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Protect Your Hunting Partner: Recognizing And Preventing Rain Rot In Sporting Dogs

Updated: Jan 6

Brown German Shorthaired Pointer shaking body after exiting lake or river. In the background there are trees and a body of water. On the shore beside the dog is a duck decoy.
Photo credit: Gabe via Pexels

Rain rot is brutal. 

Your canine hunting partner - your best friend - really, reeeeaally needs you to understand this. 

Your dog has a strong drive to hunt - it’s in their DNA. They also have a super-infectious desire to please you - and that comes from their heart. 

All the more reason to make sure you’re aware of the dangers lurking in your dog’s wet fur and on their skin. Guarding your dog’s largest protective organ is essential to their general health. Plus, it'll help guarantee you two get more years of hunting adventures together.

It’s important to note that hunting breeds aren’t the only class of canines at risk for rain rot. The information here pertains to all breeds of dogs - and other animals, too. But, because hunting dogs experience variable outdoor conditions, we’ll focus on the sporting class dogs for this article.

The Basics of Rain Rot

Golden retriever wading in chest deep water with green grass in the background
Photo credit: Tommes Frites

Rain rot is also known as rain scald or hot spots. Veterinarians sometimes use these terms interchangeably. It's pretty much all the same.

Rain rot is a common skin condition in dogs (and other animals) caused by a bacterial infection.1 When your dog’s coat gets wet and the skin isn't able to dry properly, the bacteria thrive. 

Imagine one day your dog seems carefree and happy - the next day your dog has large areas of painful, cracked, oozing skin.2 

Yes, it can happen that fast.

It doesn’t take long for this bacterial infection to hijack your dog’s skin - especially with hunting dogs.

These breeds spend time in dew-coated grass, muddy marshlands, and snow-covered fields. They retrieve from lakes and hunt in adverse weather conditions. They're out in the elements, which makes them more susceptible to the torment of painful hot spots.

Rain rot is sneaky. It frequently creeps in silently and then advances quickly without warning.

These hot spots send waves of torture through your best friend’s body with each move they make. They wince and cower at your touch.

It's heartbreaking.

The good news is, with a little information and a dose of diligence, most occurrences of rain rot are preventable. But before taking steps for prevention, let’s look at what causes rain rot.

Causes of Rain Rot in Hunting Dogs

German Shorthaired Pointer wading into water with duck decoys to retrieve a duck
Photo credit: izzet çakallı

There are several causes of rain rot in dogs. Some are easier to manage than others, but being aware of these factors is half the battle. Five of these causes include:3

1. Moisture

Excessive moisture weakens the skin’s protective barrier. Constant exposure to rain or wet environments aggravates the problem. When the skin is vulnerable, the bacteria take over. It penetrates the skin and causes infection.

2. Poor Ventilation

Insufficient air circulation traps moisture against the skin. This can happen especially in thick-coated breeds or in areas where the fur is dense. Poor ventilation combined with moisture creates a hotbed for bacteria.

3. Unsanitary Living Conditions

Dogs living in unclean environments are more prone to rain rot. Muddy kennels, dirty bedding, and flea-infested areas contribute to issues with hot spots. Bacteria are more prevalent in these types of living conditions - increasing the risk of infection.

4. Weakened Immune System

Dogs with stress, poor diet, or underlying health problems are more susceptible to rain rot due to weakened immune systems. When a dog has a compromised immune system, their ability to fight off bacterial infections is greatly reduced.

5. Trauma to the Skin

Injuries to your dog's skin create a haven for bacteria to enter and cause rain rot. Examples of skin trauma include:

  • Scrapes

  • Cuts

  • Insect bites

  • Pressure points

  • Excessive licking

  • Scratching 

  • Allergies

  • Inflammation

  • Chemical or environmental contamination

Blood (wetness) and environmental moisture provide an ideal setting for bacterial growth. 

Understanding the causes of rain rot in dogs is important for prevention and timely intervention. Now let’s take a look at ways to keep your loyal companion safe from this problem.

Preventing Rain Rot in Hunting Dogs

Wirehair pointer with snow covered muzzle
Photo credit: Andreas Schnabl

Taking care of your hunting partner's health should be your number one priority. If it's not, you (and your hunting partner) have much bigger problems. I don't even want to think about such things. I trust that you are here because you love your dog unconditionally. So, let's continue.

Taking the steps necessary to care for your best friend is critical. Make note of the six actions below that you can use to ward off the threats of rain rot in your hunting dog.4

1. Regular Grooming and Cleaning

As mentioned before, moisture and bacteria on your dog’s skin cause a risk of rain rot. Keep your pup on a regular grooming schedule to reduce bacterial overgrowth. 

Remember though - too many baths can also cause your dog’s skin to lose its protective qualities. There’s a delicate balance between cleaning your dog too much and not cleaning it enough. If you're not sure, ask your vet. We'll touch more on vet care in a bit.

At a minimum, brush your dog’s coat, dry the skin, and check for injuries. These are simple, basic caretaking tasks to include in your daily regimen.

If your dog spends time in the water - such as lakes, streams, rivers, and the irresistible mud puddle - then a good rinse off of your dog with clean water is necessary before drying.

Bacteria, debris, and parasites found in bodies of water will cling to your dog’s skin and fur. Rinsing your hunting partner is another easy preventative measure against rain rot. Pay special attention to areas prone to rain rot, such as the back, neck, and hindquarters. 

2. Proper Nutrition and Hydration

The quality of your dog’s skin relies on the foundation of a healthy diet. Your dog 's food should be rich in essential nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids. A proper diet helps strengthen the skin - reducing the risk of rain rot. 

Clean, fresh water is imperative for keeping your dog hydrated. This promotes healthy skin for your dog and protects their immune system. Besides, it's gross to give them dirty water contaminated with backwash and dog slobber - a bacteria cesspool. And it smells bad. Blech.

3. Regular Exercise

Exercise is essential for your dog’s well-being and immune system. (Ahem... and yours too. Just saying.) It’s important to manage your dog’s outdoor activities throughout the entire year.

Don’t keep your hunting partner cooped up all summer long and then expect peak performance on opening day. It's as hard on their joints and ligaments as it is for you. More so, because your dog doesn't understand the importance of physical training, warm-ups, and stretching. All they know is it's time to hunt and make you happy.

When your dog hasn't been properly conditioned, it adds stress to their health which impacts their immune system.

The key takeaway here is to avoid rain rot by keeping your dog physically strong and clear of injuries, even during the off-season.

4. Outdoor Management

It's challenging to limit your dog’s exposure to wet environments while hunting. You're going out as a team - through wet fields, mud, water, rain, and snow. You're going where the action is. Hunting together is what you do and these conditions are part of the mission - and part of the fun. 

To lessen the risks of rain rot, always be sure to provide warmth and shelter when possible, such as

  • Adding waterproof, insulated dog vests and boots to your dog's gear.

  • Turn the heater on for your dog when you get back to the truck.

  • Have clean towels to dry off your dog when you're done hunting.

  • Bring blankets for your dog to warm up during the ride home.

5. Provide Proper Bedding and Shelter for Your Outdoor Dog

If your hunting dog is strictly outside or spends a significant amount of time outdoors, then always.... always....provide access to adequate shelter and protection from the elements.

Use waterproof blankets or coats to keep your dog dry during rainy weather. Make sure the shelter is well-ventilated and dry. Choose a bedding material for your dog that is moisture-wicking, temperature-regulating, and repels mites.

The bottom line is simple: Give your dog a dry, comfortable place to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. 

6. Consult Your Veterinarian

Be proactive - don’t wait until your dog begins having problems. A periodic check-up with your veterinarian is an integral part of your dog’s overall health. A strong partnership with your vet is an excellent approach for asking questions and addressing concerns.

If your dog shows signs of rain scald, seek advice from your veterinarian right away. Your vet can diagnose, recommend treatments, and offer more guidance on hot spot prevention. 

Enjoy Your Hunting Trip

Two men hunting with a dog on the edge of a lake. The picture is hazy with fog.
Photo credit: izzet çakallı

Now that you know more about rain rot - including causes and prevention - you and your best friend can enjoy hunting with confidence. 

By managing proper hygiene, maintaining a dry and clean environment, and protecting your dog’s health, you significantly reduce the risk of rain rot. These are simple, yet necessary tasks for your furry friend’s skin to remain healthy and free from infection.

Your dog is Número Uno.

Your number one hunting partner.

Your big kahuna. Head honcho. Grand poo-bah. Your canine czar.

Never forget that.

Your best friend and hunting buddy trusts you to keep him healthy and safe. He'd do anything for you, and you need to do the same for him.

So go on - schedule an appointment with your vet to discuss rain rot (rain scald, hot spots, whatever you want to call it) before it invades your dog’s skin. Your hunting buddy will thank you. 



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