If your dog has been licking and chewing on that spot on her coat for the better part of a day, and it’s now a raw, open sore, oozing fluid.
She may have a superficial pyoderma, a skin infection known to dog owners as hot spots. Hot spots are skin infections caused when bacteria grow and overwhelm normal resistance. They are usually round patches that lose hair, can be swollen, may leak a smelly pus, and can be painfully itchy, causing the dog to scratch, lick, or chew to the point of self-mutilation. Untreated hot spots can grow and make a normally even-tempered dog to growl or nip when touched.
Dogs most susceptible to hot spots have heavy flank and a background of allergies, ear infections, flea infestations, irritated anal sacs, and grooming troubles such as hair tangles and mats but all dogs are susceptible this infection. Dogs in hot, humid climates may develop hot spots when they rid their undercoats if the dead hair is stuck next to the skin, and dogs with behavior problems may mutilate themselves by licking and thus causing an infection to become established.
The most likely places for hot spots are the legs and feet, coat, and rump areas that can be reached by licking or biting but these localized infections can also appear on ears, neck, and chest if the dog is continually scratching.
If the underlying cause is tangled or matted hair or trapped dead hair, put the dog on a consistent grooming routine either at home or at a salon. Collies, Old English Sheepdogs, Shih-Tzus, and other breeds with long hair that tangles easily should be groomed at least twice a week so that snarls and mats do not form.
If the underlying cause is allergies, start immediately to rid your home and yard of fleas and talk with your veterinarian about a plan to reduce allergies for your pet. Dust, plant pollen, lawn chemicals, and diet can all cause allergies or can build to more allergies if the dog’s sensitivities cross a threshold. Next step is over-the-counter antihistamines with a veterinarian’s approval. If these don’t work, then steroids to reduce the inflammation and the immune system reaction to the allergen and perhaps antibiotics to cure the infected hot spot are the next course of treatment.
If the underlying cause seems to be behavioral if your pet is so bored, stressed, or lonely that he maims himself with constant licking or scratching, he could use more exercise, playtime, and attention. This can be an easy or a hard fix. There is no pill or ointment for long-term results; time, consistency, and maybe even an investment in training books, or obedience school.