Hot Spots on Dogs and What to Do About Them

Hot Spots on Dogs and What to Do About Them

Author WDF Staff


It is not a big secret that dogs are prone to skin conditions, especially during hot summer months. One of these issues is hot spots. Hot spots can be annoying and potentially dangerous, especially if the owner doesn’t notice them right away and hot spots are left untreated. To help your dog, you will need to know how to spot them and treat them. So let’s start from the beginning.

What are hot spots in dogs?

Hot spots in dogs, or scientifically known as pyotraumatic dermatitis, or acute moist dermatitis, are a common skin condition that shows up as an oozing sore. They start as tiny red spots often mistaken for an insect bite or just a small scratch. The most significant difference between insect bites and hot spots in dogs is that they spread and worsen rather quickly.

There is some good news about hot spots in dogs; they are treatable and preventable. If you want to prevent them from ever affecting your dog again, you need to understand why they appeared the first time.


Hot spots in dogs have an interesting and sneaky way of forming. They are usually caused when the dog overly scratches one area, and the trauma to that area causes inflammation. The trauma also opens space for bacteria to enter and multiply. Hence, the second part of hot spot forming is the bacterial infection.

The forming of the hot spots in dogs will cause them to feel itchy, so naturally, the dog will scratch the affected area even more. This is a vicious cycle, and your dog will require quite a bit of your help to break it. The most common causes of intense scratching in dogs are;

To effectively get rid of hot spots, owners and vets need to understand what is causing them. They are rarely the main issue a dog faces but rather a result of an underlying condition that needs to be sorted out. For example, if you have a dog with food allergies and hot spots, you will not clear the dog’s hot spots until you make some dietary changes. Some of these causes are chronic, and you might end up with a dog that has recurring hot spots.

Which breeds are prone to hot spots?

When it comes to hot spots in dogs, there are certainly some breeds that have all the predispositions to develop them. They either have a thick coat which is harder to maintain, they love swimming, or they love swimming and have thick coats. Some causes we mentioned are hard to influence and prevent, but grooming should be essential. These are some of the breeds prone to developing hot spots;

Most breeds that have long, thick coats capable of trapping moisture under them can develop hot spots. Also, dogs that require grooming, like the Maltese or Yorkshire Terrier, can develop hot spots if they are not regularly groomed. Their coats will get tangled and matted, which will cause the formation of hot spots in dogs.

You can read about the importance of grooming here - Why is grooming necessary?

How to spot a hot spot in dogs?

Once the hot spot forms, it shouldn’t be hard to spot. It will become a well-defined area of redness on the dog’s skin. You can notice some matting of the surrounding hair and hair loss on the hot spot’s exact location. These irritating spots will have some form of discharge, either pus-colored or clear liquid.

Hot spot treatment

If you think your dog developed hot spots, the first thing you should do is call your vet. Ask for a check-up, and they will quickly help you and your dog. Luckily, hot spots are relatively easy to treat. Once the treatment has started, most dogs see rapid results in about 3-7 days.

The more important thing is to discover the exact cause of your dog’s hot spots. The vet will likely recommend a full physical check-up so they can understand what is really bugging your dog. Only then can they nib the problem before it even becomes one. The hot spot treatment will include;

  • Shaving or clipping the surrounding area will prevent the hair from tangling and causing the hot spot to spread.
  • Cleaning with an antiseptic. Something like chlorhexidine is relatively effective against hot spots and will ensure the area is cleaned and sterilized.
  • The third step is when the vet prescribes an antibiotic to treat the bacterial infection spread in the affected area. It can be topical or oral antibiotics.
  • To control the itching, the vet will prescribe steroids. Steroids can be topical or oral.
  • The vet will recommend you use antibacterial wipes to clean the area at home. There is a wide selection online and in your vet’s clinic.
  • Until the hot spot clears, your dog will have to wear the dog cone. It will prevent them from biting and licking the affected area. You can read more about them here - What you need to know about dog cones.

Preventing the hot spots in dogs

There is a lot of truth in the famous expression “Prevention is the best medicine,” and that expression is applicable here. The best way to prevent hot spots in dogs is to check your dog regularly. Make sure they don’t have a reason to scratch excessively. Check them for parasites, fleas, mites, ticks, and other creepy crawlies that can cause hot spot development.

Make sure you take your dog to the vet regularly and have the doctor examine your dog thoroughly. Check them for allergies and get them the best possible diet. If you are not sure where to start, here are some possible ideas - The best hypoallergenic dog food.

Grooming your dog should be a part of your routine, and you should make sure their coat is healthy and tangle-free. If you take them swimming, make sure their coat is adequately dried, and there is no moisture captured under the coat. There are some supplements you can add to your dog’s diet. Supplements like fish oil are rich in Omega fatty acids, and these healthy fatty acids promote skin and coat health.

World Dog Finder team

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