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  1. dogs skin and coat

Dog Heat Rash: Signs and Treatment

Posted by Dr. Roth on August 11, 2022

Wellness Care
Dog Heat Rash Signs and Treatment Header Photo

Like their pet parents, dogs enjoy being outside. The warm summer months are perfect for lazing in the sunshine, playing in the backyard, hiking in the woods, and taking trips to the beach. However, too much fun in the sun can have negative consequences, including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and dog heat rash.

Heat rash is an issue that can occur as a result of overexposure to hot weather. It can develop anywhere on a dog’s body, but it’s more likely to appear in areas that trap excess heat and moisture, such as skin folds or wrinkles. It also commonly develops on the belly as well as other areas of the body where fur is sparse. While any dog can experience heat rash, overweight canines and wrinkly breeds are generally more susceptible to it. Being in a humid or tropical environment can also increase the risk. 

Symptoms of Heat Rash on Dogs

A heat rash on a dog isn’t just uncomfortable. Without treatment, it can increase the risk of hot spots, infections, and other issues. Having an understanding of what it looks like can help pet parents get the appropriate treatment right away.

Note: Many heat rash symptoms are similar to those of other skin conditions. If a dog has been spending time outdoors when it’s hot and humid, though, heat rash may be the issue. Speaking with a licensed vet professional will help ensure a proper diagnosis and treatment. 

Here are some of the signs of heat rash that pet parents should watch for when spending time outdoors with their canines in warm weather:

Skin Redness and Itchy Skin

The first signs of heat rash are similar to symptoms of other skin conditions — red, itchy-looking skin. Many pet parents notice these signs of dog heat rash on the belly or hidden in skin folds. 

Persistent Scratching or Licking

A dog’s natural reaction to itchy or irritated skin may be to scratch or lick the affected area. Without relief, that scratching or licking could become more persistent, harming tender skin and increasing the risk of developing a secondary bacterial infection. Infections typically require antibiotic medications to eliminate. 

Small Sores, Scabs, or Pimple-Like Lesions

As heat rash worsens, a dog can develop bumps such as boils or pimple-like lesions on the affected area, and pet parents may notice a foul skin odor. Scratching can open these spots, leading to sores, scabs, and flaking skin. If a dog continues to scratch, lick, or bite the irritated skin, these spots won’t be able to heal. Open wounds also increase the likelihood of infection and other serious issues.

Proper Treatment Options for Irritated Skin

There are a few treatments for dog heat rash. The first step a pet parent should take, though, is to speak with an experienced vet who can provide professional advice and guidance for the best remedy. The length of time it takes to heal will depend on various factors, including the severity of the heat rash and how soon a pet parent sought treatment after symptoms began. 

The following treatments are some of the most common solutions for easing heat rash in dogs:

Hydrocortisone Cream or Aloe Vera

Hydrocortisone cream is a topical cream formulated to reduce skin irritation, inflammation, and skin redness. It can also help soothe itchiness, which can help stop a dog from scratching or licking the area and allowing it to heal. 

Aloe vera is a succulent plant that stores water in its leaves in gel form. Many people use this natural substance as a treatment for sunburn, but it can also help with heat rash in dogs. Its healing properties cool the skin, reduce inflammation, and ease itching. It is worth noting that large quantities of aloe vera, if ingested, can be toxic to pets.

Whether a pet parent uses hydrocortisone cream or aloe vera gel, they should make sure their dog doesn’t lick the treated area by using a cone, neck donut, or pet outerwear for a short time. 

Cold Water Application or Anti-Itch Spray

Cold water won’t do anything to heal heat rash on dogs, but it can soothe hot, inflamed skin. One of the easiest ways to provide relief is by dampening a towel with cold water and applying it to the affected area.

Pet parents can also use vet-approved anti-itch spray. Specially formulated sprays can help ease itching while also moisturizing, repairing, and restoring damaged, dry, flaky skin. 

Dog Sunscreens

Like humans, exposure to direct sunlight for too long can cause sunburn in dogs. It can also contribute to heat rash. Dog-safe sunscreen can help protect vulnerable skin that isn’t well-covered by fur.

Sunscreen alone won’t prevent heat rash. When spending time outdoors, pet parents should make sure that their dogs have a shady place to rest and encourage frequent breaks there. Avoiding too much time outside during the hottest part of the day can also help. 

Pet parents should also be on the lookout for signs that their dogs may be becoming overheated:

  • Panting more heavily than usual

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Lethargy

  • Disorientation or dizziness

As soon as a pet parent notices any of these symptoms, they should take immediate steps to cool their dog. Heading indoors, turning on a fan, and using cool (not cold) water around the ears and on their paws can lower a dog’s temperature. Seeking professional veterinary care can help let pet parents know what next steps they need to take and what they should watch for as their dog recovers. 

Refer to an Experienced Online Vet for Further Assistance

The risk of heat rash and other summertime-related skin and health conditions doesn’t mean that pet parents should keep their dogs cooped up indoors. Taking steps to avoid these issues is the first step. Pet parents should use canine sunscreens, provide plenty of water, and ensure plenty of breaks in the shade.

However, even with preventative measures, heat rash can still develop. Treating it as soon as possible prevents worsening skin and health issues. It also restores a dog’s comfort and quality of life sooner. 

At the first signs of heat rash, pet parents should speak with an experienced professional. Fuzzy’s experienced online vets are available 24/7/365, with no appointment needed. They can go over the dog’s symptoms and help determine if the issue is a heat rash or if it might be another skin condition. They can also provide advice for soothing irritated skin and tips for avoiding similar problems in the future. 

For access to professional vet assistance 24/7, pet parents should sign up to become a Fuzzy member today!

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