Pyotraumatic Dermatitis, also known as "hot spots", are severe skin irritations caused by trauma that a dog typically inflicts on his or her self. Attempts to scratch persistent itches, to bite at fleas, or to alleviate some type of pain result in painful trauma to the outermost layer of skin. Though this trauma is the most frequent cause of hot spots, hypersensitivity to parasites such as fleas or mites or allergic reactions to food or medications can also cause similar irritations. Ultimately, the trauma to the skin manifests as large, open lesions within a matter of hours. These lesions are typically a bright red, moist, and oozing sore that rapidly forms a crust surrounded by red, raised skin. Hair is lost from the affected area, but in any hot spot, the hairline is very clearly defined with a sharp edge. If left untreated, the lesion will spread very rapidly, and there is substantial pain associated with the area of the trauma.
Though the lesion itself will heal after sometime, the main danger of hot spots comes from the risk of secondary bacterial infection to the open skin. This can happen in any breed, but seems to occur most often in the larger breeds that are affected by the disease, such as Saint Bernards and Golden Retrievers.
Hot spots are diagnosed by the aforementioned appearance of a red, crusty sore and also with the cause of trauma. Sores that appear without trauma are significant of some other disease and should be treated as such.
Treatment of hot spots should be carried out as quickly as possible. Usually the animal is sedated so that the area surrounding the lesion can be thoroughly scrubbed and cleansed. The hair is often clipped away to make room for the thorough application of an antiseptic solution and astringent. To follow up this initial treatment, medicinal soaks are often carried out three to four times a day for several weeks. Antibiotic cream can be used to speed up the healing of the lesion and reduce the risk of secondary bacterial contamination.
Though the above treatment is very effective for getting rid of the lesions that develop from a hot spot, the disease is not considered "cured" unless the underlying cause that caused the dog to injure his or her self is found and treated. This means that a barrage of tests might be necessary to determine whether or not the cause is genetic, bacterial, infectious, allergic, or parasitic. Once the cause is found, however, it can usually be eliminated and the costly and time-consuming treatment for hot spot lesions need not be repeated. Without eliminating the underlying cause of hot spots, the disease is never limited to just one outbreak. It will occur time and time again, with the likelihood of secondary bacterial infection increasing each time.