Points on Pets

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

at play.


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

email info@doggywalker.com.

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