K9 Corner

Difference between hot spots and pressure sores 

BY HELEN PALMER

A reader called last week asking about sores on her dog’s legs. Were they hot spots? Should she see a veterinarian? Was there anything she could do at home?

On questioning the owner, I discovered she had just put concrete flooring in her dog’s pen for sanitary purposes. I also found out her dog was a large mixed breed. Those two items made me think her dog had the beginnings of calluses or pressure sores on his elbows.

There is a distinct difference between hot spots and calluses.

Hot spot is considered a medical condition often caused by moisture trapped under dead hair in a heavy coated dog. (However, one of my schnauzers with a medium length, wiry coat developed the beginnings of a hot spot one summer on her back and I successfully treated the area daily for the rest of the summer). An advanced case of hot spot needs to be treated by a veterinarian and because it is so painful, the animal is usually tranquilized and in some cases anesthetized before treatment.

In hot, humid weather, be sure your heavy coated dog is thoroughly dry down to the skin after a bath or a swim.

Pressure sores, which can progress into calluses, are abnormal areas on or under the skin over bony pressure points. Calluses are thickened, wrinkled, hairless, red, purple, gray or black areas of the skin. They are usually the result of the dog lying on hard surfaces for long periods. Pressure sores are especially prevalent in large, heavy breeds.

Prolonged pressure on areas where bone and skin are thinly separated reduces the blood supply to the area causing tissue damage. These sores can become painful causing the dog to lick and chew resulting in abscesses, ulcers and even a weeping wound.

The most common site for a pressure sore is the elbow, but these sores can also be found on the hips, hocks, chest (sternum), and sides of legs or anywhere on the body where the dog put its weight as it relaxes.

Pressure sores are caused by physical pressure, they are not a disease or medical problem unless the dog’s immune system is compromised allowing the sore to become infected which will require medical treatment.

Treatment for pressure sores and even calluses starts at home with the provision of a well-padded, thick, soft sleeping surface to take the pressure off the bony areas as the dog rests or sleeps. 

The site of the pressure sore should be wrapped with a padded bandage to protect the area. Moisturizers or antibiotic ointments or gels can be applied to soften rough skin and provide relief from discomfort. Be sure to bandage the area after applying an ointment to prevent secondary infection from developing in the moist environment.

The prognosis for pressure sores is guarded because of their location on the body. They are difficult to treat even with thick padded bedding. If the pressure sore has progressed into a callus, it will take even longer to heal in spite of the gels and bandaging.

More on hot spots next week. 

Online: www.pets-webmd.com/dogs/ /hot-spots-on-dogs; www.petwave.com.