German shepherd hot spots are fairly common and agonizing for your pup. So knowing what causes them, how to treat them and how to prevent them is super important.
In this article, you’ll learn everything there is to know about hot spots in your german shepherd! But most importantly, before anything else, if you think your german shepherd is suffering from a hot spot, you should take them to the vet immediately!
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about hot spots in your german shepherd.
First Of All, What Are Hot Spots?
Hot spots are a form of dermatitis. As well as being called ‘hot spots’ they’re also called acute moist dermatitis.
Hot spots occur when small areas of your dog’s skin become inflamed due to a bacterial infection. They start off small (being mistaken for an insect bite) before growing rapidly.
This rapid growth is often expedited by your german shepherd constantly licking the area, creating an environment that’s perfect for the bacteria to grow in.
If you don’t catch the hot spot when it’s small, then it will quickly grow into an oozing, pussy, painful lesion. (If you don’t catch it though, don’t be too hard on yourself, they can often be difficult to spot.)
What Causes Hot Spots In German Shepherds?
On the most basic level, hot spots are caused by a bacterial infection. But there are many different reasons a bacterial infection can occur.
Here are some of the most common aggravators that lead to german shepherd hot spots.
Any parasite that causes your german shepherd to lick or scratch the same area consistently are going to increase the chance of hot spots.
Ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes are the first that come to mind. A bite from any of these will cause itchiness. And if your German shepherd is particularly susceptible, the itchiness will be constant.
Allergic reactions are another common cause of your german shepherd itching. It could be an allergy to food or something that’s come into contact with their skin.
Whichever it is, the moment they start scratching and licking they’re going to increase the risk of suffering from hot spots.
(Other allergies can also cause your german shepherd to lick and chew their paws.)
If you’re not giving your german shepherd enough stimulus then they’re going to become extremely bored. When they become bored, they may end up picking and scratching at certain parts of their bodies.
Once these areas start to bleed they’re going to open up to a whole host of bacteria.
Skin And Ear Infection
Another cause of hot spots in german shepherds is skin and ear infections. Yeast infections are a prime example.
This is one of the reasons it’s so important to make sure you’re cleaning your german shepherds ears.)
When your pup has a yeast infection, the area is going to become extremely itchy. If you leave the yeast infection untreated for too long, then your german shepherd may end up scratching it enough to damage the skin.
And once the skin is damaged, the chance of a bacterial infection increases.
(Does your german shepherd have bad breath? Here’s what to do to fix it!)
Moisture Trapped In Their Coat
If you let your german shepherd swim a lot, then you could inadvertently be increasing their chances of suffering from a hot spot.
Bacteria thrive in damp conditions, like the conditions of wet fur. And because your german shepherd’s fur is so thick it can take them longer to dry off properly.
All it takes from here is a small cut in your german shepherd’s skin and it can quickly become infected, turning into a hot spot.
A Dirty Or Matted Coat
A dirty or matted coat will also increase the chance of water being trapped inside your german shepherd’s coat.
So make sure you’re grooming your pup regularly, and that you remove any knots when you notice them.
If your german shepherd has arthritis, then they may continuously lick the area to try and soothe themselves.
If there’s a cut or open sore in the area they’re licking, then it’s going to be a lot more prone to becoming a hot spot.
This is most likely to happen on the joints above their paws, however, it can happen at any joint.
A Problem With The Anal Sacs
All dogs have anal sacs close to their anus. They secrete pheromones and waste when your dog goes to poop. However, if your german shepherd suffers from impacted anal sacs, then they can become full.
When they’re too full, they’re going to feel extremely uncomfortable for your pup. So to try and soothe the pain, they may end up licking it too much, which of course can lead to hot spots.
Fortunately, your vet can easily fix impacted anal sacs, or if you’re feeling brave enough you can even try to do it yourself.
Heat And Humidity
Bacteria thrive in damp, warm conditions. That’s why it’s much more likely that your german shepherd will suffer from hot spots during the summer months. Especially if where you live is humid.
Lastly, some sort of irritant could have ended up on your dog’s skin that is causing them to scratch a lot or lick. As well as the danger of hot spots, irritants also pose a danger of poisoning your german shepherd.
So if you think that your dog has had some irritant spilled on them, make sure you wash it off thoroughly.
Unfortunately, These Are All Recurring Problems…
As you can see most of these problems are likely to happen again and again. And in certain cases (such as arthritis), they’re chronic conditions that never go away.
These combined with the fact german shepherds have double coats mean that they’re a lot more likely to get hot spots compared to other short-haired dogs.
You should bear this in mind when looking after german shepherds, so you can try to find hot spots early on.
(Are you cleaning your german shepherd’s ears? Find out how to clean them properly!)
What Are The Symptoms Of Hot Spots In German Shepherds?
Fortunately, hot spots are very easy to notice, so you won’t find it hard to spot the symptoms. You should bear in mind as well, hot spots have a lot more bark than bite. Although they look extremely painful, in most cases they’re harmless when treated by your vet.
Hot spots typically like a huge sore on your german shepherd’s body (however, they can vary in size). They can often bleed, and if they’re not bleeding they’ll be covered in discharge or pus.
This fluid can often cause the hot spot to crust over making it harder to treat. And as well as crusting over it can also cause the surrounding fur to become matted.
It will also swell up, and stick out, which makes it look even worse. On top of the swelling, the hair in the immediate area will disappear as well.
Lastly, the more your german shepherd scratches and aggravates the area, the bigger the hot spot will become.
When you notice any of the symptoms of a hot spot, you should take your german shepherd to the vet who will advise you on what to do next.
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Treating German Shepherd Hot Spots
Fortunately, hot spots are extremely easy to treat, however, it is going to require a vet to do so. So once you’re at the vet’s here’s normally what will happen.
- Your vet will clip the hair around the hot spot. This is going to stop the fur matting, which will only exacerbate the problem, and increase the chance of more infections.
- If the hot spot is bad, then your german shepherd will be anesthetized.
- Next, the hot spot will be scrubbed and wiped down with an antiseptic solution. If the hot spot has crusted over then the crust is often removed. Without removing the crust it’s going to be hard to clean the infection.
- In most cases, you’ll need to give your german shepherd a small amount of steroids, or antibiotics, or both, which may be applied topically or orally.
- And lastly, you’ll need to keep cleaning the area with medicated wipes every day, until it clears up.
- Depending on where the hot spot is, your vet may also give you a cone collar to make sure they don’t keep picking at the area.
The antibiotic cycle can last up to 4 weeks, but that doesn’t mean the hot spot will be bad the whole time. In most cases, the hot spot will clear up before the antibiotic cycle is over. But when this happens you need to carry the cycle on to the end to avoid reinfection.
Home Remedies That Can Be Helpful
While you’re waiting to see your vet, there are some home remedies you can use to help soothe your german shepherd.
These treatments should only be administered when your german shepherd doesn’t mind you touching the hot spot. If it seems too painful for them, then you’ll need to wait until you’ve taken them to the vet to treat them.
And of course, once again, consult your vet before you start any home remedy on your german shepherd, to make sure that it’s going to be okay for them.
Warm Wet Teabags
One of the easiest things you can do to soothe your german shepherds hot sore before seeing your vet is to place a lukewarm teabag on it. Both green and black tea bags can be used as a compress, and they’ve both been known to provide some relief.
Salt And Water
This should only be used when your german shepherd doesn’t appear to be in much pain at all, and when the hot sore isn’t too big. Salt and warm water is a great way to keep the wound clean.
Colloidal oatmeal is oatmeal that has been grounded down and then suspended in a liquid. It’s known to be soothing, particularly to skin that’s itchy and skin that’s inflamed and sore.
While it’s not going to cure your german shepherd’s hot sores, it is going to provide some relief.
And lastly, another great temporary solution for the pain is shea butter. It’s another great source of relief that will keep the skin around the area moisturized, whilst also keeping the fur soft.
How Do You Prevent Hot Spots In German Shepherds?
The best way you’re going to prevent hot spots in german shepherds is by figuring out what’s causing them in the first place and preventing that.
For example, if your german shepherd has been bitten by fleas or ticks, then remove them as soon as possible.
If they’re suffering from arthritis then try warming up the joint and rubbing it to make them feel better. And in the times when they still keep licking, you can also try adding some anti-lick sprays or creams to the areas.
When you let your dogs swim a lot or get wet a lot you also need to make sure you’re drying them off enough.
And of course, if you notice they’re allergic to something then stop them from coming into contact with it.
Prevention of hot spots is pretty self-explanatory, however, due to the fact german shepherds are more prone to them, it’s still vital you take the necessary steps.
Are Hot Spots Dangerous?
Fortunately, if your german shepherd is suffering from hot spots, the prognosis is very good. The hot spots will normally clean up a couple of weeks after your vet has begun treating them and you won’t have to worry anymore about them!
Now you have all the information you need to treat hot spots in your german shepherd. As you can tell, while they do look nasty, and they’re definitely going to make your dog uncomfortable, they’re not something to worry about too much.
Here are some of the main points to remember from the article.
- Hot spots are caused by bacteria infecting a sore. This can be exacerbated even more by parasites, allergies, boredom, skin and ear infections, moisture trapped in their coat, a dirty or matted coat, arthritis, a problem with the anal sacs, heat, humidity, and irritants.
- Hot spots are often a bald patch of the skin that are damp with fluid and pus. They can also begin to crust over, and the surrounding fur is likely to become damp and matted as well.
- If your german shepherd is suffering from hot spots, then you’ll need to take them to the vets to get them treated.
- Warm, wet tea bags, salt, and water, colloidal oats, and shea butter can all be great temporary measures to soothe your german shepherd’s hot spots.
- If your german shepherd is suffering from hot spots don’t worry too much. While they are uncomfortable, they’re not going to cause your pup any real harm if you take them to the vets.
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