“Hotspots” are a familiar summer-time problem for many owners of long-haired dogs. A hotspot is basically a focal area of bacterial dermatitis. It occurs because the bacteria which normally live on the skin- the “normal flora”- are given better than usual conditions in which to grow. Given ideal conditions- at least from the “bacterial point of view”, the normal flora ceases to be controlled by the defence mechanisms of the body, and start to grow out of control. The result is an area of very inflamed, painful skin covered in pus and scabs.
The two things that bacteria like best are warmth and moisture.Both these things are in good supply in an average Sydney summer, especially in the more humid months towards the end of summer or during periods of rain.
The problem may occur in any dog, but it’s most common in long-haired breeds such as Golden Retrievers and Old English Sheepdogs. The reason is that if the hair becomes wet – for example after a swim, a bath, or being caught in a rainstorm – the outside of the coat dries off quickly in the summer heat but the hair inside near the dog’s skin- where the bacteria live – remains moist. Supplied with this bacterial idea of paradise, the little blighters start to reproduce at an incredible speed. Within just a few hours a nasty, suppurating sore can develop. The severity and extent of the hotspot is often complicated by the dog’s long hair: it may take some time for the owner to notice the area of inflammation in the depths of the hair coat, and in the meantime the lesion can spread over a very large distance.