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Acute Moist Dermatitis (a.k.a Hot Spots)

October 26, 2006 by Maria-Elena Cloherty, DVM

Since many of my latest appointments were scheduled due to seasonal allergies flaring-up, and related skin conditions, I thought this to be a timely issue for many pet owners.

Acute Moist Dermatitis, or Hot Spots, is self-trauma to the skin caused by pet due to either an underlying pruritic (itchy) condition, or painful condition.

Things that need to be ruled-out by your veterinarian with your help, should this occur in your pet are any or a combination of the following:


The lesions most people notice are areas that the pet has repeatedly licked or chewed, with alopecia, crusting, raw red tissue, serum oozing, and there may be an odor associated with secondary infections, if lesion not detected early on. Hairs at the edge may be matted to the surface of the lesion. There is an acute onset, self-trauma, and within hours owners note a sore.

The pets most often affected are long-haired, or thick-coated and frequently owners miss the initial signs of the skin condition.

Something that may resemble this, but without owners noticing the animal scratching itself, are bacterial folliculitis, or furunculosis (deeper skin infections affecting hair follicles). The lesions are often noted on the face or cheeks. Breeds of dogs that we commonly see this deeper form of “hot spot” demonstrated are: Golden Retriever, St. Bernard, Bouvier, and Newfoundland.

Treatment for Acute Moist Dermatitis:

The area affected should be clipped and cleaned with either an antiseptic shampoo/scrub solution-either Chlorhexidine, or povidone-iodine best.

The area should be dried with an astringent, and a cream like Panalog (antibiotic/steroid) twice daily for 5-10 days should be used. Alternatively, you can use a topical spray like VetBetagen (which contains Gentamicin as an antibiotic, and Betamethasone a steroid), 2-4 times daily for the same duration, or if not a sizeable & deep infection can use Zn7Derm 2-4 times daily for the same duration. The later does not contain an antibiotic, but does have an astringent to decrease itching, and Zinc to help with tissue healing. An oral antibiotic, like Cephalexin may be needed to help with resolution of skin infection.

The use of oral antihistamines- (e.g.- Benadryl (only active ingredient should be Diphenhydramine) – 1mg/pound dose every 8 hrs as needed is often helpful, but if the animal is very painful, often veterinarians will opt to use a corticosteroid as an initial injection at presentation, then orally at home twice daily for about a week.

Prevention can only come about if you pinpoint the initiating cause. If you note that there is a seasonality to the outbreaks, then allergies are suspected. Being vigilant, and including an anti-histamine into the daily regimen at suspected “bad times” will help stave-off the lesions. Also, 1x/week bathing, and ear cleaning with Corium-20 will help keep pollens & other allergens from contacting skin leading to inflammation. In older pets, or in known cases of arthritic/DJD pets, keep the animal comfortable, with well-padded bedding, and the use of glucosamine/chondroitin supplementation (like Sea Jerky) is recommended as well. If you find that you are unable to predict a causative initiator, work with your vet to rule-out causes.

Here are sources of some of the products mentioned:

A great shampoo to use: Oatmeal & Aloe by Vet Solutions

For those who like all-natural remedies, Bach’s Flower essences are often helpful.

- Maria-Elena Cloherty, DVM


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