The Dog Days of Summer
By Ashley Denham Busse
The ancient Romans characterized these days of deep summer and extreme heat as the “dog
days” of summer – and we can surely understand even in the present day, huh? Ironically
enough, the dog days of summer also pose some threats to our own dogs, because they’re the
peak time for “hot spots.”
What’s a hot spot? It’s not an overheated dog named Spot, nor is it a place to check email. It’s
a gross, painful sore that your pup can get.
A “hot spot” is actually a bacterial skin infection, also known as a “summer sore” or “moist
eczema.” They can be red, scaly or even oozing.
Hot spots can develop for a number of reasons, but usually it’s a combination of bacteria and
moisture and heat. Simply licking a spot on her elbow or nervously chewing at her skin can give
your pup a hot spot. Tick bites and unclean fur can also put her at risk. (Cats can also develop
hot spots, but they’re far more common in dogs.)
What to do?
Keep the spot trimmed or shaved to let the air dry up the moisture and heal
Treat with a mild antiseptic spray — just make sure you use a product that’s approved for
animals; some human over-the-counter ointments can be dangerous for dogs.
Use a cone around your pup’s neck to prevent further biting and irritating.
If it doesn’t seem to be getting any better, see your vet. He or she can prescribe hydrocortisone
spray, cream, or oral antibiotics, and can also make sure there’s not an underlying health issue
One of the best things you can do is to keep your dog well groomed, especially in the
Another source of a lot of skin problems in dogs is actually their diet, so if your pup gets hot
spots because of itching and chewing a lot, you may want to look at his food and make sure it’s
a high quality, meat-ingredient-based food and consider adding supplements like Omega 3’s. If
she chews herself as an anxiety release, make sure your dog’s getting enough exercise and
attention, and give her plenty of toys and bones to chew on instead.
How Coat Type Affects Hot Spots
There are basically two types of dog coats: single-coat and double-coat. What kind does your
dog have? Part his fur a bit and see!
Double coat: Two types of fur: the longer, stiffer “guard hairs” and, underneath, a layer of
softer, shorter, downy fur (the undercoat)
Single coat: same fur throughout (just the top coat)
If your pup has a double coat, there are several things you should know. First, he’ll shed (or
“blow out”) that undercoat seasonally (usually twice a year). Second, because he’s got more
hair to shed, he’s going to require a lot of brushing and grooming to keep debris and mats out.
Third, and this is really important — and much misunderstood — that undercoat, while it may
seem hot to you, actually insulates your pup from heat (as well as helping him stay warm in
winter). Remember, dogs don’t cool themselves off through their skin (like we do when we
sweat). Plus, those outer “guard hairs” protect him from the sun and from insect bites and
other environmental terrors, so if you shave him down he’ll lose that protection as well. And
there’s no guarantee that his coat will grow back in normally — sometimes, in older dogs, the
outer coat never really returns to normal!
And the Dog Days of Summer are one of those times that double-coated dogs start to shed a
lot, so you’ll need to work extra hard right now removing all that shed fur. Otherwise you’ve
got the perfect breeding ground for hot spots: mats, and the moisture and heat detailed above,
can combine to harbor bacteria, you know the drill now.
So make sure to keep an eye out for hot spots, treat them before they get worse, and keep your
pup clean and well-brushed in these dog days of summer. And stay cool, everyone!
A Note of Farewell
This is my last column for Points on Pets and Doggywalker.com. My family and I have moved to
south Florida, where our 11-year-old Labradoodle (the subject of many columns!) is enjoying a
retiree’s life – especially the off-leash dog beach! I’ll be putting my graduate degree to work,
teaching English at an International Baccalaureate school. I don’t think I can adequately
express, though, how much I’ve loved being involved with Doggywalker.com – walking dogs
might still be the most fun and rewarding job I’ve ever had! It was a great counterpoint to my
intellectually intense graduate work, to the craziness of having children, to all the other life
events that have occurred along the way. The pets I visited as a dog-walker and pet-sitter were
always overjoyed to see me; they reminded me to run and play and enjoy life; they never
argued or judged or talked back — or critiqued my work! They were often the highlight of a
hectic day, a demanding school schedule, and busy family life.
Pets bring us such joy, and it’s been so wonderful being part of Doggywalker.com in one form
or another over the past 9 years. If you’ve never used Doggywalker.com’s services for your
own pets, you should! It’s a great company of truly committed animal-lovers.
My best to all you Old Town Crier readers and animal lovers. Thanks for listening!
Ashley Denham Busse has worked part-time for Doggywalker.com since 2006. Doggywalker.com is a
professional pet-sitting company located in Old Town Alexandria, celebrating more than 14 years of
providing daily walks and customized in-home pet care. Visit http://www.doggywalker.com or