps skin in the best condition. *  

* Don’t take fish oil and vitamin E together – could cause blood thinning.  Always consult your vet before giving any supplements.

Tips to Remember

  • Hot Spots are one of the most common skin conditions

  • Hot spots usually occur in warm weather and high humidity

  • More common in breeds with thick, long coats

  • Occurs on the outer layer of the skin, bacteria on the surface of the wound

  • Red, itchy, painful – can be inflamed and ooze pus

  • Can spread quickly from one area to another

  • Several causes – allergies, stress, boredom

  • Several symptoms – red, itchy, swelling, pus, hair loss, etc.

  • Treatments – cleaning, antibiotics, hair trimming, etc.

  • Prevent reoccurrence by monitoring possible causes

  • Take your golden to the vet, keep your vet informed of progress

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