What Are Dog Hot Spots and How Do You Treat Them?

Hot spots are caused by self-trauma when your dog continually scratches, licks, or bites an itchy area, creating an open wound. The licking, itching, and biting become a vicious cycle in which your dog cannot stop repeating the process.

Treating the hotspots involves different procedures to stop the itching and prevent your dog from getting to the hotspot and causing further damage. You will need to cleanse the area thoroughly, and you can use a special collar to keep them away from the area being treated.

what are dog hot spots

Hotspots can become a recurring issue if they are not treated at the onset. With proper management and care, your dog will not suffer for very long. See below to discover what hot spots are and how to treat them.

What are Hot Spots on Dogs and What Causes Them?

Hotspots are common during the summer and the warmer months when the weather is hot and humid. Hotspots on dogs are triggered by a condition called acute moist dermatitis. They are itchy and painful for your dog.

When your dog constantly licks, bites, and scratches an area, it causes inflammation. The inflammation causes these spots to get warm. Initially, insects may annoy your dog, and the canine is just trying to get rid of them.

Moisture from rain or pools can often increase the effects of a hotspot. The itching from the hotspot becomes a nasty cycle in which the licking irritates the skin and causes your dog to lick even more. Dogs that are wet from swimming or bathing are more prone to developing hotspots.

Hotspots (see video) can go from the size of a dime to the size of a pancake in just a few short hours. These hotspots may or may not contain pus. While they can be located anywhere on your dog’s body, they are most common on the head, feet, legs, and hips. The most common causes of hotspots include:

  • Fleas or mites
  • Food allergies
  • Poor nutrition
  • Insect bites or stings
  • Ear infections
  • Irritated anal sacs
  • Poor grooming habits
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Irritability or frustration

As you can see, various situations can cause the hot spots to begin. Knowing how they will look is an excellent way to get ahead of the game.

What Do Hot Spots Look Like on a Dog?

Hotspots look like painful scrapes or patches of raw skin. They are typically raised, red, and often hairless. They can ooze, bleed, or contain pus. If your dog has hotspots, they will lick, bite and scratch at them incessantly.

They will often become large quickly, and if they are left untreated, they can get offensively big. The more your dog scratches, the worse the hotspots get.

What Are the Symptoms of Hot Spots?

Hot spots are more frequent in long-haired dog breeds, resulting from the skin not breathing. Symptoms of hotspots include the following:

  • Itchy or painful skin
  • Constant chewing or licking in the area of the hotspot
  • Inflammation
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Crusted scabs
  • Oozing pus
  • Dry skin
  • Hair loss
  • Moist matted fur
  • Offensive odor from the lesion

When you become aware of any of these warning signs, immediate attention will help your pup. Some treatments can be used to stop these symptoms before they get out of control. If it looks uncomfortable, chances are it is uncomfortable for your dog and you should contact your vet right away for the next steps.

How do You Treat and Prevent Hot Spots?

You can prevent hotspots on dogs by practicing good hygiene with regular grooming. Practice parasite prevention by having your dog assessed by the vet. Treating skin infections is also crucial to achieving proper hot spot prevention. You should also immediately dry your pup off after they are done swimming or bathing.

You can also give your dog Omega- 3 fatty acids to help support a healthy skin barrier, which will make it less likely that your dog will succumb to allergens or infection. With some effort, you can help prevent your dog from having hotspots.

Treatment for hotspots involves some of the following:

Cutting the Hair All Around the Hot Spot to Avoid Matting

Trim the space around the hot spot with clippers, and do not use scissors. This clipping will help air out the specific area and inhibit excess moisture from slowing down healing. Be sure to hold the scissors so that the blades are parallel to your dog’s skin.

Grooming may be painful for them, and your pup may need to go to the vet and be sedated for this process.

Cleaning the Affected Area With a Mild Solution

Clean the affected area thoroughly. Matted fur should be shaved off and kept away from the impacted area. This cleaning can be a painful process, so it may be a good idea for you to have the nurse at your veterinarian shave the area.

Sedation may need to be involved in restraining or controlling your dog. The application of a topical antiseptic such as chlorhexidine will help heal the area.

Bathing Them with a Gentle Shampoo

Bathe your pup all over with a special shampoo, such as chlorhexidine, to prevent new hotspots from developing. A shampoo made for treating hot spots should be gentle on the skin.

You may also use an antiseptic or astringent. However, these products are more likely to burn when you apply them.

An E-Collar That Prevents the Dog From Chewing at the Hotspot

Your dog’s hotspots will not heal if they are still licking or biting at the affected area. Elizabethan or No Bite collars are used to keep your pup from getting to the hotspot, as they will not be able to scratch through the collar.

The E-collar is excellent for preventing your dog from reaching the spots on the ears. However, a No Bite collar does not have the same advantage in this area.

Topical or Oral Antibiotics to Treat Bacterial Infections

Topical creams and oral medications contain antibiotics to eradicate the infection. These creams also have anti-itch and anti-inflammatory properties to help your dog feel better. Topical ointments are often applied for up to 2 weeks with two applications a day. Always make sure you stick with the entire course of treatment to prevent hotspots from coming back.

Topical or Oral Steroids to Control Irritation and Reduce Itching

Medication like steroids and anti-biotics combat inflammation and tackle the infection. These medications may come in creams or tablets, although they are not required for every hotspot. Your veterinarian will help you establish the best course of treatment for your pup.

Using Medicated Wipes to Clean the Area Gently

Medicated wipes will eliminate bacteria and yeast with chlorhexidine, and they clean the skin and help heal skin infections. The wipes should be antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiseptic. Medicated wipes are also easier to use and are more convenient than liquids.

When In Doubt, Contact Your Vet About Your Dog’s Hot Spots

Hotspots are painful for your dog, and treatment for them is a delicate process. There are also ways you can help avoid your pup from ever getting hotspots. Keep up with continuing treatment to prevent the hotspots from returning. With your help and cooperation with your vet, your dog should be feeling better and back to their old self in no time.

Being in south Florida, we know that this can be a common thing for dogs. At Central Broward Animal Hospital, we’re here for all your pet care needs, including managing and treating your dog’s hot spots. Give us a call if you have any questions regarding your pet’s health and well-being!