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Hot Spots on Dogs – What Should You Do?

Some dogs are more prone to hot spots than others. But whatever breed your dog is, higher than normal temperatures can lead to this irritating skin condition. Hot spots on dogs can cause some discomfort or even pain if left untreated. Fortunately, they are easily treatable and also preventable. Read on to learn more. 

Hot Spots on Dogs – What Should You Do?

What are Hot Spots?

Canine hot spots, also known as acute moist dermatitis or pyotraumatic dermatitis, are characterized by red and inflamed skin lesions. A hot spot typically begins as a small and red dot that can be easily mistaken for a bug bite. But the spot quickly spreads to other areas of the dog’s body. The sores become red, inflamed, and painful. Constant scratching exacerbates the condition and often causes the sores to ooze and become infected. 

The localized areas that are typically affected include the head, legs, and hips. If your dog has thick hair, you may not notice the hot spots until they have already spread and become painful and smelly.  

Why Do Dogs Develop Hot Spots?

Any condition that makes your dog’s skin itchy can lead to hot spots. Hot spots are often the result of self-trauma when Fido constantly scratches, licks, and chews on an irritated area of his skin. His scratching, licking, and chewing make the irritation worse, which makes him scratch, lick, and chew some more, and the cycle eventually leads to an inflammation or an open wound that becomes highly susceptible to bacterial infections. 

Areas covered with hot spots can become larger very quickly and cause severe discomfort and some degree of pain. Because bacterial growth is more likely during warm and humid weather, hot spots are more common during certain months of the year. Heavy-coated dogs are also more susceptible because their dense undercoat creates the ideal environment for bacterial growth. Lastly hotter than normal temperatures often trigger the skin irritation that leads to the vigorous scratching which, in turn, produces the hot spots. 

Hot Spots on Dogs – What Should You Do?

Other causes of skin irritation and intense and non-stop scratching in dogs include: 

  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Flea allergy dermatitis
  • Contact irritants
  • Food allergies
  • Ear or skin infection
  • Parasites
  • Dirty or matted coat
  • Damp coat 
  • Boredom or stress
  • Anal sac disease

Some of these conditions develop into chronic problems if they are not addressed and managed appropriately. Recurring hot spots often indicate that the underlying cause has remained untreated. 

Dog breeds with thicker coats, such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and St. Bernards are more susceptible to hot spots. Warm weather and high humidity also make the development of hot spots more likely. If your dog swims frequently or is not thoroughly dried after being given a bath, having a damp coat for a prolonged period can also make him more prone to skin irritation and hot spots. 

How Can You Tell if Fido Has Hot Spots?

It’s easy enough to spot hot spots once they have already worsened and spread. Symptoms include:

  • Vigorous scratching, licking, and chewing in a specific area, which typically includes the head, limbs, and hips. 
  • Dampness, redness, swelling, and hair loss in the affected areas. 
  • Crusting and matting of the hair that surround the hot spots. 
  • Pus-filled sores.  

How Should You Treat and Prevent Hot Spots?

Hot Spots on Dogs – What Should You Do?

Proper treatment for hot spots requires correct diagnosis of the underlying cause, so a visit to your vet is necessary. 

Your vet will do a full examination and may additional tests to confirm or rule out a parasitic worm infection or other infections or diseases and to be able to prescribe the appropriate course of treatment. It is important that Fido receives the right treatment for both his hot spots and the underlying cause to give him relief from discomfort and pain and to avoid worsening and recurrence of the condition.

During check-up, your vet will clip the hair around the affected area/s to minimize further irritation and to prevent matting of the hair. And then the area will be cleaned with an antiseptic. For continued treatment at home, your vet may prescribe the following:

  • Medicated solutions or wipes for daily cleaning. 
  • Topical or oral steroids to treat the itching and inflammation. 
  • Topical or oral antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections. 
  • Using an Elizabethan collar or cone to keep Fido from scratching. 

The condition typically improves within 3 to 7 days of initiation of treatment in most dogs. 

To prevent hot spots from recurring, the underlying cause must be correctly identified so can address it properly. 

  • Make sure Fido is up-to-date on all of his regular shots, especially those that protect him from parasites. 
  • If he has allergies, minimize his exposure to allergens. 
  • Treat any skin infection immediately. You can use aloe vera topically to treat most skin conditions; just make sure your dog does not ingest the plant. 
  • Groom him regularly and make sure his coat and skin are thoroughly dried after bathing or swimming.  
  • Exercise your best bud regularly to prevent boredom and/or relieve stress and anxiety. 
  • Keep Fido mentally stimulated with the appropriate toys and by using a slow feeder, especially if you’re not able to play with him often. 
  • Ask your vet about giving your dog some supplements for skin health, such as fish oil. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids which have anti-inflammatory properties and promote healthy skin and coat. 

Hot Spots on Dogs - Final Thoughts

Hot spots are more than a nuisance for dogs; they can suffer from severe discomfort and even pain if the condition is not treated right away. Hot spots can also worsen if left untreated, and recurrence is likely if the underlying cause is not correctly identified and addressed. 

Knowing what causes hot spots and the symptoms to watch out for should help you properly manage Fido’s itching and scratching and prevent the condition from developing. If your dog does develop hot spots, the condition can be quickly resolved with timely and appropriate treatment.