Summer grooming is important for your dog’s health

Published 9:55 pm Tuesday, July 16, 2019


K9 Corner

The August issue of DogWatch newsletter, published by Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, has a full page article title “Hot Weather Brings Hot Spots” written by the newsletter’s staff. Since the weather is still hot, this is the time to be aware of and alert for hot spots.

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Hot spots start with an itch which may be caused by fleas, but also may be the result of a wet, tangled coat, (dogs like to cool off in creeks or the child’s wading pool), which warms up the skin area once the dog leaves the water. Matted coats caused by shedding the winter coat allows moisture to stay on the skin, causing an open sore.

The dog aggravates the itch by chewing and licking, adding more moisture to the area. The red spot on the skin becomes inflamed and then starts to ooze. If the area is not treated immediately, the oozing hot spot will attract flies. Eventually the flies lay eggs in the sore and maggots hatch. This progresses to a life-threatening event if not treated.

According to the DogWatch article, hot spots are most common in dogs with long or thick coats; however, one of my standard schnauzers developed a couple of hot spots on her lower back one summer. I can say from experience that it took the rest of the season to get the area to heal, even though she had a relatively short, rotating coat. But that was 40 years ago, so I hope there are newer and stronger medicines available now.

Again, back in years, I was introduced to a long, shaggy coated dog that had no grooming all summer. Her coat hung off her body in clumps where she had shed her winter coat. I found her under a picnic table scraping her back on the supports and flies were everywhere. When she was taken to the veterinarian, she had already developed sepsis from the toxins produced by maggots and she died.

DogWatch states that any licking and chewing can lead to hot spots and “the initial sore may be missed if you don’t look under your dog’s furry tail [or elsewhere].”

Therefore, grooming is imperative during the summer. Start with the feet and gently comb up the leg in one inch segments, exposing the skin as you go. Comb out all four legs, then up one side in one or two inch areas, so as to get a good look at the skin. For a large dog like a German shepherd or a giant breed, plan to groom so many minutes in the morning, so many minutes in the afternoon and maybe block off several days to complete the job. This will keep from discouraging yourself and wearing the dog out.

If you do find an irritated area, talk to the animal clinic for suggestions on what you can do at home. If the area is oozing, a trip to the veterinarian might be in order to keep it from becoming infected.