Hot spots are one of the most common skin complaints in dogs, and they can be very itchy and sore. Hot spots can be frustrating, but they can be easily treated, and with the right management it’s possible to prevent them.

Keep reading to learn more.

Key Takeaways

  • Hot spots, also known as acute moist dermatitis, are localized areas of skin inflammation and bacterial infection in dogs.
  • Hot spots can result from various factors, including allergies, insect bites, excessive licking or scratching, skin infections, or underlying medical conditions.
  • Treatment for hot spots typically involves cleaning and disinfecting the affected area, followed by the application of topical medications to promote healing and reduce inflammation. In some cases, oral antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed.

What are Hot Spots on Dogs?

Acute moist dermatitis or hot spots on dogs are an area of skin that becomes inflamed and infected. They can appear anywhere on your dog’s body, and it can often be hard to see them because they’re hidden under your dog’s fur.

Related reading: Dermatitis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Often, they start small and may even look like an insect bite, but they quickly develop into a larger lesion.

What Causes Hot Spots on Dogs?

Hot spots can often be secondary to something else – anything that makes your dog’s skin sore that causes them to lick or rub the area can lead to a hot spot developing. The resulting self-trauma further irritates the skin and introduces bacteria that lead to infection.

Hot spots are more likely to occur in warm weather due to excess moisture close to the skin.

Some common causes of hot spots on dogs are:

  • Fleas or other parasites
  • Flea allergic dermatitis
  • Insect bites
  • Cuts or grazes
  • Skin allergies
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Ear infections
  • Anal gland problems
  • Excessive licking as a result of anxiety or boredom
  • A dirty, matted coat
  • A wet coat from regular swimming

Breeds with a thicker or denser coat are more susceptible to developing hot spots, such as Golden retrievers, St Bernards, Labradors, and German Shepherds.

What are the Symptoms of Hot Spots on Dogs?

A lot of skin conditions present with similar symptoms, so sometimes it can be hard to tell what’s going on.

They can occur anywhere on the body, but typically they are found around the head, limbs, and hips.

Hot spots are typically well-defined patches of redness on the skin, and you will often notice symptoms such as:

  • Well-defined area of redness on the skin
  • Loss of hair
  • The skin may be wet or moist
  • Pus or discharge
  • Swelling
  • Crusting or scabbing
  • Matted or wet fur
  • Itching
  • Licking the area excessively
  • Foul odor

Often hot spots get larger as your dog continues to lick or scratch the sore area. In addition, satellite lesions can occur; this is when smaller hot spots occur around the same area as the original lesion.

How are Hot Spots Diagnosed?

If you are concerned about your dog’s skin or think they might have a hot spot, it’s important to get them checked over by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Hot spots are usually diagnosed by examining the skin. But it’s also important to find out what caused the hot spot and rule out underlying problems such as skin allergies or parasites.

The vet may want to perform further tests such as skin scrapes to look for parasites, allergy testing, or a diet trial.

How to Treat Hot Spots on Dogs

Fortunately, hot spots respond well to treatment and usually resolve within 7 days of beginning treatment.

Once a hot spot has been identified, a veterinarian will:

  • Clip the fur around the sore skin to allow better visualization and remove dirt and debris
  • Clean the area thoroughly with a suitable antiseptic such as chlorhexidine or iodine
  • Prescribe oral steroid tablets to help reduce the itching - if ongoing

The following home care protocol for hot spots is usually followed:

  • Clean the area daily with a suitable antiseptic prescribed or recommended by your vet
  • Topical antibiotic treatment to treat the bacterial infection
  • Prevent your dog from licking or scratching the area using an E-collar, or a medical pet shirt, better allowing the area to heal

Attend any follow-up appointments with your vet to ensure the skin is healed and no further treatment is required

How to Prevent Hot Spots on Dogs

Preventing hot spots on dogs involves several steps to maintain their overall skin health and minimize the factors that contribute to the development of these irritations.

Here are some tips to help prevent hot spots:

1. Regular grooming

Regularly brushing your dog's coat helps remove loose hair, debris, and prevent matting, which can contribute to hot spots.

Ensure that your pet's coat is clean and dry, as moisture trapped in the fur can create an environment for bacterial growth.

2. Flea and tick control

Implement a consistent flea and tick prevention program, as these parasites can cause itching and irritation, leading your dog to excessively scratch or bite their skin.

Consult your veterinarian for the most suitable flea and tick treatment for your dog.

3. Manage allergies

If your dog suffers from allergies, whether environmental or food-related, work with your veterinarian to identify and manage the allergens.

This may involve adjusting your dog's diet, administering medications, or using hypoallergenic products.

4. Proper bathing and skincare

Bathe your dog with a gentle, hypoallergenic shampoo to avoid skin irritation. Do not over-bathe, as this can strip the natural oils from your dog's skin and increase the risk of hot spots.

Related reading: How Often Should You Bathe Your Dog?

5. Discourage excessive licking and scratching

Use distractions, like toys or interactive games, to redirect your dog's attention if they start licking or scratching excessively.

If necessary, consider using an Elizabethan collar or similar device to prevent your dog from reaching the affected area.

6. Maintain overall health

Ensure your dog receives a balanced diet and regular exercise to support a healthy immune system, which can help prevent skin issues.

7. Regular vet check-ups

Schedule routine visits with your veterinarian to monitor your dog's skin health and address any underlying issues that may contribute to hot spots.

By following these preventive measures, you can minimize the likelihood of hot spots developing on your dog and promote overall skin health.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Are hot spots contagious?

No, hot spots are not contagious and cannot spread to other animals or humans. They are isolated to the area of your dog’s skin that is affected.

What should I do if I think my dog has a hotspot?

You should speak to your veterinarian if you are concerned they might have a hot spot. Without treatment, hot spots can become larger and more uncomfortable.

How can I prevent hot spots on my dog?

Hot spots can be prevented by keeping your dog’s skin healthy – keeping the coat clean, dry, and well-groomed and keeping up to date with regular parasite treatments. Ensure any underlying skin problems are diagnosed and managed.