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St. Bernard Itching Problems

| Updated September 26, 2017

St. Bernards are a breed of dog known for its gentle temperament and excellent companionship. Unfortunately, they are susceptible to a skin disorder known as acute moist dermatitis, or hot spots. Acute moist dermatitis is caused by an underlying allergy that causes intense itching and leads to the development of hot spots. Treatment is necessary to prevent further complications.


Allergies to flea bites, pollen, mites and ingredients in food can all cause an allergic reaction. This can lead to itching and the development of painful sores called hot spots. As these spots become infected, they become even itchier. The dog will bite, lick and scratch at these spots and cause trauma to the skin. This condition is often called acute moist dermatitis or pyotraumatic dermatitis because the dog inflicts the trauma to the skin. Certain breeds are predisposed to this condition. Long haired dogs, such as St. Bernards, have a high rate of occurrence of this condition. This is because St. Bernards are a highly allergic breed.


Red, moist lesions will develop on the St. Bernard. These lesions will feel warm to the touch and cause intense itching. The lesions may ooze pus and the skin around them may appear wet and matted. Hot spots commonly develop on the trunk, rump, and legs. The St. Bernard may bite, lick and scratch at these lesions, which can cause a secondary infection.


Diagnosis of hot spots is made by the appearance of the lesions. The veterinarian may take skin scrapings to determine the suspected allergen in the St. Bernard. If the veterinarian determines that it is not caused by mites or flea bites, he may perform allergy testing or recommend an elimination diet. This will help determine which allergen caused the hot spot.


Treatment for hot spots involves several different treatments. First, the hair around the lesion is shaved. This allows air and medication to reach the wound. A cleansing solution, such as Chlorhexadine, is applied to the affected area. A topical medication called Betagen is applied. Antibiotics are prescribed to treat the infected lesions. To prevent biting and licking, the veterinarian may recommend an Elizabethan collar. This is a collar that is placed around the St. Bernard’s neck, so that he is unable to bite any area of his body and cause trauma.


Your veterinarian will need to determine the cause of the hot spots in order to prevent it from occurring again. Hot spots are a secondary symptom to an underlying allergy. The symptoms and the underlying cause must be addressed. If the allergen is fleas, St. Bernard owners need to provide extra care and observation when grooming. A monthly flea treatment can help prevent a flea bite. If the allergen is an ingredient in their food, a special diet will be prescribed.