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What Is a Hot Spot on a Dog?

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Dog hot spots refer to a specific area of skin that becomes infected and inflamed. They result in constant licking or chewing, in fact most dogs simply cannot leave the area alone.

A dog hot spot is often referred to by a couple of more technical names, one of which is moist dermatitis.

Scratching Dog Hot Spots
Dog Scratching Hot Spots – Graphic by Mrs Hall from Pixabay

Dealing with Hot Spots on Dogs

If the area becomes infected, you should quickly visit your local veterinarian as it will be difficult for you to judge whether or not it is a superficial wound or something that has taken a much deeper hold.  In fact, you should consult your vet long before an infection becomes apparent.

Often located around the back area or on the paws, hot spots are further aggravated when the dog bites, licks or scratches the lesions.

Signs and Symptoms of Dog Hot Spots

Hot spots can plague many dog breeds but they are particularly prevalent among breeds with heavy or fluffy coats.

It pays to be vigilant when the first warning signs of hot spots on dogs appear.

Common signs of dog hot spots include:

  • constant licking or chewing of the area
  • constant scratching to alleviate the itch
  • red looking skin
  • a weeping wound if infected
  • sometimes hair loss

In fact, if it is a severe infection and long-standing, there can be considerable hair loss.

It is sometimes necessary to part the hair to take a closer look because it is possible for the hair to grow over the inflamed area thus hiding the real source of the constant scratching.

The lesions can appear all of a sudden, or at least you might only become aware of them all of a sudden. And, yes they can become much larger quite quickly.

Regardless of the cause, whether it be because of a dog skin allergy or a parasite of some kind or something else altogether, your pet will most likely be highly agitated. It goes without saying that  you can expect to see your pet “working” the affected area continuously and this will usually serve to simply make the condition worse.  He may also become snappy and start to growl if you try to inspect the area more closely. 

6 Causes of Dog Hot Spots Issue

There is of course an initial circumstance that usually leads to this condition.

  1. Persistent Habit
    Perhaps something seemingly trivial originally happened which led to your dog licking the area. Then this has turned into a habitual routine which sees your dog compulsively lick and chew his paws until the habit itself becomes the real problem.
  2. Parasites
    It is recommended that you check for parasites of some kind:
    • mites
    • fleas
    • insect stings
  3. Allergies
    Dogs can suffer allergic reactions from a variety of causes; one of the main contributors here is diet. There are some books featured on this page that provide invaluable assistance in getting your dog’s nutrition right.
  4. Injuries.
    Long after an injury has healed, you can often see a dog “working the area” in a habitual fashion and this then produces an injury of its own making.
  5. Boredom
    Some dogs have been known to cause a hot spot because they are simply bored.
  6. Stress
    Some pets could be stressed for some unknown reason and take it out on their paws for example.

How to Manage a Hot Spot

Upon noticing any kind of dog skin irritation, you should always consult your veterinarian immediately. Since there is a possibility of more serious skin infections, it is advisable that you seek some guidance from your vet as soon as possible.

Because hot spots can increase in size quite rapidly, you need to take action as soon as you become aware of the problem.

Here are some steps that you can follow to alleviate dog hot spots at home, after you have consulted your vet:

  • Step 1: Shave the area that has been affected by a hot spot so that you can examine it more closely.
    • If you have already been to your vet, then this may already have been done for you.
    • Shaving will allow you to make a better decision as to how serious the problem is.
    • This will also allow air to reach the area which might have been up until now, kept too moist by matted hair.
  • Step 2: Clean the infection with cool water and a gentle skin cleanser, for dogs.
  • Step 3: You can apply a cool compress to the infected area a number of times during the day when you are home.
    • Tea bags make for great cool compress options and can also help to dry the area.

Commercial Dog Hot Spot Treatments

(Includes affiliate links)

If the infection is very severe, your veterinarian will usually prescribe topical drying sprays, medicated shampoos and oral antibiotics that must be regularly administered to your dog.

Some products that dog owners have found success with include:

Dog Hot Spot Salves

Hot Spot Itch Relief Dog Spray

Dog Hot Spot Shampoos

Pampering Dogs